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Future of local manufacturing could start with student tours of factories


Clinton High School student Carlos Arroyo-Orozco sat at a shiny marble boardroom table at GOEX with more than a dozen of his classmates.

He had a Golden State Warriors ball cap twisted down over one of the hairnets GOEX had issued to him and his classmates Friday before they took a walking tour of the plastics extrusion manufacturing plant on Janesville’s north end.

When Arroyo-Orozco learned from a GOEX official how many millions of pounds of plastics the Janesville company produces every year, he did a double take through his eyeglasses.

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“Wait ... What?” Arroyo-Orozco said, incredulous over just one knowledge bomb from a local manufacturer that he and his classmates previously knew little about.

In fact, when a GOEX official asked the guests, a group of about 22 Clinton High School students ages 15 to 18, if they’d ever been inside a manufacturing plant, none of the students raised a hand.

But then Arroyo-Orozco fired off a volley of questions, including: “Do you guys make plastic business cards? Do you guys make that one kind of plastic fast food container? Do you guys ...”

Arroyo-Orozco was one of about 1,200 local high school students who Thursday and Friday got a shot at hands-on tours of a few dozen local manufacturers who had partnered with Blackhawk Technical College Manufacturing Days.

Manufacturing Days is a once-a-year, two-day immersion BTC uses to try to kindle high school student interest in manufacturing careers and the potential of job training and learning manufacturing skills through enrollment at BTC.

Angela Major 

Clinton student Rosalia Perez, right, listens during a tour of GOEX on Friday in Janesville.

In an address Friday at BTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Milton, BTC President Tracy Pierner said manufacturing in Rock County now employs about 14,000 people. The sector has made a steady comeback since the dreary days following the Great Recession and closure of Janesville’s General Motors plant. All told, manufacturing now accounts for the largest slice of jobs in Rock County, and the sector has added about 2,000 new jobs in the last five years, Pierner said.

Manufacturing has outpaced two of the fasted-growing job markets in the county, including the health care field and the distribution and logistics industry, Pierner said. The technical college is seeing massive growth in local demand for manufacturing work that is centered on automation and engineering, and the college has responded by adding new two-year programs in those areas.

Tracy Pierner

Nationally, the manufacturing sector has seen minor slowdowns in hiring over the last few months, in part because of uncertainty involving an ongoing trade war between China and the U.S. Overall, it has gotten harder for companies to fill immediate job openings or launch hiring expansions because historically low unemployment for the last two years has kept the labor pool its slimmest in decades.

That’s no different in Rock County, where Pierner said BTC hopes to ride events like Manufacturing Days to cultivate interest in local manufacturing jobs starting with students who are in high school or even younger.

Overall, Pierner said, 60,000 people in Rock County’s 90,000-person workforce are set to retire in the next decade. That represents unknown thousands in the manufacturing sector alone—a loss of experience and talent that will have to be filled somehow.

That’s why, Pierner said, it’s so important that Blackhawk Tech partners with local manufacturers to host outreach programs such as Manufacturing Days, which was in its third year this year. The 1,200 students who attended events through Manufacturing Days came from more than a dozen local school districts.

Angela Major 

Corporate trainer Dar Bradley explains to Clinton students Friday how the clean room works at GOEX in Janesville.

Although BTC’s enrollment has continued to grow despite low unemployment, Pierner said, only 10% to 12% of local high school graduates initially enroll at BTC after high school.

A larger share of students venture off to pursue four-year college degrees, and many of those students never complete a four-year program. That’s a factor that technical college officials such as Pierner are quick to seize on as a main culprit in a national student loan debt crisis.

“Dig into the numbers. That is a result of people going away to college and dropping out after their sophomore year, freshman year with student debt and no way to pay it off. And do you know where they come after that?” Pierner said.

He pointed to the walls around him in a classroom at BTC’s Milton campus.

“They come here.”

Laura Benisch, a business and marketing teacher and work-based learning coordinator at Clinton High School, was in a hairnet alongside the Clinton students during their tour of the plant floor at GOEX. She said there’s tangible value in immersing students in visits to local manufacturing plants.

Benisch manages high school students who have internships and apprenticeships through local manufacturers that partner with the high school and Blackhawk Tech through initiatives such as Manufacturing Days.

One of her male students landed a high-school internship at SSI Technologies, a manufacturer of high-tech controls in Janesville. The student has since graduated. He now works full time at SSI.

“Here’s what happened,” Benisch said. “He went to a Manufacturing Days tour of SSI. That’s literally how the kid got interested.”

Angela Major 

Clinton students look over a ledge to see machinery Friday at GOEX in Janesville.

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Rudy Kopp to have permanent presence at Brodhead Airport with donation


Rudy Kopp loved to fly.

Anytime, anywhere, his passion for airplanes radiated.

“Aviation in general was the love of his life,” his daughter Nancy said. “He had many, many interests, but he was fascinated by flight his entire lifetime.”

Kopp died in July at age 92, but before he did, he told his family he wanted to donate $100,000 to the Kelch Aviation Museum at the Brodhead Airport. The donation was presented this week.

Construction on the new museum began in July, and phase one will be completed this fall. A second phase planned for 2020 will fill the museum with artifacts and planes, which is where Kopp’s posthumous donation will be used.

Patrick Weeden, executive director of the museum, said Kopp’s donation will make that timeline possible.

A capital campaign that kicked off in 2016 has raised nearly $850,000 so far, according to a news release. The William S. Knight Foundation pledged a $370,000 challenge grant, and Kopp’s donation will satisfy the fundraising requirement.

“It puts us over the top on our challenge grant this year,” Weeden said. “It got a big pile of momentum going, and I think this will take us to the finish line on this whole thing.”

The museum will feature 19 restored vintage aircraft from the 1920s through 1940s, a large rentable banquet space, an aviation art gallery, vintage automobiles, and space for archives and a library.

The library and archives section will be named after Kopp, who was a frequent visitor at the airport—sometimes driving over in his 1928 Packard sedan.

“It’s just perfect. He was always educating and always learning,” Weeden said.

“We wanted him to be remembered, not just with a display in the corner, but we wanted him to be part of this forever.”

Kopp grew up “dirt poor” in Green County as one of seven children, his daughter said.

Even then, he knew someday he was going to get his pilot’s license, she said.

He received his private pilot’s license in his 40s before getting a license to fly a glider at age 50. While he never flew out of the Brodhead Airport, he lived nearby and was fascinated by single-engine planes, so it was easy for him to make friends there.

“He was a friend of the airport and our museum,” Weeden said. “Rudy’s the kind of guy that was friends with everybody.”

Both Weeden and Kopp’s daughter said Kopp frequently educated people on a variety of topics, ranging from aviation history to astronomy. He loved to bring his telescope to the airport.

Kopp got to see the groundbreaking for the museum before he died. His daughter knows he would have loved to see it finished.

“If there was an aviation museum anywhere in the area, we had to go to it,” Nancy said. “His heroes were people who did things, like scientists and explorers.”

100s of accused priests living under radar with no oversight

Almost 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found.

These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and day care centers. They foster and care for children.

And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.

A recent push by Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. to publish the names of clergy members it considers to be credibly accused has opened a window into the daunting problem of how to monitor and track priests who often were never criminally charged and, in many cases, were removed from or left the church to live as private citizens.

Each diocese determines its own standard to deem a priest credibly accused, with the allegations ranging from inappropriate conversations or unwanted hugging to forced sodomy or rape.

Dioceses and religious orders so far have shared the names of more than 5,100 credibly accused clergy members, more than three-quarters of them in the last year.

The AP researched the nearly 2,000 who remain alive to determine where they have lived and worked—the largest-scale review to date of what happened to priests named as possible sexual abusers.

The review found more than 160 continued working or volunteering in churches, including dozens in Catholic dioceses overseas.

Roughly 190 obtained professional licenses to work in education, medicine, social work and counseling—including 76 who, as of August, still had valid credentials in those fields.

The research also turned up cases where the priests were once again able to prey on victims.

After Roger Sinclair was removed by the Diocese of Greensburg in Pennsylvania in 2002 for allegedly abusing a teenage boy decades earlier, he ended up in Oregon.

In 2017, he was arrested for repeatedly molesting a young developmentally disabled man and is now imprisoned for a crime that the lead investigator in the Oregon case says should have never been allowed to happen.

Like Sinclair, the majority of people listed as credibly accused were never criminally prosecuted for the abuse alleged when they were part of the church. That lack of criminal history has revealed a gaping gray area that state licensing boards and background check services are not designed to handle as former priests seek new employment, apply to be foster parents and live in communities unaware of their presence and their pasts.

It also has left dioceses struggling with how—or if—former employees should be tracked and monitored. Victims’ advocates have pushed for more oversight, but church officials say what’s being requested extends beyond what they legally can do. And civil authorities like police departments or prosecutors say their purview is limited to people convicted of crimes.

That means the heavy lift of tracking former priests has fallen to citizen watchdogs and victims, whose complaints have fueled suspensions, removals and firings. But even then, loopholes in state laws allow many former clergy to keep their new jobs even when the history of allegations becomes public.

“Defrocked or not, we’ve long argued that bishops can’t recruit, hire, ordain, supervise, shield, transfer and protect predator priests, then suddenly oust them and claim to be powerless over their whereabouts and activities,” said David Clohessy, the former executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who now heads the group’s St. Louis chapter.

The AP’s analysis found that more than 310 of the 2,000 credibly accused clergy members have been charged with crimes for actions that took place when they were priests. Beyond that, the AP confirmed that Sinclair and 64 others have been charged with crimes committed after leaving the church.

Some of the crimes involved drunken driving, theft or drug offenses. But 42 of the men were accused of crimes that were sexual in nature or violent, including a dozen charged with sexually assaulting minors.

Hundreds of these priests chose careers that put them in new positions of trust and authority, including jobs in which they dealt with children and survivors of sexual abuse, the AP found.

At least two worked as juvenile detention officers, in Washington and Arizona, and several others migrated to government roles like victims’ advocate or public health planner. Others landed jobs at places like Disney World, community centers or family shelters for domestic abuse.

And one former priest started a nonprofit that sends people to volunteer in orphanages and other places in developing nations.

In dozens of cases, the priests took on positions with the approval of state credentialing boards, which often were powerless to deny them or unaware of the allegations until the dioceses’ lists were released.

Anthony Wahl 

A glass of Rock County Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest beer is poured for a customer at the brewery’s tasting room Friday.

Obituaries and death notices for Oct. 5, 2019

Frances A. Boggs

Marilyn Loveland

Ronald G. McCoy

LaVon Margaret Milton

Anthony Wahl 

Evansville’s Matt Forster intercepts the pass intended for Big Foot’s Alexander Schmitz in the first half of their game in Evansville on Friday, Oct. 4.

Sen. Johnson says Trump didn't want him to tell Ukraine military aid was coming


U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was blocked by President Donald Trump in August from telling Ukraine’s president that U.S. aid was on its way amid accusations Trump was withholding it until the eastern European nation investigated his political rival.

Trump rejected Johnson’s request after also refusing in May to back new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Oshkosh Republican said Friday.

“I was surprised by the president’s reaction and realized we had a sales job to do,” Johnson said during a constituent stop in Sheboygan. “I tried to convince him (in August) to give me the authority to tell President Zelenskiy that we were going to provide that. Now, I didn’t succeed.”

Johnson told reporters Trump said he was considering withholding the aid because of alleged corruption involving the 2016 U.S. election. Johnson stood by the president, saying he was sympathetic to his concerns and didn’t see any bad motives on his part.

“What happened in 2016? What happened in 2016? What was the truth about that?” Johnson said about Trump’s concerns.

With his comments Friday, Johnson made clear that he was aware of allegations Trump was withholding aid to Ukraine for political reasons weeks before the public knew.

Trump, who faces a fast-moving impeachment inquiry over the matter, has denied the claim, and Johnson has defended the president—but the senator’s story helps House Democrats learn more about a key aspect of the probe.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, was part of a delegation that attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May. He and others briefed Trump on the inauguration and urged Trump to back Zelenskiy, but the president resisted the idea, Johnson said Friday.

“We all went in there having come in from the inauguration and, you know, we were trying to encourage the president to show a great deal of support,” Johnson said. “Oval Office visit, appoint an ambassador who could be appointed quickly on a bipartisan basis—because we came back from meeting President Zelenskiy pretty confident, pretty encouraged that he really does understand what his mandate is and he’s dedicated to fulfilling it.”

Trump was not receptive to the message from the delegation, which included Johnson; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; and Kurt Volker, the State Department special envoy to Ukraine at the time. Volker stepped down last week and testified behind closed doors Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry.

Johnson told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that Sondland told him that Ukraine would appoint a prosecutor who would, as Johnson put it, work to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016—if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending.”

“At that suggestion, I winced,” Johnson told the Wall Street Journal. “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”

He said he asked Trump about it and the president denied it.

“He said—expletive deleted—‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?’” Johnson told the Wall Street Journal.

In an interview this week with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson said the call lasted 10 to 15 minutes and that Trump said he was holding the money back because of corruption concerns.

“He was very consistent in why he hadn’t made that decision (to release the aid) yet,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘Ron, do you know how fricking corrupt that place is?’”

Trump said he hadn’t made a final decision but thought Johnson would like it when he reached it, Johnson said.

When Johnson met with Zelenskiy days later, the Ukranian president asked about the U.S. aid, Johnson said.

“At no point in time did Zelenskiy ever mention or indicate that he was feeling pressure,” he said. “He was just concerned, he said, and by the way—far more important than the funding is just to show support.”

Johnson said he told Zelenskiy not to worry about the funding because there was unanimous support for it in Congress and lawmakers would make sure his country got it.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut was also at the meeting. Johnson said Murphy told Zelenskiy not to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney who has sought to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine. Murphy has given a similar account of his comments to Zelenskiy.

Johnson on Friday also sought to walk back comments he made Thursday about whether the president acted properly by calling on a foreign government to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice president who is running for president.

Johnson’s call with Trump over the allegation suggests he might not be comfortable with the president using the power of his office to ask foreign countries to investigate a potential 2020 rival.

That’s in contrast to comments Johnson made Thursday to reporters in Wisconsin.

“I don’t think there’s anything improper about doing that,” Johnson said Thursday when asked whether he agreed with the president asking Chinese officials to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

But by Friday, Johnson said he didn’t think it was appropriate for the president to use the power of his office to push a foreign country to do so.

“No, and I’m not sure that’s what’s happening,” he told reporters in Sheboygan.

Johnson and his aides said Johnson meant there’s nothing wrong with a president asking foreign governments to provide information for U.S. investigations.

“He did not comment on what the president is reported to have said,” spokesman Patrick McIlheran said Friday, despite Johnson making specific references to Biden’s son’s business dealings in China in his answers to questions about Trump’s request.

Trump said Thursday that China “should start an investigation into the Bidens” as he faces impeachment over a similar request of the president of Ukraine and just months after Trump’s 2016 campaign was investigated over its ties to Russian officials.

Democrats criticized Trump over the request, saying the president was inviting another foreign power to interfere in the next presidential election just as Russia did in 2016.