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National Guardian Life Insurance Company and Insurance Capital Group launch strategic partnership

National Guardian Life Insurance Company and Insurance Capital Group launch strategic partnership

Creation of BrightBenefits and investment in Commercial Travelers to be initial transactions

MADISON, WI (November 20, 2019) – A new strategic partnership was launched by National Guardian Life Insurance Company (“NGL”), a Madison-based life insurer with a rich heritage dating back to 1909 and assets of over $5 billion, and New York-based Insurance Capital Group (“ICG”), the leading strategic investor in the mutual insurance industry.

NGL and ICG, through its Federal Life Group, Inc. (“Federal Life”) affiliate, have jointly developed and launched a national dental and vision insurance business called BrightBenefits, which will be led by insurance industry veteran Danny Bentley. BrightBenefits policies will be issued by Commercial Travelers Insurance Company, an A.M. Best A- (Excellent) rated affiliate of NGL, in which Federal Life will make a significant equity investment, subject to receiving regulatory approval.

“This new strategic partnership with ICG allows NGL to diversify its investments into new markets without losing its focus on being a leading provider of preneed insurance for customers nationwide. ICG brings exceptional talent and additional capital to this partnership that will allow growth in new and exciting ways,” said Knut A. Olson, NGL President & CEO.

“We are honored to have been selected by NGL as its strategic partner and we are extremely excited about the launch of BrightBenefits and the broader strategic partnership with NGL. We are confident that BrightBenefits, led by its talented management team, will develop into one of the nation’s leading vision and dental platforms,” said Matt Popoli, founder and CEO of Insurance Capital Group and Director of Federal Life.

“Our goal for BrightBenefits is to be a trusted partner and leading provider of employee benefits products and services that help employers and their employees protect their families,” said Danny Bentley, President of BrightBenefits. BrightBenefits will offer both employer and employee paid dental and vision insurance and will look to expand the product offerings as the company grows.

Bentley is a leader in fostering innovation, driving organizational change and delivering profitable growth. Bentley most recently served as President of Davis Vision, the nation’s third largest vision insurer with approximately 22 million members.

Bentley began his career at Protective Life where he created and pioneered the voluntary, ancillary benefits products industry by introducing the nation’s first voluntary dental product. He later joined A.G. Edwards Investment Banking, serving as a Managing Director and Head of the firm’s Insurance Practice before rejoining the insurance industry.

The closing of the investment by Federal Life is subject to certain regulatory approvals, including the approval by the New York Department of Financial Services and the Wisconsin Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Foley & Lardner LLP are serving as legal counsel, and Grace Global Capital LLC as financial advisor to NGL. Purrington Moody and Debevoise & Plimpton are serving as legal counsel, and Insurex, LLC as financial advisor to ICG and Federal Life.

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About National Guardian Life Insurance Company and Commercial Travelers

Established in 1909 National Guardian Life Insurance Company is an insurance company headquartered in Madison, Wis. Licensed to do business in 49 states and the District of Columbia, NGL markets preneed and individual life and annuities, as well as group markets products. NGL is rated A- (Excellent) by A.M. Best. Information about NGL can be found at; Facebook: and LinkedIn:

Commercial Travelers Life Insurance Company (CT) has been providing insurance coverage since 1883. CT is rated A- (Excellent) by A.M. Best and became a wholly-owned, stock subsidiary of NGL in 2017.

About Insurance Capital Group
Insurance Capital Group is a holding company which acquires and makes investments in insurance businesses across targeted sectors with a focus on sponsored demutualizations and other complex conversion transactions. Our objective is to create long term shareholder value as measured by growth in tangible book value through the ownership and oversight of our partner companies. For more information about us, visit

About Federal Life Group, Inc.

Federal Life Group, Inc. (OTCMKTS:  FLFG) is the parent of Federal Life Insurance Company (“FLIC”), an independently operated provider of quality life insurance and annuity products, incorporated in 1899. FLIC is headquartered in Riverwoods, Illinois, a suburb approximately thirty miles north of Chicago. FLIC is proud of its longstanding tradition of financial strength and stability and serves over 28,000 policyholders. For more information, go to


NGL reported $4.1 billion in consolidated liabilities for 2018. Financials current as of 12/31/18. Ratings current as of 02/21/19.

National Guardian Life Insurance Company is not affiliated with The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America a/k/a The Guardian or Guardian Life.

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StartingBlock Announces Pilot Parking Project with ParqEx and City of Madison for S. Livingston Garage

Contact: Chandra Miller Fienen, Exec. Director, StartingBlock Madison, (608) 334-7522,

StartingBlock Announces Pilot Parking Project with ParqEx and City of Madison for S. Livingston Garage

MADISON, Wisconsin – October 30, 2019 – StartingBlock announces a pilot project with a locally-connected startup, ParqEx, and the City of Madison at the City’s newest public parking garage at S. Livingston and Main Street, adjacent to the Spark Building at 821 E. Washington Avenue.

The pilot will allow StartingBlock’s members – currently a community of over 250 members — to make parking reservations from the parking spots in the S. Livingston Garage that were allocated to StartingBlock. With ParqEx’s technology, StartingBlock members can make hourly or monthly parking reservations online or using the ParqEx app.  The platform increases the number of users that can access StartingBlock’s limited parking allocation.  Rather than a few persons having an assigned monthly permit in the traditional one car, one permit model, the ParqEx platform will allow any StartingBlock member to reserve parking online and through an app.  “By sharing the monthly permits, the entire StartingBlock community can take advantage of cost-savings as well as greater flexibility,” explains StartingBlock Executive Director, Chandra Miller Fienen.  With ParqEx, participating members can reserve parking for the times they need it, rather than locking it up for the full month.   

Other advantages include a guest parking solution that allows members to make reservations for guests.  Guests will receive a guess pass on their cell phone that will provide access to the garage, eliminating the inconvenience of dealing with reimbursements or sharing physical access cards.   “The ParqEx solution allows a limited resource to be shared more fairly, efficiently, flexibly, and cost-effectively than the one-permit per car status quo,” says ParqEx CEO Vivek Mehra. ParqEx is a 2016 alum of the nationally-ranked accelerator, gener8tor, which is headquartered at StartingBlock.  Founded in 2014, the company is the “Airbnb of parking” by allowing parking owners to rent their parking spots to drivers on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis.  The StartingBlock-ParqEx pilot, which will allow StartingBlock members to access the spaces leased from the City at the South Livingston Street Garage as well as other parking locations on the platform, will be ParqEx’s largest community in Madison and the first at a public parking garage.

“The City of Madison is excited to continue its partnership with StartingBlock and participate in this pilot.  We need more innovative solutions, especially around parking, to make our transportation system successful in the long term,” says Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

The pilot will provide StartingBlock with the opportunity to understand members’ parking trends and usage in a more robust and detailed way, and for the City to trial the technology and explore options to enhance the convenience and ease of parking in public parking structures. 

The public parking garage, which opened last December, is the City’s first public garage outside of the central downtown and campus area, and was part of the three-development project that included the Spark Building where StartingBlock and American Family Insurance are located and the Gebhardt Building with the Sylvee music venue.  Madison Gas and Electric, to support the redevelopment project and growing Capitol East District, sold the property to the City of Madison to construct the public parking garage.


StartingBlock Madison is Madison’s startup hub.  Our mission is to create the meaningful intersections that cultivate entrepreneurs, grow successful companies, drive innovation and build a startup community that gives back.  Since opening in June 2018, StartingBlock has housed 50 local startups that raised over $15.5M in 2018 and support over 160 full-time employees.  Through collaborations with existing business leaders and partner organizations, such as Capital Entrepreneurs, Doyenne Group, gener8tor, and others, StartingBlock is helping galvanize Madison into a global leader in entrepreneurship. 

Chandra Miller Fienen,

ParqEx is a smart parking platform for real estate owners and managers to better manage & monetize their parking assets. By improving efficiency & utilization, the platform delivers value by reducing operating costs and generating new revenue. ParqEx is a gener8tor company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and operates in 9 cities including Madison and Milwaukee, WI.   

Vivek Mehra,

S. Livingston Garage opened in December 2018.  The first public parking garage east of the Capitol Square, the S. Livingston ramp reflects Madison’s commitment to the growing Capitol East corridor.  

Photo by Richard Hurd

Madison Ballet Announces 2019-2020 Performance Season

(608) 278-7990

Madison Ballet Announces 2019-2020 Performance Season

The Nutcracker: Overture Hall, Overture Center, December 20 – December 28

Inside Out – New Works with the Repertory Company: Bartell Theater, January 17-18, 24-25

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Capitol Theater, Overture Center, April 11-12

(Madison, WI – October 15, 2019) Madison Ballet is pleased to announce its 2019-2020 season, highlighting the joy and power of dance, sure to captivate audiences with large scale classic productions as well as intimate, innovative contemporary works.

A beloved celebration of the local holiday season for well over 50 years, The Nutcracker will once again light up the stage with lavish sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s familiar score performed live by the Madison Chamber Orchestra. Over 110 local ballet students and community members will join Madison Ballet’s own professional dancers to bring to life the magical tale of Clara and her Nutcracker prince.

In January, Inside Out will present premieres of works featuring the Madison Ballet’s dynamic company artists. Choreographers Sara Schumann, Rachelle Butler, and Malachi Squires have created original pieces to be performed to the music of Antonio Vivaldi, Nina Simone and Asto Piazzola.  “We are thrilled to celebrate our brilliant community of artists and their creative processes through this innovative winter reparatory.” says the Ballet’s new CEO, Jonathan Solari.

April will see the return of the enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a favorite of Madison Ballet’s permanent repertoire. The production is a rich story ballet inspired by one of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays, with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn in the 1800’s (audiences will surely recognize the triumphant strains of the wedding march in Act II). American choreographer Peter Anastos has created a romantic ballet fantasy that features our professional dancers and fifty young students from the School of Madison Ballet. Enjoyed by audiences of all ages, the story includes humor, love, magic and, of course, fairies!

Ticket Information

Group and single tickets are on sale now.

Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141. (Valid for all ticket sales including Bartell Theater performances.)

For nearly 40 years Madison Ballet has been an integral part of the vibrant South Central Wisconsin arts community. Professional ballet education and training with the School of Ballet assures that students of all ages and skill levels gain the poise, confidence, discipline, and fundamental life skills intrinsic to the study of classical ballet. Full scale productions and intimate contemporary performances by the professional repertory company reach more than 15,000 people each year, while scholarships and neighborhood outreach programs connect hundreds of families and young people with the joy of dance.                      


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Solar for Good Program Opens Fifth Donation Round to Assist More Wisconsin Nonprofits in “Going Solar”

RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good program has opened its fifth round of donations to help Wisconsin nonprofits install solar power. Since 2017, Solar for Good has helped 62 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations “go solar.” When completed, these organizations will install a total of 2,727 kilowatts of solar electricity, enough to power over 500 households.

The Solar for Good program is administered through RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy and education organization. Through a generous donation from the Couillard Solar Foundation, Solar for Good supplies winning nonprofits with solar modules to reduce the overall cost of installing solar power.

This is Solar for Good’s fifth award cycle, and the program has assisted nonprofits of all types and sizes across Wisconsin. Grantees include houses of worship, animal shelters, schools, veterans’ services, nature retreats, and affordable housing providers.

By accepting a Solar for Good award, nonprofits agree to promote the environmental and economic benefits of solar power to the community. Winning organizations educate their members about solar power and are able to showcase their projects’ benefits. To date, Solar for Good has issued over $750,000 worth of donations to nonprofit organizations, which will result in a nearly $7 million investment in Wisconsin solar power when all projects are completed.

Solar for Good applications must be received by Wednesday, October 30th 2019 at 5:00pm. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Friday, November 15th, 2019.

How to Apply

Organizations can learn more and apply at In order to be eligible, the organization must be a registered nonprofit organization located in Wisconsin, be in good financial standing, be ready to install solar, and agree to participate in educating community members about the benefits of solar energy. If approved for a solar panel award, all fundraising, design and installation for the solar project must be completed within 12 months.

Applications for the Fall 2019 round of solar panel donations must be received by Wednesday, October 30th 2019 at 5:00pm. Decisions and award announcements will be made on or before Friday, November 15th, 2018.

For organizations looking at solar power for the first time, technical assistance grants are available to fund a solar site assessment (up to $250) or engineering review (up to $500) for their solar array. These applications will be reviewed separately from the applications for solar panel awards and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

About Solar for Good

RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar for Good initiative fosters the expansion of solar power among mission-based nonprofits in Wisconsin. Through a generous partnership with Couillard Solar Foundation, RENEW Wisconsin awards solar panels to nonprofit organizations, helping them switch to clean, renewable, solar energy. More information can be found at

About RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization which promotes renewable energy in Wisconsin. We work on policies and programs that support solar power, wind power, biogas, local hydropower, geothermal energy, and electric vehicles. More information on RENEW’s website:

Photo by Richard Hurd

Social Justice Hub Will Provide Facilitator Training

Contact Information: Shauna Breneman, Communications Director
Office: (608) 262-8862


MADISON  –  The Wisconsin Union’s Social Justice Hub will offer free facilitator training for University of Wisconsin-Madison students, staff and faculty interested in moderating the Hub’s dialogue-based workshops on Oct. 21 and 28, 5-7 p.m. at Union South. 

The two-part training is designed for members of the campus community with an interest in helping facilitate the Social Justice Hub’s series of dialogue-based educational workshops in a variety of social justice issues. The training will emphasize the principles of facilitation of learning through dialogue and is provided by Jay Ekleberry, a long-time UW-Madison campus facilitator.

“The dialogue-based workshops provide opportunities to learn and discuss social justice-related issues in small groups,” Social Hub Dialogue-Based Workshops Coordinator and University of Wisconsin-Madison junior Julia Gutman said. “These trainings allow people to reflect on their own personal experiences and to learn from others.”

With these workshops, the Hub team aims for participants to learn social justice critical thinking skills and strategies for leading equity-focused dialogue in their communities and beyond.

Established in 2019, the Social Justice Hub provides purposeful, out-of-classroom education for students seeking resources and skill-building opportunities related to social justice. The Hub creates opportunities for skill development in teamwork, strategic thinking, creative problem-solving, setting goals, communication, leadership and in being an effective member of society. The non-partisan Social Justice Hub is funded by Wisconsin Union operating revenue and private donations. No taxpayer dollars are used in the Hub’s operations, staffing or programming.

To register for the two-session training, please visit In addition, to learn more about the Hub, visit


About the Wisconsin Union

The Wisconsin Union enhances the lives of members and visitors through recreational, cultural, educational and social opportunities. Formed in 1907, the Wisconsin Union is a membership organization that blends study and leisure to create unique out-of-classroom opportunities. Learn more about the Union and its tradition of providing experiences for a lifetime:

[Note to the editor: Click here to download a photo of the Social Justice Hub. Photo provided by the Wisconsin Union.]

To read this release online, visit