10,000 jobs since 2004
Earlier this week, the Public Policy Forum released a report it calls "Growing Up." The report highlights the importance of City of Milwaukee investments in fueling significant recent local development. It cites accomplishments like brownfield cleanup, the preparation of the Park East freeway corridor for redevelopment, revitalization of neighborhood shopping districts, the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center, infrastructure improvements at the Port of Milwaukee, the development of the downtown Riverwalk, and the retention of large employers such as Aldrich Chemical.
Despite these achievements, the report criticizes City of Milwaukee economic development efforts on two fronts:
- The City of Milwaukee has not published a comprehensive economic development plan.
- The City of Milwaukee invests few resources in workforce development.
I think it's important to set the record straight on those two issues.
Economic development planning
Economies don't recognize city limits, and neither do good economic development plans. That's why I have been so focused on leading the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development initiative. The M7 is developing an economic plan that will highlight the region's strengths and spell out specific opportunities for employment growth and economic development. We're expecting to unveil this critical blueprint for the entire region in April 2007.
The M7 plan will be especially powerful in Milwaukee, because we do the kind of place-based planning that's necessary to put theory into practice. Our neighborhood planning program is a great example. Milwaukee neighborhood plans identify locations where catalytic projects are likely to spark economic activity. For real-life examples, drive through neighborhoods on Milwaukee's near north side, where new subdivisions recommended by the Fond du Lac/North Avenue neighborhood plan adopted in 2004 are now under construction. Or drive through the Menomonee Valley, where a place-based plan laid the groundwork for a new industrial park.
Investing in workforce development
Historically, the City of Milwaukee has not been in the lead when it comes to workforce development. Entities such as the Private Industry Council and Milwaukee Area Technical College receive considerable public funds for education and training. The Public Policy Forum report completely ignored the fact that these agencies are the ones that receive the job training dollars.
Despite the efforts of those agencies, it was clear to me from day one that the results are not what they need to be. Worker quality affects the strength of Milwaukee's economy and I'm eager to make a difference.
That is why earlier this year I formed a working group to aid me in coming up with a comprehensive strategy to improve workforce development in this region. I asked for and received funding from the state to analyze the current system and make specific recommendations as to how the City can address this issue. I expect recommendations next month. In addition to an evaluation of our current system, I expect the report to include a review of best practices in cities that have had success like Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
I also remain committed to a project that I have been passionately involved in since I was in Congress, the new federal Job Corps campus that will open in Milwaukee in 2008.
In the meantime, my administration has used City government's most powerful economic development tool, tax incremental financing, to support worker training. TIF plans for the Menomonee Valley business park and the Manpower headquarters both included special allocations for job training. Later this month, I'll ask the Common Council to approve a TIF plan for redevelopment of the vacant Pabst Brewery complex; that plan also contains funds for job training. I also created my summer youth jobs program that employed more than 1000 young people this year.
The bottom line
The Public Policy Forum's report was long on rhetoric, but fell short when it came to reporting results. Since I took office in 2004, City economic development programs and investments have impacted more than 10,000 local jobs. I'm extremely proud of that record.