As the largest city in southeast Wisconsin, Milwaukee plays a pivotal role in the region’s economic success. The recent Framework for Economic Growth developed by the Milwaukee 7 recognizes the city’s unique position in the regional economy. In our current knowledge-based economy, markets and preferences have shifted in favor of regions that are socially and economically integrated over ones that are more fragmented. Thus, alignment between regional and city-based strategies and priorities is critical: both city and region must move forward together. However, while a healthy region is necessary for a healthy city economy, a strong region alone does not guarantee that the city will thrive. Growing Prosperity: An Action Agenda for Economic Development in the City of Milwaukee addresses the need for actions to be taken in the city itself—by city government and by others—to capitalize on regional strategies for growth so that the city can thrive in an increasingly global economy.
Growing Prosperity outlines a broad vision and principles, closely aligned with the goals of the M7 Framework, that will put the City of Milwaukee and its residents on a path to economic success. This Action Agenda explores four areas of focus location-based opportunities, human capital development, entrepreneurship and innovation, and quality of life and place, and identifies strategies to develop and capitalize upon these city-based strengths. Roughly half of the action items identified must be undertaken by departments within City government; the remaining actions will require partnership with some of the many businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations that work in the City of Milwaukee. These action items were developed by the City, in consultation with community participants, are meant to be inclusive and collaborative, and will succeed only with a high level of coordination.
Growing Prosperity is centered within the context of the M7 Framework; at the same time, it needs to take account of the city’s unique economic attributes. Therefore, this plan is tailored to specific conditions within the city and values held by its residents and business leaders. In 2013 and early 2014, large group of community stakeholders came together to discuss elements of Growing Prosperity. They formulated a series of principles that guide strategies and actions:
- Implement Data-Driven, Place-Based Strategies for Development
The City will use a data-driven place-based strategy for growth, providing support for growth and investment in both the central business district and neighborhoods throughout the city. Opportunities for investment will be defined based on the best fit between business needs for location, property, parking, and transportation access. The City will pursue large and small-scale opportunities wherever the fit is appropriate. Assistance may include financial partnership or in-kind support. As always, before investing in a project, the City will consider return on investment, financial ability to perform, and history of the development group.
Develop a Workforce Prepared and Poised for Success
Economic growth is fully dependent on a capable, skilled workforce, and improving Milwaukee’s system of developing, retaining and deploying skilled workers is essential to economic growth. The State and City’s education and workforce training systems and local employers must continue to be partners in proactively assisting current workers and those who are not in the workforce learn the skills required for productivity and personal success.
Promote Existing Businesses with Growth Potential
Economic development often focuses on attracting new businesses to the neglect of retaining and growing existing ones. The City’s approach must be balanced, and give particular attention to supporting businesses that are connected to asset clusters.
Foster Public-Private Partnerships to Leverage Resources, Knowledge & Innovation
Public and private leadership needs to foster partnerships and collaboration that maximize the effectiveness of limited economic development resources.
Ease the Path to Development
All levels of government must simplify and expedite their processes, programs and regulations in order to ease the path to investment and employment.
Declare a Positive Vision for the City
Public and private leadership needs to constantly articulate a positive vision and spirit of optimism about what Milwaukee is becoming, building from assets and promoting the city as a desirable place to live and work.
Build Upon the City’s Quality of Life and Place-Based Assets
Quality of life matters to economic growth. Place matters even more. Public and private leaders and neighborhood leaders must be aligned in nurturing Milwaukee’s cultural and civic life and making the city’s neighborhoods safe and livable for a broad range of current and prospective residents and businesses.
Attract and Nurture Ecologically Friendly Businesses
The economic development strategy will aim to green the city in general and in specific, retaining, growing and attracting businesses that are friendly to the environment and supportive of Milwaukee’s evolving culture of sustainability.
Adopt a Customer - Oriented Approach
Just as businesses must attract and communicate with customers, City government must view current and future businesses and residents as customers, understanding that the city is in competition with other municipalities and regions.
- Take a Balanced and Equitable Approach to Business Support
Strategies must not be limited to any one sector of the economy, but must build from local capacity wherever it is found: in large corporations, small and medium-sized companies, start-ups, traditional and creative entrepreneurs and, because of the hurdles they face, businesses owned by people of color, women, immigrants, and people with disabilities.