Mayor Barrett has focused an extraordinary amount of resources and energy toward economic development activities designed to encourage a healthy, job-generating, private sector economy in the City of Milwaukee. Development efforts have also worked to sustain and protect neighborhoods all across the city.
Among the notable efforts of the Barrett Administration is the job-generating development in the Menomonee Valley. With substantial public investment in infrastructure and brownfield remediation, Menomonee Valley employers have hired thousands of workers. The city’s Menomonee Valley Industrial Center is now home to Palermo’s Pizza, Ingeteam, Derse, Taylor Dynamometer, Caleffi, and Badger Railing. The Menomonee Valley Industrial Center has demonstrated the feasibility of reclaiming contaminated industrial land for redevelopment. It has also shown that job-creating investments can generate significant employment at sites adjacent to low-income neighborhoods.
The success of the Menomonee Valley inspired the Barrett Administration to create Century City. Located on 86 acres south of Capitol Drive between Hopkins and 35th Streets, Century City is the site of the former A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive manufacturing operations. Currently, the Century City site is being prepared for new businesses with demolition, remediation, and construction of new streets and storm water infrastructure. Economic modeling suggests that Century City could support businesses employing up to 1,000 people when fully built out.
The Mayor worked with Joe Zilber, a prominent local developer, to help turn 21 acres of real estate that had been abandoned and turned it into Milwaukee’s newest neighborhood. In a place that once proudly brewed beer, people now work in offices, stay in hotels and live in residential units. The Pabst Development is also home to one of Mayor Barrett’s signature accomplishments, the establishment of the School of Public Health.
Mayor Barrett’s economic development activity includes extensive efforts to attract growing businesses to Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett is a founding co-chairman of the Milwaukee 7 regional economic consortium. Through the M7, Milwaukee works cooperatively with neighboring communities in southeastern Wisconsin to attract and retain job-creating businesses. M7 successes include attracting manufacturers, technology companies, and several European companies entering the North American market.
Mayor Barrett launched the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership which works to link manufacturers with trained jobseekers. The partnership addresses the problem of the skills gap head on and will work to train hundreds of workers.
The Milwaukee Job Corps Center is another job training program Mayor Barrett was instrumental in bringing to Milwaukee. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. Milwaukee’s center opened in November of 2010, which marked the culmination of a 17-year process to bring a Job Corps center to Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett’s role with this important multi-million dollar investment in youth development began while he was serving in the House of Representatives.
The Department of City Development, under Mayor Barrett’s leadership, has completed an extensive land use planning effort that brought together numerous stakeholders in city neighborhoods all across Milwaukee. In addition to a city-wide plan, the city has developed thirteen specific area plans that cover every acre of Milwaukee. Those plans recognize the history, character, and ambitions of all the areas and cite specific catalytic projects to advance development.
The City has judiciously used Tax Incremental Financing to promote economic development. Since 2004, the Barrett Administration has approved about two dozen TIF districts, including Direct Supply on the Northwest side and Bucyrus International on the South side. Combined property values in those districts has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars.
With Mayor Barrett’s direct support, Northwestern Mutual chose to build its new corporate tower in downtown Milwaukee, investing hundreds of millions of dollars, creating and retaining thousands of jobs, and sending a message that Milwaukee is an ideal place to grow. The new structure, the largest office building ever constructed in Wisconsin, is set for completion in 2017.
Because of the Northwestern Mutual project, Milwaukee’s lakefront will see significant improvement. New tax revenue – combined with the participation of the State and County – will open new pedestrian access, create development opportunities, and greatly improve traffic flow along Lake Michigan.
The Barrett Administration has supported neighborhood business development with a variety of efforts including Business Improvement Districts, small business financing through the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, and grants to support private sector investment. Mayor Barrett has strengthened neighborhoods all across the city through extensive work to mitigate the impact of home foreclosures. His Strong Neighborhoods Investment Plan is a comprehensive approach to addressing the problems and challenges the foreclosure crisis has brought to Milwaukee. In 2014, nearly $12-million in local investments are part of the SNP effort, and it builds on the Mayor’s Milwaukee Foreclosure Partnership Initiative. That effort led directly to programs such as mediation, in which hundreds of people facing the possibility of losing their homes have been able to work through issues with their lenders, and, in many cases, prevent foreclosure. The City’s work has garnered national attention, and significant federal resources.
Through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, Milwaukee has received tens-of-millions of dollars in resources and returned hundreds and hundreds of homes to productive use.
In some neighborhoods, notable housing investments are being made. The Beerline continues to see growth, and the 30-story Moderne at the corner of Juneau Avenue and Martin Luther King Drive is a dramatic addition to upscale housing in downtown Milwaukee, and the first project of its kind west of the Milwaukee River. Overall, Milwaukee’s population remained stable in the decade from 2000 to 2010 while other cities across the American Midwest saw large population declines.
Milwaukee is looking to the future and supporting ideas that may lead to major economic opportunity. During Mayor Barrett’s tenure, Milwaukee has become a leader in urban agriculture and aquaponics. IBM recognized Milwaukee as a “Smarter City” and invested resources to study urban agriculture here. Mayor Barrett has made a priority of promoting sustainable practices – in city government operations and in Milwaukee’s private sector. Through the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, significant federal funds have been made available to local businesses for sustainable projects.
Milwaukee’s economy has been buffeted by national economic trends, yet during Mayor Barrett’s term in office, Milwaukee’s economy has held its own.