Can Milwaukee become a Well City?

    A coalition of irrepressible people is convening behind the scenes to drag this beer-drinking, cheese-eating, brat-loving town into a mindset of wellness and personal fitness.

    Executives from small businesses in metropolitan Milwaukee are invited to attend an upcoming meeting to learn more about how they can launch wellness programs for their employees.

    The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), in association with the Wellness Council of Wisconsin, will host an orientation to introduce small businesses to the Well City Milwaukee initiative and expand participation in the program.

    The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the MMAC
    offices, 756 N. Milwaukee St., Suite 400, Milwaukee. The event is free and open to small
    businesses with less than 50 employees. Businesses can register at

    The orientation is designed to help small businesses learn more about the Well City Milwaukee initiative, understand its benefits to employee health and an organization’s bottom line, and get started on the road to workplace wellness by participating in the program.

    Mary Steinbrecher, director of MMAC’s Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE), said, "Small businesses are critical to the overall success of our region. Nearly 97 percent of the 39,000 businesses in the Milwaukee metro area have less than 100 employees. For Well City Milwaukee to be successful, we must reach out to small businesses so they can take advantage of the tremendous benefits of workplace wellness to their individual businesses and to the region."

    Past efforts to engage small businesses in workplace wellness have been hampered by CEO concerns about the costs associated with designing and implementing wellness programs in companies too small to support dedicated human resource functions.

    However, because of its affiliation with the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA), the Well City initiative has a framework for small business that is results-oriented, easy to implement and affordable, Steinbrecher said.

    The orientation meeting follows on the heels of the MMAC recently being awarded WELCOA’s Well Workplace Award in the small business category. The MMAC is the first small business in Wisconsin to receive the national honor.

    Janet McMahon, executive director of Well City Milwaukee, said, "The MMAC has set the bar for small businesses by being the first in Wisconsin to achieve the Small Business Well Workplace Award. They have a great story to tell. Their insights and creative approaches to employee wellness have produced the positive outcomes small business owners are looking for. I’m confident their story will convince other small businesses to join Well City Milwaukee’s efforts to make Milwaukee one of only a handful of cities to achieve Well City status."

    People such as Mary Scheibel of Scheibel Hlaska Inc. and Arvid "Dick" Tilmar of Diversified Insurance Services Inc. are twisting some arms behind the scenes to build support for the cause. And they do it very well.

    To be considered for Well City status, 20 percent of a community’s working population must be employed by Well Workplace Award-winning companies. The goal of Milwaukee’s city-wide initiative is for enough employers to become WELCOA-designated Well Workplaces by 2010 to earn the Well City Milwaukee designation.

    Jolly good luck to us.

    For more information on the Well City Milwaukee initiative, visit

    Also, southeastern Wisconsin business executives are encouraged to participate in the Small Business Times Fittest Execs Program, in which they can receive free health and fitness appraisals by the Wisconsin Athletic Club and Medical Associates Health Centers. The program also will give a Corporate Wellness Award to an employer that has launched an effective employee wellness program. Participants in the Fittest Execs Program will be saluted at the Small Business Times BizTech Expo on Thursday, May 1. For more information, visit


    Steve Jagler is executive editor of Small Business Times.

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