Coolsville? Studies praise Milwaukee

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm

business, living climate
According to two recently-released studies, Milwaukee is not only a good home for growing business — it’s “cool”, to boot.
In a recent study from the Washington, D.C.-based National Commission on Entrepreneurship (NCE), Milwaukee ranked in the top 12% in the country for the number of high-growth companies that experienced significant and rapid expansion during the mid-1990s. Researchers ranked labor markets according to the percentage of existing firms that doubled employment from 1992 through 1997, and the percentage of start-ups at the beginning of the period that had at least 20 employees by 1997.
According to Ken Berlak of NCE, the study was not designed to result in a list of “winners” and a list of “losers” but, rather, to identify trends in entrepreneurship success.
“What we saw was a number of interesting trends,” Berlak said. “Cities located in what a lot of people see as the Rust Belt — Milwaukee, Detroit — are actually very hospitable cities for these kinds of companies. These are companies that are entrepreneurial – in terms of a traditional small business. What we hope happens is that local officials are able to use this information we provide in terms of evaluating their economic development strategies.”
Some of the factors that make what Berlak called the “Rust Belt” successful include availability and affordability of commercial, office and industrial real estate, often vacated by old-economy manufacturers, but other dynamics also come into play.
“Cost of real estate is a factor,” Berlak said. “In places like Milwaukee – among those things — the cost of living is a priority and a consideration for an entrepreneur. Another factor is human capital — we look to that as the No. 1 factor. Businesses have to hire those workers with specific skills or are at least ready to work. And apparently your education system is successful in delivering those people.”
Cool, too
Another study, conducted by Next Generation Consulting of Jackson in Washington County, placed Milwaukee in the No. 10 slot in a list of top 15 destinations for young talent to live and work. Next Generation and are the brainchild of Rebecca Ryan, who consults with business on Generation X personnel issues. The study, “Hot Jobs, Cool Communities,” analyzed the best places to live and work for those under 40.
To figure out which communities are “cool,” researchers started with 214 cities in the country and selected the 50 with the highest concentration of people under 40. With these 50 communities, they measured an extensive list of attributes that attract Generation Xers, including cost of living, concentration of artists, musicians and other creative people, numbers of public parks, trails and recreation areas and other variables.
The study relied on secondary research methods – compiling and combining lists and other published information.
“We went to the ‘Best Of’ lists put out by POV magazine, research by Richard Florida — who worked on a project called the Bohemian Index,” Ryan said. “Florida said communities that have very diverse populations tend to attract the best young talent. From there we determined 43 variables. We ran that by an electronic panel of Gen-Xers — gave each community a score in each of the 43 variables.”
Communities were ranked in terms of how each scored in the 43 weighted variables. Ryan said Milwaukee’s appearance on the list is not attributable to her own company’s proximity, as consultants in Iowa and California also had a role in the project.
The study also identified companies that are attractive to younger workers, and in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson topped the list. But Ryan stressed that many small businesses offer the type of flexibility necessary to attract and retain Gen-Xers.
October 12, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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