Johnson Controls commits $2 million to National Urban League and its Milwaukee affiliate

Johnson Controls has committed $2 million over three years to the National Urban League and Milwaukee Urban League, the organizations announced Thursday.

Dr. Eve Hall, president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Urban League, said it’s a “transformative investment” that will allow the organization to increase the capacity of its programs and services related to employment, education and advocacy, as well as make potential investments in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

In a statement Thursday, Johnson Controls chairman and chief executive officer George Oliver said investing in a historical civil rights and urban advocacy organization aligns with the company’s strategic plan to support social equity efforts.

“Johnson Controls is committed to partnering with non-profit organizations working for racial equity in our communities,” Oliver said. “The Urban League’s 100- year history of dedication to economic empowerment, equality and social justice aligns with Johnson Controls’ values. We are thankful for their work and their vision, and we stand with them as they continue to collaborate with community leaders, policymakers and other corporate partners to elevate the standard of living for African Americans and other historically underserved groups.”

Grady Crosby, Johnson Controls vice president of public affairs and chief diversity officer, said the company sought to partner with the Urban League to address the economic and other disparities that have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing awareness of inequity in communities of color, particularly in response to the death of George Floyd last year.

“We knew that we needed to have a subject matter expert that could work with us on these issues if we wanted to be true to our mission of being a responsible corporate citizen,” Crosby said. “We can’t just be in communities and take up resources and bury our heads in the sand when issues are going on not only in our communities but, with regard to our people who are working with us, are being adversely impacted by these issues as well.”

The MUL operates a variety of programs, including workforce development and training, and education and youth-centered programs.

“This support is going to help us to increase capacity, to deepen impact, expand who we are reaching in this community through our employment efforts, it’s going to allow us to increase our staff, but (also) really dig deep into what is going to work to get people back on track in their lives.” Hall said. “Because the economic fallout for communities of color has been enormous.”

Hall said the investment will also support an upgrade to MUL’s facility, at 435 W. North Ave., that will allow the organization to bring some clients back safely.

The organization is also considering possible enhancements to its surrounding neighborhood, particularly the area west of its headquarters, from North Fifth Street to North Seventh Street. Hall said the organization is in discussions regarding a property near the Wendy’s at the corner of North Seventh Street and West North Avenue for a potential, not yet determined development.

“If we’re the Urban League, we can be that anchor and economic catalyst of revitalization of what could happen in just that near space,” Hall said.

She said MUL representatives have had conversations with the office of city development, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the business improvement district to discuss possibilities for the site.

Johnson Controls’ gift will also be directed to the National Urban League’s Equitable Justice and Digital Inclusion initiatives. MUL plans to also grow the advocacy arm of its work with the investment, Hall said.

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