Milwaukee 7 Quickly Raises More Than $5 Million

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

The Regional Economic Development Council, which is overseeing the "Milwaukee 7" brand for regional development, is off to an impressive start by already surpassing its $5.2 million fundraising goal.

The council held its second meeting recently at Quad/Graphics Inc. in Sussex. After the meeting, council co-chair Steve Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Journal Communications Inc. and president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, spoke about the progress of the Milwaukee 7 initiative at a luncheon conducted by the Waukesha County Economic Development Corp.

Smith said the council’s goal is to help the Milwaukee region "to compete as a world-class metropolis by 2010."

Since its founding in December, the council has raised the funds needed to support economic development initiatives in the region over the next five years. The funds will be used to launch several initiatives, including:

  • A resource center, which will be constructed at Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. The resource center will provide interactive, multi-media information to companies from other areas interested in learning more about the Milwaukee region. We Energies will fully fund the data-rich resource center.
  • A comprehensive Web site that feature extensive data and information about the region. The Web site is under construction.
  • A business "call program" of more than 100 volunteers who will call on 550 manufacturers in the region and ask them about what they need to grow their companies.
  • An "identity team," which will define and convey the region’s brand locally and nationally. William Mitchell, president of the WCEDC, said more than 400 people have volunteered to help the identity team.

The five lead partners of the regional mission are the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the Milwaukee Development Corp., the Spirit of Milwaukee and We Energies.

The seven counties in the region are: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, Racine, Walworth, Ozaukee and Washington. The 46,000 businesses in the region combine for a gross domestic product of more than $63 billion.

Mitchell said Waukesha County benefits from a regional approach to economic development.

"Within this framework, there are sound plans for a We Energies-funded resource center that will provide one-stop shopping for businesses expanding or locating in SE Wisconsin. And future CEOs of expanding companies will be much better served with this new data-rich regional resource than WCEDC, going solo, could ever provide," Mitchell said. "By working to understand the needs and challenges of our business base, we will have a starting point for pursuing policy measures and resources for the long-term growth of the region."

Gordon Kacala, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corp., said, "Manufacturing has been a strong staple industry for the entire Milwaukee region. In recent years, the technological advancements that have taken place with our region’s manufacturers has positioned this industry as one of our key exporters to the world."

Dennis Kuester, chief executive officer of Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and co-chair of the council, said, "Reaching this level (of funding) allows us to fund our work and plan for additional programming in the future."

The other co-chair of the council is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Smith noted that metropolitan Milwaukee fell from the 24th-largest metro region in the nation in 1970 to the 43rd-largest in 2000. He also noted that by 2020, twice as many people (baby boomers) will be retiring from the workforce as will be entering the workforce.

"Our region faces some daunting demographics here," Smith told members of the WCEDC at the Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC).

Ted Raspiller, interim WCTC president, said the development of the region’s workforce will be key to its economic future.

The challenges that businesses will face with the worst labor shortage in American history will be addressed by consultant and author Jack Lannom, keynote speaker at the Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards luncheon, which will take place at the Small Business Times Wisconsin Business & Technology Expo on May 3. See for additional information.

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