Milwaukee County needs economic development strategy

Now, more than ever, a comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) is necessary for Milwaukee County. That’s why I have authored a resolution to more clearly define Milwaukee County’s mission and goals as they relate to economic development. My resolution calls for developing a blueprint to lay out our responsibilities and objectives. We need to determine our role and build upon the intrinsic value we already have within Milwaukee County’s borders.


My resolution calls for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to conduct a comprehensive economic development study and serve as a liaison between Milwaukee County and the State Department of Natural Resources regarding the planning and achievement of national air quality standards.

This approach is long overdue. To my knowledge, Milwaukee County has never had a long-term plan for economic development. I am pleased that the Economic & Community Development Committee endorsed this resolution unanimously and advanced it to the full County Board.

This resolution aims to develop and a plan focusing on the following key areas:

  • Airport – The fastest growing airport in the nation, and third-fastest growing in the world. This airport brings large amounts of commerce to our community. This airport connects Milwaukee to the world, and we must leverage this connection to create even more economic opportunity
  • Transportation – Between 40,000 and 60,000 people have lost access to jobs. We must restore what was cut from our once vibrant transit system. Mass Transit is the key to economic development, and we must do everything we can to improve it.
  • Parks/Quality of Life – Our parks system, while facing funding challenges, is among our nation’s best and won the gold medal last year. The opportunities for recreation and cultural activities provide an excellent quality of life for employees who live in Milwaukee County.
  • Air Quality – Better air quality needs to be a key component of our economic development strategy.  Milwaukee County is at risk of falling into nonattainment if more stringent federal air quality standards are put in place.
  • Water – We need to do a better job of letting employers know that Milwaukee County is within the Lake Michigan watershed and provides an advantage in having access to this prime natural resource.
  • Affordable Housing – Affordable, quality housing is available in Milwaukee County, and we should continue efforts to diversify and improve upon our housing stock.

We have all of these assets, but we are not utilizing them at their highest potential. By creating a real strategy, we will finally be able to draw down federal funds to help facilitate our job growth efforts.

We need to create careers, not just jobs. I envision a Milwaukee County where employees can work hard and advance up the career ladder. This is about both creating – and retaining – family supporting employment in Milwaukee County. We must better compete with peer cities in attracting quality employers.

Milwaukee County is, by far, the biggest economic engine in this state. There are more than 3,000 counties in the U.S.  We are the 44th most populous county in the nation, 7th biggest in the Midwest, and largest in Wisconsin.  We have economic muscle, and we intend to flex these muscles.

SEWRPC has helped other counties develop a comprehensive economic strategy

Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas represents the 18th District.

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