In this year’s political campaign, it’s all about, “jobs, jobs, jobs.” So maybe it’s a logical extension that Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski and many of colleagues on the Milwaukee Common Council want to form a task force made up of leaders from civic groups, including Visit Milwaukee, to examine the city’s image and come up with recommendations that will better define Milwaukee for the purpose of economic development, including increased tourism activities.
We support this effort and the widely held notion that the “Milwaukee experience” is more than a catchy new slogan. Milwaukee delivers as our brand promise states – “a warm brand of hospitality.” That’s delivered everyday by the approximately 66,000 area residents that work in our hospitality and tourism industry.
It also should be noted that local tourism generates about $2.7 billion in economic activity and contributes $426 million (2008) in local and state taxes. The brand promise I alluded to was developed a few years ago by engaging a wide cross-section of community members.
We’ve been down the slogan road before with mixed results, most notably “A Great Place by a Great Lake” and “Genuine American.” Both had their fans and detractors. No doubt any new initiative, even absent a slogan, will receive the same mixed reaction.
It is a worthwhile endeavor to bring these civic-minded people together so we’re on the same page as it pertains to portraying our image to the world. On a conciliatory note, Milwaukee as it pertains to image is not really behind the curve. Many of the communities we compete with for commerce, including tourism, are grappling with the same image challenges. Cities like Columbus, St. Louis and Kansas City immediately come to mind.
When describing Milwaukee, I’ve said we’ve gone “from Brew City to New City.” That means we can still embrace the time-tested and positive characteristics that make us distinctive – beer, brats, festivals, our legendary manufacturing legacy and the Fonz while promoting and celebrating the “new” Milwaukee embodied in the image of the Milwaukee Art Museum (the city mark) and our vibrant culinary and arts and culture scene.
We’ve heard enough about our “inferiority complex” or Milwaukee as this “best kept secret.” Alderman Witkowski’s aim is to let the genie out of the bottle so potential businesses and visitors positively identify with our community. It’s an effort worth supporting.
David Fantle is vice president of public relations at Visit Milwaukee.