Milwaukee's downtown workers are returning to the office after working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent survey found.
The survey's findings suggest the re-entry to downtown is higher than in many other metro areas nationwide.
Milwaukee Downtown BID No. 21 this week released the findings of its latest downtown employee re-entry survey. It found that 26.9% of the downtown employee base had returned to the office.
The survey targeted office building mangers and employers representing about 17,000 employees (19% of the downtown workforce).
Milwaukee's re-entry rate is ahead of other cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Jose and New York, according to Kastle Systems' "Back to Work" Barometer.
Kastle is a national provider of commercial real estate security services. Among the 10 largest cities the barometer tracks, the average occupancy for the last two weeks of April was 26.5%.
“We found that Milwaukee is slightly ahead of many cities in reopening," Matt Dorner, economic development director of Milwaukee Downtown, said. "We commend our employers for the safe and responsible steps they’ve taken thus far and look forward to welcoming additional waves of employees into downtown in the coming months."
Dorner said this momentum is enhanced by Milwaukee Tool's decision to expand in downtown, bringing another 1,200 employees to the city's center.
Milwaukee Downtown has been tracking the pace of employee re-entry since last year, with its first survey conducted in June 2020.
Respondents in the latest survey estimated a nearly 55% return by September and return of over 70% by the end of the year.
Dorner said companies like Colliers International | Wisconsin, HNTB Corp. and Marcus Corp. have brought workers back to the office "at a safe, successful and even more rapid pace."
Ashley Booth, HNTB's Wisconsin officer leader and vice president, said about 70-75% of engineers and planners are coming into the office on a weekly basis. The Kansas City-based firm moved its local office downtown in November 2019.
"HNTB’s people thrive on collaboration and enjoy our new downtown office," he said.
Milwaukee Downtown said it plans to begin a marketing campaign next month to highlight safe activities downtown, and will work with major employees on a welcome back initiative this fall tied to Downtown Employee Appreciation Week.