Walker proposes marketing campaign to attract millennials, veterans to Wisconsin

Needs lawmakers to sign off on $6.8 million in funding


Gov. Scott Walker is asking state lawmakers to approve $6.8 million in funding for a national marketing campaign aimed at attracting Midwest millennials, alumni from the state’s universities and veterans to the state.

The effort is intended to help bolster the state’s workforce at a time when unemployment is near all-time lows, employers are having challenges finding workers and the prospect of Foxconn creating 13,000 jobs threatens to make the labor market even tighter.


Walker’s proposal, announced at the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Future Wisconsin Summit in Madison, would allocate $3.5 million towards attracting veterans, $3 million for attracting young professionals and $300,000 for a Department of Workforce Development mobile job center that could go to events outside the state or in rural areas.

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The campaign would bring together the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp, Department of Workforce Development and Department of Tourism. It is an extension of WEDC has done over the last year to develop a platform for attracting and retaining talent called “Think-Make-Happen.”

The agency has already allocated $1 million to the effort and plans to launch a redesigned InWisconsin website in the coming weeks. Other efforts have included studies on the perception of Wisconsin and development of some marketing materials.

Tricia Braun, WEDC chief operating officer, said the agency will start a paid media campaign in Chicago in January. The campaign will run through March and include advertising on the side of commuter trains and in stations to highlight shorter commute times in the state.

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Walker said the Tourism Department has already done a great job going into Illinois and Minnesota markets to attract people to the state for vacations.

“We want the same thing when it comes to talent,” Walker said.

He said the state has a strong case to make when it comes to cost of living and the ability to have work-life balance.

Braun said the marketing will also appear in health clubs and bars.

The campaign will also target graduates from the University of Wisconsin System and private colleges in the state. Walker said many alumni move to larger cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul or Chicago after graduation, but the state has an opportunity to bring them back around five years later when they look to settle down.

Walker also said the state offers the most benefits to veterans, including free higher education and not taxing military pensions, but doesn’t do enough to promote its offerings.

“This is a prime market for us,” he said.

Braun said WEDC plans to work with DWD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to go to 20 veteran recruiting events over the course of the year. The agencies may also bring Wisconsin companies with and make it possible for veterans to apply for jobs onsite.

While the overall marketing efforts will initially focus on Minnesota and Illinois, Braun said the state will look to expand and asked employers to communicate areas where they are already receiving some interest.

“We’ll want to start looking at other markets and where we can get some good traction for our paid investment,” she said.

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