Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm
I applaud the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) for leading the charge in creating a benchmarking report comparing the Milwaukee metro area’s economy with that of 15 other metro areas. The report highlights many positive attributes of Milwaukee’s business climate.
We should be proud of the Milwaukee area’s wonderful quality of life, presence of corporate headquarters, reasonable commute times and strength in the performing arts. While the report also outlines many challenges that need to be addressed, I am optimistic these challenges can be used to provide an opportunity roadmap for a renewed emphasis on economic development and as a rallying cry for a stronger business marketing initiative for southeastern Wisconsin.
While marketing and promotion is just one piece of the puzzle, it is an important one that has not been adequately funded for many years. Cincinnati spends about $4 million per year on its economic campaign. By comparison, Forward Wisconsin’s total marketing budget for the entire state is about $750,000, with $320,000 coming from the state and the rest from private sources. To his credit, Gov. Jim Doyle recognized this disparity after he took office and has significantly increased support for more business marketing resources at the state and regional levels in his 2005-2007 budget.
One area Forward Wisconsin has made a top priority is selling the state’s business climate online. A key part of this effort is promoting the metro Milwaukee area, other state metro areas and all of the communities in Wisconsin, on the Internet. Up to 80 percent of site location firms and businesses seeking new facilities do their initial site searches online. It became readily apparent to Forward Wisconsin that our state needed an extensive, easy-to-access online business portal containing demographic, site, building and other critical information to compete for attention of these key players in the site location business.
Realizing the critical role a Web site plays in retaining and attracting business investment, Forward Wisconsin decided to completely redesign our online presence at www.ForwardWI.com.
Additionally, with a grant from the state and financial assistance from the state’s electric utilities and cooperatives, Forward Wisconsin purchased the Location One Information System (LOIS). The LOIS software, which integrates state information along with community and regional economic development data into ForwardWI.com, has and will allow our new Web site to compete on a national and international basis. Most importantly, it allows business executives, brokers and site consultants to compare the resources, attributes and benefits of doing business in Wisconsin on an “apples to apples” basis with other states and regions.
The LOIS system already contains comprehensive demographic data at the state, metro and county levels. Forward Wisconsin’s ultimate goal is to have community profile information for all Wisconsin metro areas and communities by this fall. The data needed by those making business expansion or relocation decisions will be available at www.ForwardWI.com, at state agency Web sites and by a seamless link to or from a community and/or regional Web site.
Best of all, the service is available free to Wisconsin communities and for those seeking businesses data. Our intent is to make www.ForwardWI.com and the LOIS software a resource for the whole State of Wisconsin so we can sell not only the business attributes of Milwaukee, but also the business attributes of every Wisconsin community and the entire state.
Pepi Randolph is president of Forward Wisconsin.
April 29, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI