“The fact that we are usually number one in terms of corporate headquarters for a community our size says a lot about the commitment of corporations here,” said Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
That corporate commitment, Taylor points out, does more than create jobs and contribute to the overall health of the economy; it produces a vitality that makes Milwaukee stand out.
“We’re far ahead of other cities when you look at the investments corporations make in this city,” she said. “Nonprofit boards have representation from most companies as well as receiving corporate contributions.”
During the BizTimes Women in Business Breakfast at the BizExpo on Wednesday, May 21, at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Taylor along with Milwaukee business leaders Tami Scully Garrison, community commerce and partnerships manager for MillerCoors LLC, Phyllis King, associate vice chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Nancy Hernandez, president of ABRAZO Multicultural Marketing and Communication, will discuss the economic engine generated by these strategic investments of corporate thought leadership and capital.
“We have a responsibility to our community,” said Scully Garrison, who leads MillerCoors’ community relations programs in Milwaukee. “We value what our hometown has meant to us and we do all we can to help Milwaukee thrive.”
Scully Garrison said this community responsibility includes partnerships with nonprofits that go well beyond writing checks. MillerCoors takes a comprehensive approach to strengthening organizations – from board leadership to employee volunteer programs and financial contributions. The company also turns this lens inward, to its employees.
“Investing in our employees is a core strategy of our senior leadership team,” she said. “We do this through MillerCoors University and by setting goals at the beginning of each year that include learning and development. We know that when we invest in our employees, they’re happier, they’re more engaged and they can contribute more to Milwaukee as a whole.”
King lives the concepts of lifelong learning and professional development as associate vice chancellor at UW-Milwaukee. She oversees approaches to student enrollment and retention and academic program development that include initiatives to educate students for today’s workforce needs.
“Investing in the development of people is a direct investment in our economy and the health of our community,” she said. “We’ve created flexible degree programs that fit the lives of professionals with demanding careers and retirees. Our continuing education team tailors programs for companies and offers flexible programs for individuals.”
King’s commitment to workforce development extends into the community. As board president for Milwaukee Women inc and a member of TEMPO Milwaukee, she’s actively involved in advancing women into leadership positions.
“MWi and TEMPO are microcosms of the larger community and represent the strength of many organizations in Milwaukee,” she said. “Part of this is developing future leaders. Developing future leaders absolutely contributes to the strength and vitality of Milwaukee.”
Hernandez, puts it this way, “Bottom line, we have a self interest in contributing to the vitality of our community. “
A vibrant community, she said, is a strong community that offers well-paying jobs, attracts and retains smart talent and spurs the growth of new businesses. Hernandez oversees a team of marketing and communications professionals that help U.S. companies develop opportunities in emerging markets.
“From our own work to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce to the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, an organization I helped found, we want to see the number of white collar, professional, jobs increase,” she said. “Investing in education and in economic development have to be priorities. When you do this, two plus two doesn’t equal four, it equals seventeen.”
Hernandez said people who attend the Women and Business Breakfast on May 21 will take away an understanding that companies gain business and expertise when whey contribute to the vitality of their communities.
Scully Garrison agreed, and said the size of the company you work for should not matter.
“Everyone has the capability to do something in the community and with employees,” she said. “When you contribute, you gain a tremendous amount.”
Taylor said she wants to challenge companies to think about how these strategic investments can include more of the community.
“The vitality we have in Milwaukee depends on our economic mix,” she said. “If you look at some of the issues that continue to exist from a lack of low skill jobs to segregation that began in the 1970s, you see we still have issues to tackle. We’re building ladders, but we have work to do.”
Kimberly Kane is president and founder of Racine-based Kane Communications Group. She will be the moderator for the Women in Business Breakfast at BizExpo on Wednesday, May 21 at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee.