Governor Walker Unveils Economic Plan for Milwaukee

During a visit to a business in Milwaukee, Governor Walker unveiled a plan to revitalize a strategic portion of Milwaukee’s inner city. The main focus of the program will be the defunct 30th street industrial corridor. Ironically that has been home to the Spanish train builder, Talgo, which the governor essentially put out of business in Milwaukee recently.

But the plan, apparently developed by Wyman Winston, executive director of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), will be funded to the tune of $100 million dollars through the sale of tax exempt bonds to private investors.

The program is incredibly ambitious, aimed to revitalize the area through housing development, industrial development, small business/entrepreneurial support, workforce skills inventory, work skills training and transportation infrastructure improvements. I am not sure $100 million is enough even if the expected private sector companies come on board. A year in the making, this was supposedly developed over the past year by a number of state agencies including WHEDA and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). Mr. Winston and WHEDA will be taking the lead on the program and promises to see it through.

Now, Mayor Barrett’s response was just a wee bit skeptical. And rightfully so. This type of initiative is incredibly un-Scott Walker like…and the mayor suggests the timing is motivated by the approach of the recall election. I have my own cynical tendencies and can understand the mayor’s reticence when hearing the plan.

But I am not willing to look this gift horse in the mouth. Milwaukee needs help. It can use state help. So even if Governor Walker is proposing this for the wrong reasons, I welcome the fact that he is doing the right thing. I just hope he stay’s out of the way and let’s Mr. Winston (WHEDA) and Reggie Newson (DWD) see this thing to fruition.

Of course the Mayor’s skepticism is partially related to being in full recall campaign mode and rightly so. But he has a far far better reason to be skeptical…and actually an extremely good reason to be VERY ANGRY!

A snippet from the article:

The plan is meant to coordinate the resources of multiple state agencies with the city and other economic development entities.

Coordinate with the city? If that is the case, why was the first time that Mayor Barrett heard about this program today? Why was it announced at a solitary state press conference without any of the elected officials or administrators from the City of Milwaukee?

Or is this simply another prime example of Governor Walker’s inability to work and play well with other? His continued inability to negotiate? His continued unwillingness to be a real leader instead of a plutocrat?

I was totally surprised by this development…and I can’t imagine who convinced the governor that helping Milwaukee will help the state and although he came up short of talking commuter rail, he talked about inter modal transportation and reviving the freight rail corridor in Milwaukee.

But my feeling is, whatever happens on June 5th, who ever the occupant of the governor’s mansion should see this thing through!

15 comments to Governor Walker Unveils Economic Plan for Milwaukee

  • Paul

    I am not as well versed in the issues of 30th Street in Milwaukee as others probably are, but I would say that I’m somewhat skeptical of this plan. I hope it bears great fruit, but I am just not sure that more money is the best solution here.

    I hope I am wrong!

       0 likes

  • Gee

    A well-done post, and I agree on all points. If cooperation with the city is intended, it ought to have occurred today — and, of course, from the start, for the last year that this (allegedly) was in development.

    Somehow, it just feels like another in the long series of Walker’s lies.

       1 likes

  • Paul

    Maybe I am naive, but I am looking more at the economic and human side of this, and not the politics. Whatever the reasoning, I am sure hopeful that it is successful as heaven knows it sounds like that area really, really needs some good news.

    Hopefully we can ALL agree on that…

       0 likes

  • jimspice

    I wonder if the north-side, previously tax-delingquent properties owned by Winston, the project’s lead, will benefit from the plan: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/noquarter/113122024.html

       2 likes

  • Jake formerly of the LP

    And given that Milwaukee Ald. Bob bauman pointed out that these programs HAVE EXISTED FOR YEARS and that are allegedly going to be funded by borrowing, you tell me what this is going to do other than give Walker a day of headlines?

    It’s a stunt to deflect from Walker’s losing policies, plain and simple. Barrett should use this as an opportunity to highlight Walker’s record of failure in Milwaukee County and his avoidance of even attempting to cooperate on anything such as the MMSD or economic development.

    This move tells me Walker’s really hurting in the real polls, because it seems very panicked, and I think with a little bit of investigation will fall apart quickly. This Administration has zero credibility at this point, and I have to assume it’s an empty pander until I see real details and a bill that’s released showing where the money is really coming from.

       2 likes

  • Paul

    This seemed like a no-brainer to me, but I guess we can’t all agree on it. I should have remembered how the Dems choked off the mining bill.

    It’s too bad you folks are so cynical.

       0 likes

    • Jake formerly of the LP

      Sounds like Paul needs to read the story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

      Walker has zero credibility on this issue after his neglect of Milwaukee over the last 10 years. I’ll go with that track record over this cheap stunt any day. Jim Spice’s info on ho this could prop up Winston’s land values seems to be an intriguing connection (and certainly par for the course with this group).

         2 likes

  • Jason Haas

    Eight years to do this as county exec. Not a finger lifted to help before. But by gosh, now that he’s facing recall, and only now, after driving out the would-have-been-bustling train-building business, does he propose this. I call bullshit.

       4 likes

  • BigCheese

    I thought Wisconsin was broke.

       1 likes

  • I’m as skeptical about this as the next guy, but I think the timeline shows the city was brought in on this before today. Not long before today, but before today…

       0 likes

  • Edward Susterich

    Milwaukee mayoral candidate Edward McDonald’s “Build Milwaukee” plan was largely ignored. It addresses economic development of Milwaukee, poverty, unemployment, housing forcloseures– plus many other facets of a very comprehensive plan. Did Walker just take snippets of this “Build Milwaukee” plan?

       0 likes

  • PJ

    So many questions:
    Business expansion? What kind of business? Businesses run by residents of the 30th Street Corridor? Social Impact Investing? Social Capital Markets? Social Investing? No, couldn’t call it that. Might sound too socialist. But isn’t this what we see here? Venture capitalism collaborating with state resources? Looks an awful lot like the Democratic strategy of nurturing the emerging Impact Economy. There’s a rightward squeeze happening here. Barrett’s correct in highlighting how Walker’s timing is politicized to the extreme, but Barrett doesn’t quite criticize the effort itself, maybe because it looks not too dissimilar from the Democratic private sector strategy for economic development….Walker’s backing Barrett into a very difficult corner.

    More questions: Are there investors on board ready to invest in these tax-exempt bonds? If so, who are they? Are they individual investors? Are they philanthropic conglomerates and corporate equity investors? Are these investors community development corporations or community development financial institutions? And who is underwriting their investments? Are these loans to be offered at below-market interest rates? Dare I suggest a potential bubble forming here?

    And well, uh, there’s the tax-exempt bond and then there’s probably the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit? The LIHTC is one heck of an incentive for investment in low-income rental projects. And it would suggest that investment will not be made by individuals but by corporations. Subsidies=Lost Tax Revenue!

    And all this won’t cost taxpayers a dime?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUZGkNAUSvY

    Subsidies, subsidies, subsidies. Trickle down economics. When it rains it pours.

       2 likes

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