Mayor Barrett expressed alarm at the revelation thatMilwaukee lost nearly 8,000 jobs last month, and that the city now ranks among the worse in employment.
Ironically, he noted, “six years ago I participated in a similar forum on the same subject here. I remember it was hot in here, not from the heat, but because people were frustrated. “The focus has to be on how we create jobs; how can we better utilize (central city) land for economic development.”
Barrett noted the success of the Menomonee Valley, which a decade ago was earmarked by landfills and abandoned businesses. Today it is a model for small industry and redevelopment. The city’s focus must be on replicating that paradigm along the 30th Street Corridor.
The venture will be costly, he said and there must be a partnership (state, federal) to put that land back to better utilization. Within that context, “the challenges of transportation and water are not rhetorical. Waukesha wants (Milwaukee) to sell them water. But does that mean that the new jobs will got out there if we do?”
Reggie Newson, recently appointed secretary of the state Department ofWorkforce Development and a lifelongMilwaukee resident, provided one of the more promising presentations of the day. Newson spoke of his upbringing in Milwaukee, his community work and his prioritization of the plight of unemployed Milwaukeeans. He also took the occasion to reveal what has been rumored for several months: that Workforce Development, the Department of Families and Children andWHEDA have been collaborating with several prominent community organizations to development a employment and economic development plan. AfricanAmericans headWHEDA,Workforce Development and department of Children and Family Services.
Those state agencies are working with groups including the African American and Black chambers, the Urban League and MICAH to develop a plan that will be hopefully introduced by year’s end. Newson did not elaborate, but it has rumoredWHEDA, under Wyman Winston, is shifting its emphasis from home building and construction to economic development. The Black chambers and the Urban League have formed a collaborative and may become conduits for business investment and jobs creation.
“It has long been my theory that as goes our community, so goes the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the state of Wisconsin,” Newson declared.
“This new initiative signals the first time the state has reached out and worked with minority business and its advocates to move us all forward.”
Newson then issued a clarion call for “community leaders, organizations, and churches to press for a communitywide call for action. “We must advocate at every level to address the needs of our community. We must be single minded–one purpose, one agenda, and one goal.”
In the interim, the Black community must become proactive in preparing its prospective workforce. That means addressing the problem of drug screenings, which Newson acknowledged is a major impediment to many job seekers. Acquiring the necessary skills, whether that be through MATC or workforce development
must be seen as a stepping-stone for entry-level jobs, he said. WallaceWhite moderated the forum.
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