Last Thursday I had the opportunity to join a few members of the Saggezza team at the Milwaukee Metro Association of Commerce’s annual conference to gain insight into the city’s commercial outlook for 2020. As a team member based out of our Chicago office, I appreciated the opportunity to visit my colleagues in our Milwaukee outpost and to network before and after the MMAC’s presentation.
The main takeaway of the day was that Milwaukee is well-positioned for commercial growth under the national and international spotlight in the year ahead.
Milwaukee is Poised to Take the Stage
The panel discussed three major events that will impact the city in 2020, and preparations are already well underway. Milwaukee is getting ready to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention in July. This chance to host leaders from all over the country is also an opening for Wisconsin and Milwaukee businesses to highlight their strengths, and not just in the hotel industry.
The city is also gearing up for hiring rounds by two international manufacturers: Chinese manufacturer Foxconn announced plans to update its downtown Milwaukee headquarters on the heels of development announcements in other parts of Wisconsin. Candy giant Haribo is also in the midst of building a new headquarters in the state, which is slated to have manufacturing capabilities as well as retail space to feature the company’s products.
There are a number of local investors and players who contribute to economic growth in the Milwaukee area, but the impact of these events will help bolster the local employment rate in 2020 and beyond.
…But There’s Work to Do to Improve Metropolitan Milwaukee
But of course, there’s still work to do. One of the most fascinating aspects of this conference was a frank discussion of where the city is succeeding and where we’re struggling.
One of the measures of the health of our business community is the Kauffman Index, which tracks the rate of new entrepreneurs, the opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, and startup density, among other factors. The most recent index placed Milwaukee at 39th out of 40, which raises a big question: If we want to move up on this index, what we need to do as the leaders in this community?
To the MMAC panel, the answer is clear: Milwaukee needs to improve diversity and inclusion efforts to help attract a variety of people to this metropolitan area to work – not just businesses, but families.
To do this, leaders will have to focus on building communities, supporting arts programs, and prioritizing community spaces like parks, which will help folks outside looking at Milwaukee as a possible place to call home and lead a rich life outside of work.
An Exciting Time to Be in Business in Milwaukee
It’s encouraging to hear other business leaders talk about Milwaukee’s socioeconomic and racial issues head on. And on a personal note, as someone who grew up in an underprivileged community on the South Side of Chicago, a lot of what the panelists talked about really resonated with me.
When the discussion turned to young people who don’t have the right training, opportunities, and education to get hired by local employers, I recognized this story. It’s something I’ve seen first hand, and it’s encouraging to hear Milwaukee’s business leaders acknowledging these stories and asking everyone to think about how we can open doors to black and brown youths.
The first step is to recognize that there are challenges to help people understand that cultivating a strong, diverse, and inclusive business community is important to all of us. I left the conference feeling energized about Saggezza’s place in Milwaukee business landscape and excited to see the city continue to evolve in 2020.
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