by MMAC President Tim Sheehy
As employers we want a region that is globally competitive, producing high-value jobs that sustain a vibrant quality of life for all. So, the dangers of a barbell economy are real. An economy weighted on one end with growing prosperity and on the other with growing disparity, is not one that will sustain its health or vibrancy.
The demand for talent is clear and present. The danger is the region’s working age population will grow at less than 1% over the next 20 years. Metro Milwaukee is experiencing unprecedented employment. Sixty-one percent of employers are projected to increase hiring according to our second quarter survey, and wage gains are at a 17-year high. On the flip side, 29% of the city’s residents (169,000) are living on incomes below $25,000.
The City has made a significant investment in preparing Century City for development. As it sits today, the property is a unique urban asset, with a 50,000 sq. foot spec building and 45 acres available for development. All near a potential workforce. Which employers and which job seekers could find this a win/win? How can the market respond to place job opportunities closer to the neighboring residents? We are all in on the Mayor’s call for the business community to be part of the solution but singling out an individual company is counterproductive.
We are at work with the Mayor and his team to better address the issues that leave a workforce untapped, while employers face a tight labor market. Our collective challenge, and our collective solution is captured in one statistic, nearly 17,000, 16-24-year old’s in Milwaukee County are not employed and not in school. These “opportunity youth” need to be connected to school and/or work. Proximity to work and transportation to work both have a role closing the labor gap.
The city is part of the connective tissue of the regional and state economy. Of the $16B in personal income earned each year by residents who live in one county but work in another, $11B is exported from jobs held in Milwaukee County. We agree with the Mayor that it will take a collective and regional shoulder to produce sustainable solutions. No one benefits from the disparity that is evident in metro Milwaukee.