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President of Greater Milwaukee Committee reflects on 20 years of service

Kat Schleicher
Milwaukee Magazine
For nearly 20 years, Julia Taylor has served as the president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. She will be retiring at the end of December.

For nearly 20 years, Julia Taylor has served as the president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The GMC, formed in the late 1940s, is a 200-member civic organization of Milwaukee-area CEOs and community leaders. Its mission is to contribute to the cultural and economic base of the Milwaukee Metropolitan area through innovation, talent, economic prosperity, and place-based vibrancy.

Taylor is the GMC’s first woman president, and since she started leading the organization in 2002, she has built a career bringing members of different community sectors together through business and philanthropy.

Taylor is featured in an article in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine ahead of her retirement. She shares her personal mission working with GMC.

"The mission of the GMC is to make Milwaukee the best place to live, play, learn, and stay and work," says Taylor. "I think my personal mission has been to work within the systems and help to change the systems that can make Milwaukee the best place for everybody to live, work, play, learn and stay."

The group was predominantly men when Taylor first joined, though she says it has diversified in gender and race over the years.

"We have, certainly, many more people of color in the GMC, as well as in leadership roles. It's been a big change for the organization, but Milwaukee has changed too so that's part of the GMC's role — to be reflective of the community," says Taylor.

From the beginning, Taylor shaped the organization through change. She says she focused right away on strategic planning for the group, talent and innovation, and more recently improving vibrancy of place. Taylor says many of these improvements have required a great deal of collaboration.

"I often say that change occurs at the speed of trust, and building that trust is always an ongoing effort. You can lose trust very quickly. So for us, it's always been about building trust," says Taylor.

But Taylor's work with GMC has not come without challenges. For example, efforts to get a regional transit authority established in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison didn't pan out. Other challenges involve tackling racism and encouraging economic prosperity in communities that have struggled.

"I think part of our work has been how do you continue to revitalize areas? How do you ensure that we become more integrated as a community on all different levels? And I would say those are still areas that we are really trying to move the needle on," says Taylor.

Still, GMC has made great impacts throughout the city and the state at-large.

Efforts like MKE United is a large collaborative effort that includes the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Urban League, Liske, the City of Milwaukee, and the GMC. According to Taylor, MKE United has tried to tackle big changes in the city.

Taylor says Milwaukee is fortunate to have a civic spirit, which the GMC relied on and has been strong throughout her time.

"I think the ability to keep those corporate headquarters here and keep that level of engagement is really important. People want to see [a] good healthy Milwaukee and they want to be a part of the solution," says Taylor.

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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