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Governor Evers Focuses On Workforce Development & Entrepreneurship During Milwaukee Visit

Angelina Mosher Salazar
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Gov. Tony Evers, and nominee for Wisconsin Secretary of Workforce Development Caleb Frostman.

Gov. Tony Evers has been making a series of stops around the state, focusing on topics that were part of his campaign. Monday he was in Milwaukee, where he talked up workforce development and entrepreneurship. The governor's first stop was at the Wisconsin Regional Training Program/Bigstep organization located on 38th Street and Wisconsin Avenue. 

WRTP/Bigstep focuses on workforce development, especially among low-income people looking for a job to support a family. One-third of the clients only make about $6,000 a year. Evers took a brief tour of the facility. Then he sat down for a closed door discussion with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, nominee for Wisconsin Secretary of Workforce Development Caleb Frostman and Senior Program Director of WRTP/Bigstep John Anderson. After the discussion, Evers gave brief remarks.  

"At this point in time with such a low unemployment rate, it's necessary to make sure that everybody has a chance to have a family supporting job. And these are the folks that are doing a great job to make that happen," said Evers.  

Evers then traveled a couple miles east to Ward4, a co-working space inside the historic Pritzlaff Building. Inside Ward4, entrepreneurs from the area gathered in a circle inside a meeting room. 

Credit Angelina Mosher Salazar
Gov. Tony Evers listens as entrepreneurs, who chose to start their companies in Wisconsin, share their experiences.

One of the attendees, Sitora Takaneav CEO and co-founder of Oncata, emphasized the importance of connections for entrepreneurs.

"It's all about connections at the end of the day. We are talking about connection to money. Connections to work force. Connections to everything. So, how do you build the sustainable connections is what they have to figure out somehow ... hopefully," she said.

It's a message that landed with Barnes.

"We need to makes sure we are connecting dots. Merging and connecting people. Connecting the economy so that people aren’t operating in silos in separate parts of the city and separate parts of the state. We need to have more convergence if we want more people to get ahead and have opportunity," he said.

Neither Barnes nor Evers mentioned specific policies they'd like to implement to achieve their goals, but Barnes says the new administration is taking time these first couple of weeks to listen and learn from constituents.

"We've been having very focused days. We’ve had health care day. We had an education day. This is our workforce day. We are having an environment day. We’re having all these concentrated days where we’re going across the state talking to people and getting their input," he explained.

After the WRTP/Bigstep appearance, I spoke with Alex Frazier — a proud father of three who's looking for a better employment opportunity. "As of right now, I am looking to make more money ... a better job ... you know to feed my family," he said.

At the event for entrepreneurs, Sitora the CEO of Oncata, raised her hand and said she had a problem — a problem connecting with qualified, minority workers. "I'm sure there's a ton of brilliant and talented people in Milwaukee but how do I find them? Where do I find them?" she asked.

Evers plans to continue his travels throughout Wisconsin in the next few weeks. We'll learn more about his goals and proposed policies in his State of the State speech, which is slotted for Jan. 22.

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.
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