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Milwaukeeans Weigh In on Economy as Gov. Walker Announces Presidential Run

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

After months of anticipation, Gov. Scott Walker announced via Twitter that he is seeking the Republican nomination for President. 

Monday evening, he is holding a rally in Waukesha and will likely tout his efforts to cut spending and taxes.

Gov. Walker took office as the state and country still clawed to climb out of the 2008 recession. WUWM asked a few people in Milwaukee how they’re doing today versus a few years ago.

Dante Williams remembers the struggle. “It was kind of rough. I was working at washing cars,” Williams says.

Today, Williams works as a barber at Loc Wise Natural Hair Care near 60th and North on Milwaukee’s west side. He says he’s been cutting hair his whole life for friends and relatives, but decided he could make real money doing it professionally. So, he went for his barber’s license a few years ago and says his finances have improved about 50 percent.

“Hair is like a recession-proof business and that’s why I got into it. We don’t always take care of our hair, but when you need a job interview, you have to look good so that’s what I’m here for,” Williams says.

Williams says he’s now optimistic about the future of Wisconsin’s economy.

“I would say that because I know a lot of people who are getting some good jobs, good promotions and a few people are opening businesses and stuff like that,” Williams says.

Another person who says her financial situation has improved, over the last few years, is Kiya Epps. She’s standing outside a shopping center on Milwaukee’s east side waiting for the bus to pick her up and take her to work downtown. Epps is a loan officer at Chase Bank. She says while the recession still gripped the economy, she worked in customer service, but now her job at the bank has enabled her to move up the financial ladder.

“I’m making more, I’m being appreciated with my job and my duties,” Epps says. Epps says while her finances have improved over the past few years, she doesn’t think Gov. Walker’s policies played a role.

“I’m not sure we pay attention to those types of things," says Nick Dillon, general manager at St. Francis Brewing Company. The company opened just as the recession hit. Dillon says things are okay now, due mainly to hard work.

“Any independent business is a daily struggle. We sometimes make jokes about how much we’re working and just surviving when it comes to tackling the types of bills that we have and coming up with new ways to keep customers excited about our business and our brand,” Dillon says.

Ben Shabahang says his sales are finally back to where they were before the recession. He’s an Oriental rug dealer and has owned his store on Milwaukee’s east side for 30 years.

“These are high end, handmade carpets. When a recession happens, these are things people really don’t need,” Shabahang says.

He says business plunged 30 percent during the recession, and that experience has left him cautious about hiring. He has five employees and does not plan to add more in the near future. But he perceives an improving economy in Wisconsin.

“I think the population is getting bigger. People are very conservative in this state. I think slow growth but not big growth,” Shabahang says.

A few people we met are now working more jobs, than after the recession hit. Adam Shea used to work in the skilled trades. He says when jobs dried up, he looked elsewhere. Shea now works for a commercial real estate company in the Third Ward, but he also has a second job in retail.

“Right now, I would say I’m better off but I’m also working a lot more, so I’m exchanging more of my time for money to get ahead,” Shea says.

Shea thinks Wisconsin could do more to pick up its economy, such as finding new things to tax like marijuana.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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