Milwaukee 7: A Success Or Falling Short In Low-Income Areas?

Jan 29, 2020

The regional economic development partnership known as Milwaukee 7, or M7, says it has brought a lot of jobs to the area, or kept them here. But that may not be true in some low-income neighborhoods. 

M7 was launched in 2005 as a cooperative economic platform for Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. The partnership has just completed its third, five-year job recruitment effort, funded by about $9 million in public money and private donations. 

At M7's annual meeting on Wednesday, co-chair Gale Klappa said more than 10,500 jobs have been pledged to the region since 2015, with about a $630 million in annual payroll. 

"Bottom line? Every $996 invested in the M7 helped to create one job, with an average wage of $60,584 per year. That average wage folks, is about 20% above the regional average. And remember, that's an ongoing, annual wage," Klappa said.

Klappa says the fast-growing toolmaker Milwaukee Tool has been one of the biggest recent success stories.

The largest single funder for M7 during for the past five years was WEC Energy Group, parent of We Energies, where Klappa has been in charge.  He says the company has just agreed to put up another $2 million for the next five years. M7 is also looking for other financial backers.

A panel of corporate leaders from SE Wisconsin also spoke at the M7 meeting.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Terrence Moore, an African American who works with the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, says it'd be nice if M7 now puts more effort into steering corporations toward Hmong and black neighborhoods of Milwaukee. 

"They can suggest. They can offer. They can say, 'Based on these demographics, these are the benefits toward moving into a particular are.' "

Moore continued:  “A lot of the suburban companies have a Milwaukee workforce. Why don't you move a smaller part of the operations into the Milwaukee inner city, and at the same time at a livable wage? You don't want to move into the inner city and decrease the wage. That's counter-productive."

Moore praises M7 for a career training program that's underway. But he says more youth could be exposed to it.

M7's Gale Klappa says the regional partnership teamed up with the city of Milwaukee on a study looking at the best companies that could quickly be brought to the north half of the city.

“So, we've been very, very involved in trying to accelerate growth on the north side," Klappa told WUWM.

Klappa says that effort convinced Strauss Brands to open a meat packing facility in the nearly vacant Century City business park along West Capitol Drive. But, for now at least, Strauss has canceled that plan due to public opposition. 

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