The state of Wisconsin says it's trying to solve a long-lasting problem — why Racine County's unemployment rate is higher than the statewide average.
Wisconsin's unemployment rate is 3 percent. In Racine County, it's 4 percent, with a slightly higher rate in the city of Racine. The area is far better off than the double-digit jobless rate of 2009, during the Great Recession. But due to manufacturing declines over the decades, Racine County has often been worse off than the statewide unemployment figure.
Racine Mayor Cory Mason recapped the gloominess during a news conference in Sturtevant Wednesday. "I think what we all hear about from our constituents, who look toward a time when there was more middle-class security here in the region. When I hear the voices of voters who say to me, ‘When are the good jobs coming back again, when will opportunity return?’ " Mason said.
The time is now, he says, what with the Foxconn LCD screen factory coming to Racine County, as well as a large amount of related road and building construction in the area.
At the news event, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announced a relatively small attempt to make sure more people have the skills needed to get the new jobs — $714,000 in worker training grants for the county.
State Workforce Development Secretary Ray Allen says the big focus is on helping the unemployed. "People that we want to skill them into the system, and help those individuals who have traditionally been outside the system, who haven't been employed. We'll have other grants that will certainly up-skill people that are working here," Allen told WUWM.
About half of the state money will go to the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce group, for training of 100 people for positions such as truck drivers, electronics assemblers, machinists and construction jobs. Racine County will get the other half for similar training, as well as positions in customer service and hospitality.
Some other community partners are also committing funds, with the training expected to start early next year.
Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.
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