Letter to the Editor
As a member of the African American Male Unemployment Task Force, I was very pleased when the City of Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously to approve our recommendation that Growing Power receive a $425,000 grant to provide 150 urban farming jobs that will focus on hiring central city African American men.
Growing Power plans to build 150 “Hoop Houses”, structures where vegetables and fresh produce can be grown on a year round basis. The Hoop Houses will be located in Milwaukee on city owned lots and vacant land. Initially, 20 people will be hired to construct the houses and subsequently, 130 people will be hired and trained to maintain the structures. In addition to creating 150 new jobs, the other key factor is that at the beginning of the project these jobs don’t require a lot of education and/or existing skills – which means we will have a better chance of hiring some people who really want to work but don’t have the education or skill levels that are required on many of the jobs currently available.
The Task Force, under the leadership of co-chairs Aldermen Ashanti Hamilton and Tony Zielinski, has only been in existence for a few months and the Growing Power initiative is its first specific project to address African American male unemployment. Recognizing that this one project will not solve the unemployment situation, the Task Force will continue meeting to identify other strategies and efforts to address this chronic, long-term problem. Task Force members understand that in order to be more successful, we will need both public and private sector support to create more jobs which will also help improve our overall economy.