Hundreds attend Mayor Barrett’s State of the City Address

Several references include encouraging plans for the African American community

Mayor Tom Barrett

Before a crowd of more than 500 individuals, Mayor Barrett delivered his State of the City Address. His remarks touched on several new initiatives including the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership, the “Fix it First” program and a Milwaukee Sustainability Plan.

He delivered his address at Ingeteam located at 3550 W. Canal St. “I chose Ingeteam and the Valley as this year’s State of the City venue because our successes here should serve as a reminder – an inspirational reminder – that we can accomplish great things; we can help grow great companies and we can build sustainable environments that produce jobs. We all know that in the years after World War II, the Menomonee Valley took a turn for the worse.

In recent years though, we made strategic investments, built public infrastructure and once again connected neighborhoods. The Valley is an incredible accomplishment. In fact, in the last eight years, the Menomonee Valley’s total assessed property value increased by 229 percent. Best of all, workers from different skill levels have found jobs here – more than 4,000 since 2004.” Barrett said.

He also spent time on the issue of the high African American unemployment crisis that Milwaukee is experiencing. The need for more building and job creation is critical for Milwaukee.

“We must direct resources to tackle the high African American male unemployment rate. We need to do more to connect manufacturers to trained workers. And we can’t stand still waiting for the economy to completely rebound before we invest in the infrastructure and human capital necessary to attract jobs.

That is why we are investing in Century City. The former A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive site is in the midst of a transformation as unusable buildings are demolished, contaminated land is remediated, and a new business park is being mapped out.

We have made significant progress at Century City. We’ve invested tens-of-millions of dollars there.

I am optimistic Century City will produce the same kind of private sector job creation we have seen right here in the Menomonee Valley.

Throughout the 30th Street Industrial Corridor –from the neighborhood around Miller Brewery and Harley- Davidson, north to Master Lock and up to Hampton Avenue – the city, along with businesses and residents, have come together to plan the area’s future. Smart investments, like the environmental and demolition work at the old Esser Paint site, allow us to set a course for a strong future. State government cannot minimize the unemployment, workforce and investment issues that extend throughout the 30th Street Industrial Corridor.” he continued.

He also spoke on how the national foreclosure crisis hit the same neighborhoods in the corridor extremely hard. How the home values have plummeted, and the area is now full of blocks with multiple foreclosed and boarded properties.

“In fact, the six zip codes in the entire State of Wisconsin which have been most affected by the foreclosure crisis are right here in the City of Milwaukee. Four of those zip codes encompass the neighborhoods within and adjacent to the Corridor. The City has 4,800 abandoned properties that need to be stabilized or demolished. At an average cost of $10,000 per property, we would need $48 million to accomplish this.

And yet, in the face of these daunting statistics, the State Attorney General and Governor wants to take $25 million of the state’s foreclosure settlement funds – funds that should be directed to neighborhoods- and they want to take that money to help manage an unbalanced state budget. This raid on the foreclosure settlement funds is an unconscionable “bait and switch.”

It’s time for the State to get serious and come to the table to partner with us. I would welcome their assistance, as would Alderman Willie Wade and Council President Willie Hines, two of the Corridor’s strongest supporters.”

The mayor also introduced, ‘The Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership’, a collaboration that brings together the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Big Step, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and Milwaukee Area Technical College. This effort focuses on area manufacturers and will work to link them to jobseekers.

“Our estimates suggest that funding for this initiative from the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board will support training for hundreds of workers. Our partnership addresses the problem of the skills gap head on. Our training curpolitiriculum will meet employers’ needs. We’ll coordinate workers being trained with Milwaukee Area Technical College and with our manufacturing partners. I want to thank my corporate partners from Milwaukee Gear and Masterlock and recognize Don Sykes for all of his work in making this a reality. And here’s another example: our Milwaukee Builds Program is a training effort that offers skilled labor apprenticeships. Our partners at Northcott Neighborhood House and the Milwaukee Christian Center have trained more than 150 workers since the program’s inception. Most of these individuals have successfully gone on to gainful employment including Steven Teasley.

Steven is a life-long Milwaukee resident who was unemployed for four years after retiring from Tower Automotive. In the spring of 2010, Steven became a member of the first Milwaukee Builds crew. He recently was promoted and now supervises individuals working on a project that’s helping to revitalize the North Division Neighborhood. Congratulations to Steven on your success and thanks to Mac Weddle of Northcott for your continued support.” Barrett stated.

He also highlighted his summer jobs program, ‘Earn & Learn’, now in its 7th year. A program that was created to tie the enthusiasm for earning a buck with work. Since it started, more than 12,000 Milwaukee teenagers have been gainfully employed in summer jobs.

“I believe that when a young person is given a chance to prove themselves through their hard work, they’ll take it. Last year, I created the Earn and Learn Fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Many of our most prominent business leaders stepped up and answered the call. We raised $330,000 for summer jobs. We tapped six different funding sources, including the State and managed to put 2,500 kids to work. My goal for this summer is to provide 3,000 jobs.” Barrett said.

He also mentioned that one of his highlights as mayor in the past year was the Villard Square Library project. “One of my proudest moments as Mayor was something you haven’t read a lot about in the paper and while you should have, you didn’t see it on TV, but on an incredibly windy and cold October day, 500 people gathered to celebrate the opening of a new, state-ofthe- art library on our community’s northwest side – The Villard Library. It was truly a cause for celebration.

Villard Library is innovative. It’s a successful partnership that allows the renovation of libraries at affordable costs to the city. Developments like this add to the tax base, invigorate the neighborhood and represent the look of the 21st century library. It’s been open about four months now and we’ve got some pretty cool statistics: Visits are up by 88.3 percent. Circulation is up by 93.6 percent. And Library Cards requests are up by 137 percent.

Congratulations to our City Librarian Paula Kiely, branch manager Kirsten Thompson and the library’s dynamic staff. Libraries are critically important to our community, not only because they support education and lifelong learning, but because they add economic value to a community.” Barrett continued.