By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Wisconsin can be number one in business. We simply need to take advantage of our most valuable resource: our people. We need an educated workforce to take advantage of the benefits offered by a highly evolved and every-changing globalized economy.
This means two investing in both four-year and two-year institutions. It also means refocusing on Milwaukee, the city by the lake that will have to be at the center of any viable future jobs plan.
I believe that within the cultural fabric of this state lies Wisconsin’s greatest potential to succeed. We are proud of being from Wisconsin, and for good reason. We have inherited a cultural and political tradition of caring about our neighbors. We call it “Wisconsin nice”.
However, we also call it the Wisconsin Idea. At their root, I believe these concepts are one and the same. We care about our growth, and we work to fulfill our potential by investing in our people. The University of Wisconsin system was founded upon that principle: when we educate our entire population, everyone wins. Yet, I believe we may be beginning to lose our way.
People need to know that their government is invested in their success. Today, public investment in the average UW student is at a historic low, and tuition has been raised time and time again with no end in sight.
In a tough economic time, how can most people afford to put themselves through school? And if they choose not to, what does that do to the rest of us?
Investing in people is more than morally correct, it is crucial to our progress as an economy. Businesses aware of our highly educated population will know they have a fantastic pool of prospective hires. This also goes for intermediate-skilled jobs that businesses across the country consistently say they have the hardest time filling. The long-term advantages of a population with marketable skills learned from 2-year trade schools cannot be undersold.
And whatever happened to making Wisconsin a hub for the future of Biotech? In the past, we have supported a fantastic tradition of scientific research at UW-Madison. Now, we can look forward to a bright future of capitalizing on the experimental patents, for example in stem cell research. That is, if we can write public policy properly.
Finally, we need to understand the centrality of Milwaukee to any viable Wisconsin jobs plan of the future. The fact is that we live in an urbanizing society, where the majority of wealth created is often created in cities. Young, upwardly mobile and educated people want to live and work in a city that is appealing to them.
These young professionals are hard-working and ambitious. They often do not own cars and expect to use public transportation. Unfortunately, we are all aware of the state of Milwaukee’s public transportation. They often expect access to the arts and music, and I fear that public investment in Milwaukee has lagged in this field as well.
Investment in education and infrastructure may seem like too easy of solution to truly make Wisconsin competitive in the business world. But that is not the case. When we invest intelligently, we receive far more than we ever gave.
When we invest in our people, our people succeed.