Madison – Representative Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) expressed her hope that economic development efforts aimed at Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods are thoughtfully planned so as to take advantage of existing tools and investments.
Grigsby, a ranking member of the Joint Finance Committee, is reflecting on a plan that Governor Walker unveiled last week to provide $100 million dollars in loans, tax credits, and aid for housing, business development, and other central city projects.
Secretary of the State Department of Workforce Development Reggie Newsom says he hopes to find additional funding to complete a job skills survey and build a job training center in or near the 30th Street Corridor.
However, some question whether money isn’t better spent welcoming companies that want to do business in Milwaukee rather than training people for jobs that don’t exist.
“I can only describe Governor Walker’s plan as strange and speculative. I’m looking at 70 percent Black male unemployment in some of my wards in Milwaukee. First Walker rejected $810 million in funds that would join Milwaukee and Madison with high-speed rail. Then he effectively told a manufacturing company looking to expand and provide more high-quality jobs in the very area that the he cites as needing attention that we were not interested in its business,” said Grigsby.
Grigsby is referring to Talgo Trains, which recently downsized its manufacturing facility in the 30th Street Corridor as a result of the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee’s decision to deny $2.5 million in funding for a permanent maintenance facility for the new train sets. Republican Representative Robin Vos reasoned it made more sense to put trains that had already been manufactured at an estimated cost of $71.8 million into storage rather than invest in a permanent maintenance facility. However, market data shows that that the upgraded train service, which is now on hold, would expand ridership and profitability of the Milwaukee- Chicago route.
“It is bad policy to snub whole job-producing industries. Furthermore, robust and reliable transportation to our economic centers, which expanded and upgraded train service would provide, is a crucial component of any long-term economic development plan. Experience and data show this; businesses and workers in Milwaukee know this,” said Grigsby.
“Governor Walker and the Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee are wearing their ideological blinders, and this has resulted in squandered opportunities, fewer jobs, and a weak economy. I can’t help but think that this ‘new’ plan for Milwaukee is just another gimmick to improve Walker’s image.”