Posted tagged ‘Dave Cieslewicz’

The Corridor Strategy For Development, Cont’d

December 10, 2012

Earlier this year I wrote a piece for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel arguing that the Milwaukee-Madison I-94 corridor held great potential for economic development in the 21st century. I expanded the piece and gave it more of a Madison focus for this Isthmus cover story.

This is the essence of the argument:

Simply put, that 80-mile I-94 corridor traversing Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson and Dane counties could be the muscle and brain of Wisconsin’s 21st-century economic renaissance.

It also, I would argue, holds greater economic promise for Madison and Dane County’s prosperity than does the Thrive region, the seven largely rural counties surrounding Dane County that community leaders have identified as Madison’s cohort for growth.

Those four I-94 corridor counties cover less than 5% of the state, but have one-third of its population, 44% of its college graduates and almost 40% of Wisconsin jobs, according to the UW-Extension’s Center for Community and Economic Development. The synergy of a great transportation corridor connecting the state’s two largest metropolitan areas seems obvious.

Tom Hefty, the retired head of Blue Cross-Blue Shield United of Wisconsin, made that case 10 years ago when he tried — and failed — to convince Gov. Jim Doyle to adopt a corridor development plan as part of the state’s economic strategy.

The logic: Milwaukee is the state’s finance and commercial capital. Madison is the political capital and home to a world-class research university. Waukesha County is a teeming entrepreneurial beehive. Already a good chunk of workers travel back and forth along the corridor. Major educational facilities, including a rising UW-Milwaukee, prepare the workforce.

“You combine an academic powerhouse with a commercial powerhouse, and you get job growth,” says Hefty.

Do you think that Wisconsin’s languishing economy could use more jobs? The answer is obvious, but the politics here are deeply dysfunctional. Talk about Mission: Impossible. It’s not just Milwaukee versus Madison; their shared liberalism is abhorrent to conservative Waukesha County. Lambs will lie down with lions before the corridor politicians ever work together.

For that matter, Gov. Scott Walker’s successful effort to kill the $810 million federally funded train service between Milwaukee and Madison is just one more nasty episode in that endless grudge match.

But before you turn the page, here’s the thing: The corridor is coming together without these feuding politicians.

To read more, pls go here.

The I-94 Road to Prosperity

June 13, 2012

Politically, Madison and Milwaukee are two Democratic peas in a pod. But culturally  they are like oil and water.  Go figure.

In a story for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I make the case that the two cities need to pull together through an economic corridor along  I-94.

The story begins:

What is it about Milwaukee and Madison – that potent mix of mutual disdain, disregard and ignorance that characterizes their odd relationship?

“Only 80 miles separate them, but it’s like the cities are on different sides of the moon,” says James Rowen, who has worked in journalism and for mayors in both cities.

Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist who served for 12 years in the Legislature, offers another celestial view. “It’s the difference between Saturn and Jupiter. Milwaukee and Madison are on different planets,” he says. “Even as technology erases distances, the two cities remain impervious to cooperating.”

John Gurda, a Milwaukee historian and columnist for the Journal Sentinel, says Madison and Milwaukee are like estranged siblings who meet at Thanksgiving and then don’t talk for the rest of the year.

But enough metaphors – I have to blurt out something as loudly as I can.

Wisconsin needs Madison and Milwaukee to pull together.

Simply put, that 80-mile I-94 corridor traversing Milwaukee, Waukesha, Jefferson and Dane counties could be the muscle and brain of Wisconsin’s 21st century economic renaissance.

The four counties cover less than 5% of the state but have one-third of its population, 44% of its college graduates and almost 40% of Wisconsin jobs, according to the UW-Extension’s Center for Community and Economic Development. The synergy of a great transportation corridor connecting the state’s two largest metropolitan areas seems obvious.

Tom Hefty, the retired head of Blue Cross-Blue Shield United of Wisconsin, made that case 10 years ago when he tried – and failed – to persuade Gov. Jim Doyle to adopt a corridor development plan as part of the state’s economic strategy.

The logic: Milwaukee is the state’s finance and commercial capital. Madison is the political capital and home to a world-class research university. Waukesha County is a teeming entrepreneurial beehive. Already, a good chunk of workers travel back and forth along the corridor. Major educational facilities, including a rising UWM, prepare the workforce.

“You combine an academic powerhouse with a commercial powerhouse and you get job growth,” says Hefty.

Do you think that Wisconsin’s languishing economy could use more jobs? The answer is obvious, but the politics here are deeply dysfunctional. Talk about Mission Impossible. It’s not just Milwaukee vs. Madison, but their shared liberalism is abhorrent to conservative Waukesha County. Lambs will lie down with lions before corridor politicians ever work together.

In that context, Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to kill the $810 million federally funded train service between Milwaukee and Madison is just one more smack-down in that endless grudge match.

But here’s the thing: The corridor is coming together without those feuding politicians.

To read the rest of the story, please go here.

To read a similar argument I made for Chicago-to-Milwaukee connection, please go here.

 

A Troubling Change At City Hall

February 4, 2011

My reportorial interests of late have focused on economic development and the role of public employees. In the case of Tim Cooley’s resignation, the two came together in this column for Isthmus.

In government, bad news often comes on Friday afternoons, in hopes it will be lost in the weekend shuffle.

So it was telling that as the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend began on Jan. 14, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s office released economic development director Tim Cooley’s resignation letter — a mere two weeks’ notice.

Every City Hall employee knew the significance of Cooley’s announcement: His two-year probationary period was ending in February, and he was leaving before the ax fell.

Cooley’s departure is bad news on several counts. Most tellingly it revealed that, nearing his eighth year in office, the mayor has yet to put together a sustained jobs-growth strategy.

To read more, please go here.

Madison Needs Jobs

December 27, 2010

In this column for Isthmus, I argue that the  tough times for public-employee unions  means tough times for Madison and Dane County unless the community makes itself more welcoming to business expansion.

Among the points I make are:

… economic development should be front and center in next spring’s mayoral and county executive elections. The candidates need to be grilled on their philosophy and proposals.

Yes, philosophy. Much of Madison’s problem is attitudinal. For a whole host of venerable liberal reasons, Madison can be hellish on business.

The problem, says business consultant Kay Plantes, is that too many Madisonians don’t connect the dots. “They don’t see the unintended consequences” of their good intentions.

Give a proposed business expansion the third degree in terms of a lengthy and costly review, and the firm may head to the suburbs with its jobs.

“That’s why we’ve ended up with so much urban sprawl,” says Plantes. “It’s bad for transportation, it’s bad for the environment, and it’s very bad for the Madison school district.”

To read more, please go here.

When The Solution Is A Problem

November 9, 2010

Wow, it’s hard to see a good outcome to the city’s predicament with the failing Overture  Center of the Arts.  The bail-out plan is mightily attractive, and it’s being pushed by a lot of sincere  (and influential) people. The problem is that its adoption will come at the expense of  more innovative thinking on managing Dane County’s regional facilities in the 21st century.

I explain what’s at stake in a recent column for Isthmus. It begins:

When pianist Olga Kern began playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 at the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s season opener a few Fridays ago, the first gentle notes hung in the air. I could hear the faint hum of the piano wires vibrating from her pedal work.

What marvelous acoustics Overture Hall has! What a gorgeous place to hear the symphony and the Madison Opera. And what a horrible situation the Overture Center for the Arts finds itself in.

A week earlier, cold to the issue, I parachuted into the last meeting of the Overture Ad Hoc Committee. I heard the rumbling unease in which the committee recommended that the city buy the arts complex for $1 from its private nonprofit owner.

So many unanswered questions, so much uncertainty, and the city is supposed to wrap up this deal before Jan. 1?

Holy cow! I turned to a veteran city official and (with apologies to Jon Stewart) told him: “This is the clusterf#@k of the arts.”

You can read more here.


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