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Dec 5, 201711:38 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Midwest millennials, Badgers, and veterans: Targeting Wisconsin’s hunt for workers

(page 1 of 2)

It’s no secret that Wisconsin is a secret when it comes to most things other than cheese, farms, and the Green Bay Packers.

That branding dilemma was confirmed for me two years ago when my organization worked on a “Wisconsin Perception Survey” that asked about 2,000 people what they thought of the state and its job opportunities.

The answer was basically the same for respondents inside and outside the state: Job diversity means choosing between careers in curds, colby, or cheddar.

While the reality of job options in Wisconsin is far different than what so many people think, decades of perception are hard to change. Fortunately, a timely chance to color Wisconsin’s monochromatic branding slate has arrived.

The combination of a looming worker deficit and the impending arrival of high-tech manufacturers such as Foxconn Technology Group has created a moment in which Wisconsin must finally get serious about attracting more people and selling itself as a well-rounded place to live, work, and play.

That was the idea behind Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement of a $6.8 million marketing and advertising campaign aimed at Midwest millennials, returning military veterans, and alumni of the state’s public and private colleges. Walker did so Nov. 29 at the “Future Wisconsin Summit,” produced by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, where the Wisconsin Perception Survey was unveiled two years ago.

Pending legislative approval, the campaign would promote the state’s industry mix, recreation, education, arts, health care, and:

  • Reach out to millennials in Chicago and nearby on the theory they’re reaching an age in which starting a family and leading a more balanced life is better than living in a tiny apartment and fighting rush-hour traffic. For example, multimedia ads would pose illustrated choices such as “An hour in traffic … or an hour with friends?”, “One hour commute … or one-hour bike ride?” and “Shoebox on the third floor … or loft in the Third Ward?”
  • Entice military veterans who are returning from deployments and transitioning into civilian life. Whether they’re from Wisconsin or elsewhere, those veterans often seek the same things: housing, jobs, benefits, and a place to raise a family. Wisconsin offers a state property tax credit for veterans who own homes; jobs that align with technical training received in the military; and some of the most comprehensive veteran benefits in the United States. Rockwell Automation and Manpower are already gearing up to train more veterans for specific tech jobs, as I noted in a recent column.
  • Welcome back alums. Wisconsin graduates about 75,000 students per year from its public and private colleges and universities, but loses many to other states. Some don’t know about job openings and choices … others just want to return home. There are many others, however, who left for jobs from coast to coast and who could be tempted to return for the right opportunity.


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Dec 5, 2017 05:14 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

So basically, us taxpayers will be spending an additional $6.8M to entice out of state workers to work at Foxconn. One would expect all of the potential and new hires (including management) will be regularly drug tested along with the other welfare recipients asking for food stamps.

Dec 6, 2017 08:28 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

First it is really sad that Wisconsin needs to advertise for people to move here - wasn't that way we moved here in the early 1990s . We invested in Wisconsin because if its quality of life - good environment, good schools - some guarantees that your rural property value was protected- you know everything that has been attacked and degraded over the past 6 years. You swapped it for lower wages. And if it worked you helped move other people here -literally we relocated several families - giving them a room to stay in while they found housing etc.. Folks from Chicago look after each other.

Costs in Madison for housing are approaching Chicago so the economic swap is not as good as it was. And all the attractive aspects to the people who are relocating to Wisconsin are on the downside. many folks who moved here 20+ years ago are leaving and the word of mouth is negative. And people like my daughter who you need here due to her hi tech skills are writing off the state and the UW.

Without good public transportation (also on the hit list by the current adminsit4ration) the commute will be as bad as Chicago in no time at all.

If you want to invest don't due it in ads, invest in child care and improved rural internet as Tommy Thompson did. Rural internet makes rural areas with their lower housing costs and greater flexibility in land use becomes like in rural Dane Natural small business incubators. Young people who want to start families need either relatives to help (not here if you are relocating) or good quality child care (you know what Madison has been developing and which may soon be illegal under the latest Republican initiative restricting local employment initiatives).

Build a place where people want to come and it costs less to advertise- people will find you through word of mouth easy under today's social media.

And with the boomers retiring and they Latinos being deported etc. Jobs are everywhere to be had. Build a good community and they will come.

Dec 6, 2017 08:36 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Note living here for 26 years I can attest that Wisconsin is a place where you move to be a stranger to many people- quite unlike ironically Chicago or other states . The way that has changed in many places is the not born heres with some born heres have created their own communities within Wisconsin . But after 25 years living in a rural community and being volunteering in a lot of positive community I not only in many situations feel like an outsider but regularly here people talking negatively about house of us who were not born here. As an older white male I learned what it meant to be black moving here as the type of behavior I saw in white neighborhoods in Chicago towards black people basically existed in here in rural Dane towards anyone not born into the community . And that doesn't change over time -I know people who have been here 40 years involved in their rural churches an still outsiders. That cultural trait is why most counties in the state are dying and in crisis. Fancy ads won't change that.

Dec 6, 2017 09:01 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

This sales pitch is as bad as whatever the state eventually winds up using will probably be. You do realize people from Chicago aren't being held hostage there, right? Strangely enough, they actually like living in the third largest metro area in the U.S., with access to all that entails. And no, the cost of living in Chicago isn't drastically higher than in Madison, nor is the traffic there much worse than it is here. (They also have the benefit of a robust public transit system, which Wisconsin still glaringly lacks.)

And why talk down to alums, acting like they're somehow unaware of the job opportunities that exist here. They're going to school here for four years or more. They see full well that there aren't tons of job opportunities in their given fields here, and the ones that do exist are either located in undesirable rural locations, offer low pay, or both. Unemployment is at record lows in Wisconsin right now, too. The jobs for most of these college grads just aren't available here. And in areas of the state where unemployment is higher and jobs may be open … well, there's a reason none of these recruitment pitches are highlighting Ashland.

If I was a millennial, a veteran, or an alum, I'd be choosing the coasts or Chicago, as well. For all Wisconsin has to offer, those places still provide more.

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Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.



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