April 30. 2012 11:00AM - Last modified: April 30. 2012 11:04AM

Walker unveils plan to ‘Transform Milwaukee'

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker today announced Transform Milwaukee, which he described as an “historic and comprehensive” initiative aimed at growing the economy in the City of Milwaukee.

Transform Milwaukee will commit more than $100 million to restore industrial output, create jobs, address the city's large inventory of foreclosed properties and create a sustainable solution to rainwater run-off, said Walker, who is facing a June 5 recall election.
The project will focus on an industrial, residential and transportation corridor connecting the Century City site, the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, the Menomonee Valley, the Port of Milwaukee and General Mitchell Airport.
"For nearly a century, Milwaukee equipped and fed the world as a leading manufacturing and food processing center," Walker said. "Transform Milwaukee will rebuild the city's workforce, manufacturing capacity and inter-modal transportation infrastructure to again make Milwaukee an economic powerhouse. Making one of the largest economic development commitments in the state's history will be central to rebuilding Milwaukee."
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will lead the initiative by assembling a team of public and private partners to create and implement a strategy leveraging Milwaukee's workforce, industrial and transportation assets. WHEDA will work with federal agencies, private foundations, the City of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and State agencies to package resources to grow businesses and restore central Milwaukee to a vibrant place in which to live and work, Walker said.
However, Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman was not impressed with today’s announcement by Walker.
“It’s totally phony. WHEDA already does all of those things,” Bauman said. “If they really want to do something (for Milwaukee) they should restore the transit cuts, restore the education cuts, restore the cuts to shared revenue and stop running Talgo out of town, which is doing business in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Just put us back to where we were before. Leave us alone. Then we would be happy.”
Transform Milwaukee will complement work underway by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and Department of Children and Families to address unemployment and workforce issues in the City of Milwaukee, Walker said.
In addition, Walker announced that WHEDA has committed $100 million to the Transform Milwaukee area over the next two years. WHEDA's resources will include federal tax credits, business development loans, workforce housing financing, residential mortgage loans and vacant property remediation grants.
WHEDA's resources and other investments are expected to generate $200 million of overall development during the next two years, Walker said.
The Transform Milwaukee Initiative will focus on five critical issues in the corridor area:
1. Support the development of businesses that create jobs in a hard-hit labor market that includes one of the nation's highest rates of male African American unemployment.
2. Address a glut of foreclosed and vacant properties. The removal of board-ups will make neighborhoods more desirable locations for housing and business development.
3. Prepare vacant industrial property for shovel-ready projects to spur business development and address chronic unemployment in the central city.
4. Create bioswales (storm water runoff conveyance systems that provide an alternative to storm sewers); storm water infrastructure; and urban agricultural areas to prevent flooding events that in recent years have caused millions of dollars of damage to homes and buildings.
5. Direct resources to an area with an established intermodal transportation infrastructure to ensure the efficient transportation of Milwaukee products to national and global markets utilizing the water, air, rail and highway systems.

"The combination of port, airport, rail and highway systems — linked with an existing manufacturing area and ready workforce — would make Milwaukee's industrial district one the most attractive in the Midwest," said Wyman Winston, WHEDA executive director. "Our intention is to make Milwaukee the location of choice for local, national and international businesses seeking to grow."
"Transform Milwaukee will strengthen Milwaukee by increasing industrial business development, creating jobs and improving neighborhoods," Walker said. "The State of Wisconsin will benefit through increased economic activity and decreased demand for unemployment and social services resources in the state's largest city."
Walker made today's announcement at the Hatco Corp. storage warehouse, 635 S. 28th St.