Gov. Scott Walker unveiled a $100 million initiative to boost Milwaukee’s economy on Monday, with a focus on areas of the city where some of the highest rates of unemployment in the state exist.
According to a statement from Walker’s office, the Transform Milwaukee initiative is a project that will focus on bringing businesses into the Milwaukee area and helping the unemployed in the area find jobs close to home.
Walker said the initiative would also address a glut of foreclosed and vacant properties, create stormwater infrastructure to prevent flooding damage to homes and further establish transportation infrastructure in the city.
Julie Lund, a spokesperson for Walker, said she believes that the initiative will be good for both the state and the city.
“Governor Walker knows that for Wisconsin to thrive, Milwaukee must thrive,” Lund said. “His hope is that this project, one of the largest economic development commitments in the state’s history, will serve as a new beginning for the city, restoring it to economic powerhouse status with new jobs and infrastructure.”
The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority will lead most of the project by coordinating resources from private and public institutions.
Wyman Winston, executive director of WHEDA, said he was was also excited by the intiative.
“We will commit $100 million to support attracting industry and manufacturing jobs.” Winston said. “We will strengthen adjacent neighborhoods to support industry and make a link to advance unemployment efforts. The goal is to invest in industry and housing capital to make Milwaukee the most competitive area for manufacturing in the Midwest.”
WHEDA’s resources will include federal tax credits, business development loans, workforce housing financing, residential mortgage loans and vacant property remediation grants. These resources, along with other investments, are expected to generate $200 million of overall development during the next two years.
However, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the recall election, said for eight years, Walker has been working against Milwaukee’s best interests and questioned Walker’s sincerity in a statement on Monday.
“With 36 days until he faces voters in a recall election, Gov. Walker is trying to act like he cares about providing jobs to the city of Milwaukee,” Barrett said in the statement. “No last-minute political announcements by Gov. Walker will hide what the people of our state have had to deal with over the last fifteen months.”
Despite Barrett’s statement, which characterized the project as a “last-minute political announcement,” a timeline provided by WHEDA shows the organization has been planning the project since April 2011.
The Department of Workforce Development will also be involved in the project creating a bridge from the businesses to the people of Milwaukee.
John Dipko, spokesperson for DWD, says the initiative is an added bonus to present efforts.
In an email to The Badger Herald, Dipko said the initiative will complement the work that is already underway by the DWD and Department of Children and Families to address the unemployment rate in the City of Milwaukee, which is currently at 10.4 percent.