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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Milwaukee earns conflicting reviews

While a recently conducted survey showed Milwaukee’s economic prospects to be improving, a separate study, which measured the metropolitan area against 15 others, revealed Milwaukee’s business environment to be only mediocre in comparison.

The studies, both completed by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, seem to present varying results, one highlighting the area’s optimistic outlook and the other exposing Milwaukee’s economic weaknesses.

According to MMAC Economic Research Director Bret Mayborne, these apparent contradictions may be explained by the different natures of the two studies. The Economic Outlook Survey, which collected responses from 120 area firms, examined Milwaukee alone. The benchmark report, however, looked at “Milwaukee relative to other metropolitan areas.”

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Additionally, the Economic Outlook Survey focuses on future growth, while the benchmark report uses figures from past quarters.

“One is forward-looking; one is backward-looking,” Mayborne said.

Though the benchmark report examines a total of 39 indicators of economic strength, Mayborne believed most news reports tend to generalize and focus on the fields in which Milwaukee has performed poorly.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the spin [other news reports] have taken,” Mayborne said. “Milwaukee is about in the middle of the pack. If anything, [it is] just a shade below.”

Of the 16 areas reviewed, Milwaukee has experienced the highest job loss, while most other areas experienced job growth. Over the past six years there has been a 1.3 percent drop in the number of registered businesses in the Milwaukee area. The city ranked last in the number of minority-owned businesses, and the area’s black unemployment rate is at 17 percent, the highest of the 12 areas that follow employment by race.

According to Mayborne, Milwaukee’s poor performance “is not universal of all 39 indicators, only a few.” While it is fair to recognize Milwaukee’s inadequacy within a number of indicators, which are admittedly immensely reflective of the area’s overall economic state, Milwaukee did perform well in numerous fields of the study, Mayborne added. The areas include quality of life, number of performing arts groups, infrastructure support for businesses, air quality and crime rates.

In addition, the business outlook for the second quarter of 2005 is higher than it was one year ago, with an increase in jobs, sales and profit strongly projected.

Though Mayborne states there is somewhat of a continuation of the trends seen in recent months that the economy is gathering strength, he also points to the weaknesses that are in need of attention.

“There are programs out there that seek to address these areas,” Mayborne said. One such program is the Initiative for a Competitive Milwaukee, “a project that tries to create greater economic and business strength in the inner city with job creation.”

Also, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is working to promote economic growth within the city. His initiative seeks to create a “New Milwaukee,” a vision that seeks to increase jobs and decrease crime.

According to a release, Mayor Barrett said the city will see jobs, new shops, new places for businesses and additional entertainment.

While Madison has shown visible economic growth, University of Wisconsin professor of agricultural and applied economics Jean-Paul Chavas explained a possible reason why Milwaukee has not enjoyed the same levels of improvement.

“There has been a growth in the export market and a growth in the service industry, but the manufacturing sector has not done too well, which could explain Milwaukee’s economic state,” Chavas said. “The agricultural industry has done well, but agriculture is not [found in] Milwaukee, agriculture is [found in] rural areas.”

Comparatively, “Madison has done visibly better [economically] than the rest of the state,” Chavas added.

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