Gov. Scott Walker wants to bring workers to Wisconsin and he’s willing to pay almost $7 million of taxpayers’ money to do it.
Walker proposed a bill that would allocate $6.8 million to a marketing campaign aimed at luring more workers to Wisconsin. The bill has two main targets — veterans looking to move and start a family and millennials who attended Wisconsin universities and have since left to pursue job opportunities in Chicago, Minneapolis and other, more prominent cities.
Walker said the jobs are here in Wisconsin but “we just need more bodies.”
This very telling is why I think this marketing campaign is ill-advised. Under the pretense of creating jobs for Wisconsin workers, Walker sold the Foxconn project, tax cuts and all. But now it seems there are not enough workers to take advantage of the jobs he created. Never mind Wisconsin already has a very low unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. Walker borrowed the “if you build it, they will come” logic from Field of Dreams, yet he still does not have enough ballplayers.
Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, said it best, “Governor Walker sold a bill of goods to the Wisconsin public by saying it would create new jobs for Wisconsinites. Apparently, what he means was the jobs would go to workers from Chicago.”
There is a wealth of Milwaukee natives looking for jobs, according to Dorothy Walker, the interim dean of the technology and applied science division at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Why not spend this money on training for them, instead of luring people from out of state?
The real irony is that instead of investing in things that would make Wisconsin more attractive to millennials, Walker wants to just spend money on an advertising campaign. For example, Walker stopped a proposal to build a train from Milwaukee to Madison. A train connecting the two youngest and most fun cities in Wisconsin is something truly attractive to young people looking for jobs.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-Wisconsin, summarized the issue well, “I’m baffled why Governor Walker and Republicans aren’t looking at their own policies that have driven away young adults and contributed to our state’s brain drain crisis,” Shilling said. “Millennials are increasingly choosing to live in states that invest in public transit, promote workplace flexibility and support student loan debt relief.” You can create all the jobs in the world, but if young people do not want to live here, it won’t matter.
This is not to say Wisconsin does not have its virtues. I like the idea of selling “build a family in Wisconsin.” Wisconsin is a wholesome place. Enjoy a drive to work without all the traffic. The state is affordable, ranking 15th on the US NEWS list of the most affordable states. It has amazing natural scenery. Selling Wisconsin is not hard. You just need to pick the right audience.
I think deep down Walker realizes this, too. He thinks the key time to reach millennials is four or five years after graduation when they start thinking about where they want to live long-term and raise children. I say closer to 10 years after graduation, but the sentiment is right here. Wisconsin should not try to compete with Chicago unless they are willing to invest millions into city planning for Milwaukee. Instead, he should target Wisconsin natives looking to come home, by reminding them what they loved about this place when they were young.
Instead of investing in drawing millennials from Chicago to Wisconsin, we should be training young Wisconsinites already here.
Eric Hilkert ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in finance.