Some refer to members of the Midwest as flyover states.
The picture at times painted is one of vast amber waves of grain interrupted on precious few occasions by cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.
We know different about what our state has to offer; others may not.
As such, Gov. Scott Walker is seeking nearly $7 million from the Legislature to start a national marketing campaign aimed at convincing millennials and veterans to relocate to Wisconsin.
“He said the marketing campaign would pitch Wisconsin as a more affordable place for millennials to live where they could be spending more time in a canoe, having a drink with friends or attending a concert, rather than sitting in traffic,” reads an Associated Press story.
Aside from targeting millennials and veterans, the effort also would focus on drawing University of Wisconsin alumni currently living outside the state. Ads running in Chicago would promote Wisconsin’s low commute times, natural resources and quality of life, according to the AP. Additional funding is being sought for a mobile job resource center to provide services in rural parts of Wisconsin.
“It’s not enough to just give speeches and talks,” Walker said in the AP story, “we have to put a whole campaign behind this.”
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State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who’s running for governor, was critical of the effort.
“Gov. Walker is spending taxpayer money like he’s got holes in his pockets,” he said in a statement. “First, Walker signs on the dotted line with Foxconn and agrees to pay Chairman Gou $3 billion of our hard-earned money. Now he wants to spend millions more to recruit workers from other states to move to Wisconsin to work at this factory.
“This has to stop.”
Nevertheless, survey after survey and study after study in Wisconsin show the state suffers from a skills gap. Employers report they have job openings they simply can’t fill with available talent.
Add an aging population and low unemployment to the mix, and you have significant workforce needs that aren’t being met. According to the AP piece, the “state is projected to need 45,000 workers in seven years with shortages cutting across industries, including manufacturing, nursing, information technology and services.”
Walker said the measure was not solely focused on Foxconn, a Taiwan-based company that plans to open an immense display-screen factory in Racine County.
“Our unemployment rate is at historic lows and our labor force participation rate is one of the highest in the country,” said Kurt Bauer, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce president, in support of the effort.
“Simply put, we need more people to move into Wisconsin. Our businesses are ready to expand, they just need more bodies.”
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Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Republicans should be looking at current policies that “have driven away young adults and contributed to our state’s brain drain crisis.”
“Millennials are increasingly choosing to live in states that invest in public transit, promote workplace flexibility and support student loan debt relief,” she said in a statement.
That’s true. However, a Wisconsin State Journal story cited an example of a similar, though costlier, program that has had some success.
“The Pure Michigan branding campaign,” the story reads, “with an annual $34 million budget, estimates it drew 4 million visitors to the state with an economic impact of $1.2 billion in 2013.”
Given the demographics in our state, maybe reaching outside our borders is an outside-the-box idea that’s worth pursuing. Promoting the skilled jobs we have available and what our state has to offer in terms of quality of life would be a move in the right direction.
But efforts such as this can’t just promote Foxconn and southeastern Wisconsin. The skills gap also is being felt in the Chippewa Valley and across the entire state.