Monday, March 23, 2009

Jobs NOW Task Force--Milwaukee Meeting

We were invited to attend the Jobs NOW Task Force meeting held in Milwaukee this afternoon. Co-chairs of the task force are Rep. Rich Zipperer and Senator Randy Hopper. Other legislators were in attendance--Lazich, LaMahieu, Jim Ott, Pridemore, Fitzgerald, Newcomer, Nygren, Grothmann, Honandel, Darling, and a few others whose names I missed. The event was covered by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's business section and an NPR guy showed up for a while.

(Since I don't use my name, I won't use the names of the individuals who spoke. There will be some vague description of their business, however.)

Sen. Hopper mentioned that earlier in the day he attended a hearing during which another Leggie stated that they "would be happy to tax Wal-Mart out of the State."

That's encouraging (/sarcasm)--but it did not really set the tone for the day.

About 30 business-types spoke; some were larger-Company presidents, some were self-employed but small-business types, and a couple were also representatives of small business associations such as COSBE. That "30" number is significant--a week ago, only 4 people had signed up to attend and comment.

That tells you that momentum is building.

To this observer, there were three noticeable themes.

The first was that very few of the people who spoke addressed Gov. Doyle's spending spree. They certainly did address the cutbacks they had to make in their own businesses due to the recession--one individual is closing out his 401(k) to keep his employees, and another spoke of a client who will be doing the same thing AND who has not taken a paycheck from his own enterprise for 90 days. But the unconstrained spending of the Governor did not get the hammering I expected. There was talk of the effects of the Governor's tax increases--none of it complimentary, but none was vehement. An 'angel investor' specifically mentioned that wealth seemed to be in flight from Wisconsin, at least partially due to the tax climate; another entrepreneur mentioned a couple of Department of Revenue auditors who couldn't seem to be human.

The second theme concerned health insurance cost and availability. Many of the speakers mentioned tweaking the laws to allow more people to purchase insurance at group rates (without going to a 'Healthy Wisconsin' model.)

The third theme was loosely organized around "education." A very forceful and persuasive woman suggested that business owners and managers should embark on a campaign to educate people about who they really are; she rejected the all-to-common shorthand characterization that all business owners are like the NYC bonus-babies.

The OTHER 'education' component had to do with the failure of Milwaukee's public schools (or many of Milwaukee's parents) to adequately educate their children/students for business positions. Many were frustrated by being unable to hire people with simple telephone and word-processing skills; they were not looking for high-level math or writing--just the basics. And they cannot find them.

Generally speaking, the ideas presented were concerned with the future--better incentives for businesses to remain here, or to relocate here; a better health-care climate; and a better-educated next generation which was not antipathetic to business AND capable of taking on common office- or factory-chores.

See the above post for 'the rest of the story.'

No comments: