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Secretary Message: Projects throughout the state aim to increase access to economic well-being

July 28, 2021
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In our Wisconsin Tomorrow: Building an Economy for All report released earlier this year, WEDC outlined a strategy for creating a stronger, more resilient and more inclusive economy by concentrating on the economic well-being of every citizen throughout our state.

While each person defines economic well-being differently, the report recognizes there are some common elements: financial stability, education, health, community infrastructure (such as access to affordable housing, child care, and vibrant communities) and a clean environment.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen some exciting examples of how business and community leaders, with help from WEDC, are putting these pieces together in innovative ways to create new opportunities for Wisconsin residents.

Just a few weeks ago, the Community Within the Corridor, located in the former Briggs & Stratton factory complex on Milwaukee’s north side, broke ground on its way to becoming the largest privately owned affordable housing complex in the state.

Expanding affordable housing in Milwaukee is reason enough to cheer on this project, but what’s really exciting is how it encompasses so much more—including on-site child care, a community kitchen and space for entrepreneurship, education and job training. Developers (and brothers) Khalif and Que El-Amin, who are also the founders of the Young Enterprising Society, are working to make real a community where people can work, create businesses, raise their families and thrive together.

Earlier in that same week, the New North and the Greater Green Bay Chamber announced the El-Amin brothers are partnering with them to establish the Blueprint Green Bay, a new initiative focused on helping minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses get the assistance they need to become successful entrepreneurs. WEDC is providing funds to help graduates of the program take their businesses to the next level; the project has already been successful in growing new businesses in southeast Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, in northern Wisconsin, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes and I had the chance to see a nonprofit with a novel approach to meeting our state’s workforce needs. Siren-based SOFTEC uses simulators to teach students how to operate heavy machinery, so that in a matter of weeks graduates develop the skills they need to move into high-paying construction jobs.

The program has been particularly successful in attracting women and Native American students, who haven’t traditionally been represented in this field. Filling the demand for more skilled workers will need just these types of retraining efforts aimed at workers who might otherwise remain on the sidelines.

It’s also encouraging to see many of our longstanding Wisconsin businesses showing the same kind of dedication to looking ahead and fostering economic well-being, demonstrating that continuity and innovation can successfully coexist.

In Ashland, Lt. Governor Barnes and I celebrated two major milestones for a community landmark. We were on hand as Moores on Main showed off its updated look after being the recipient of this year’s Main Street Makeover. The popular clothing shop, which began as an Army-Navy surplus store, is also marking its 75th anniversary this year—with a second generation of the Moore family at the helm.

Finally, I joined another family-run business in Green Bay for a statewide first as Green Bay Packaging officially opened the first new paper mill in Wisconsin in at least 30 years. The mammoth new mill, which operates entirely on recovered product and uses sustainable technology, is ideally positioned to accommodate the increased demand for cardboard boxes and other packaging in this era of e-commerce.

Each of these projects—and many more supported by WEDC—represents another step forward on the path to economic well-being for everyone. As our state continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll be working with businesses and communities to make sure they have the resources they need to grow.

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