November 17, 2006

Economic Opportunity & Jobs

By Senator Lena C. Taylro

Did you know that recent studies show that nearly 43% of working-age Milwaukee residents do not have jobs? Also, our metro area has the highest rate of racial disparities in employment in the country – about 59% of working-age black males in Milwaukee are unemployed.  To make matters worse, although our population is increasing, so is the city’s poverty rate. And as a result, Milwaukee’s inner city is now expanding outwards to include the Northwest Side.

I look forward to the day when businesses and corporations are knocking down the doors to our city. In order to make this dream a reality, we need to market ourselves as a desirable workforce. But, how can we make this happen?

First, we need to become involved in decisions that affect our ability to attain and hold jobs. For example, the Department of Transportation proposed to eliminate 14 bus routes while increasing fares which would create barriers for numerous employees who use the transit system to get to work.  If Milwaukee residents had not voiced themselves that proposal could have made it to County Executive Scott Walker’s final budget. It is imperative for us to make ourselves heard to protect our best interests.

Secondly, we must be informed of opportunities that are already available for us. Against the odds, many of us have prospered by opening our own businesses. And I want to make sure that others know that it is an attainable goal. Wisconsin's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise programs are great ways for you to start and grow your business. To learn more, you can call 608-267-7806.

If the larger businesses and corporations won't come to us then we need to commit to our own progress.  We have to take fate into our own hands and create our own paths. We also need to shape our children’s fate to ensure their success as well.

Lastly, we have got to make sure that our children do not follow the patterns of our past.  For many years, Milwaukee’s high school graduation rate has had some of the lowest in the country.   Studies consistently prove that a stable early childhood education not only produces better students, but also more productive and successful citizens in general. It appears that before we talk about college or high school education, we need to address the root of the problem which is early education.

So, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends, its time to stress a sound educational foundation. There are many options available but it is evident that more are needed in our area. For starters you could ask your local schools, churches and community organizations about free and affordable after-school programs that will assist in building upon your child’s early education.

It is up to us Milwaukee; we must voice ourselves and become involved in changes that affect our everyday lives; we need to take advantage of programs that are in place to help us succeed; and we have to realize that there will not be change unless Milwaukee's rising generations are able to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued so many in the past. If we will not be given our opportunity, then it is time for us to create the opportunity for ourselves.