August 19, 2014

Five Industries for Success

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In the early nineteenth century, miners from around the world converged on the territory of Wisconsin. Burrowing holes for relief from the long, cold, Wisconsin winter, these miners were nicknamed “badgers,” a moniker that lives on in our state song, academic institutions, and our collective identity to this very day. Others “struck gold” in our states forests and backwoods, creating a logging industry in Wisconsin that was relied on by the entirety of the United States. Not only did logging further develop our state by providing jobs to thousands and forming towns like Eau Claire, but it created a paper industry that is still a significant industry today.

If we can learn anything from our states history, it is that the establishment of a homegrown industry is the only true way to grow our economy. We cannot continue to live as independent actors and expect to create something great. We cannot ignore and incarcerate our neighbors and expect to simultaneously spur economic growth. We cannot destroy organizations that advocate on behalf of our states labor force and expect increased efficiency. We must learn from history. It is time to return to our roots. In this spirit, I am proud to announce that my office is working to spur five new industries in Milwaukee, which I believe will create jobs and allow us all to live safer, happier, and more successful lives. 

First, I hope to develop an urban agricultural sector in Milwaukee. Urban agriculture is the practice of producing food in a city. As a state with such a rich history of farming, Wisconsin’s largest city should reflect that. Urban agriculture is not a new concept; it has been practiced ever since cities came into existence. As community became more industrialized, urban agriculture faded and was even discouraged by policy. However, urban populations continue to grow at tremendous rate, more than half of humanity will live in cities by the year 2015.  As a result the need for a sustainable increase in food supply is crucial. Urban agriculture offers us a sustainable and an environmentally sound way to bolster our economy. It can produce food and job security to many, especially to those who traditionally face discrimination in employment. Unfortunately, Milwaukee County is currently at the lowest level of food manufacturing employment growth in the past 20 years. We must work to make Milwaukee the countries hotbed for urban agriculture.

Wisconsin ‘s forestry industry is currently in freefall. At the same time, the city of Milwaukee cuts down hundreds of trees every year, which are simply made into mulch. Moreover, discarded wood from buildings and a number of other goods becomes fodder for landfills.  I know that we as a city can do better. We can harness our resources, in this case trees to make products like flooring, jewelry, furniture, and homes. This new urban forestry industry is repurposes waste while simultaneously beautifying our city and building a pathway for a more robust local economy.

The trees that remain standing must be preserved and enjoyed! That’s why I believe we should be developing our cities parks. After thirty years of unofficial use, Joseph Lichter Park, which is located in the Northwestern portion of the fourth district, was recently donated to Milwaukee County. This park is an ideal candidate for development into a multi-use park; where Milwaukeeans can be active and have fun year round – from snowmobiling to riding ATVs to horseback riding. Additionally, I hope to work with BigStep and Harley Davidson to create a small engines school in a building nearby the park. Joseph Lichter Park will generate substantial tourism revenue, and will also provide an invaluable asset to the city of Milwaukee. I look forward to Joseph Lichter Park becoming the jewel of the Milwaukee County Park System.

One the most significant of the industries I hope to bolster is the housing industry. Milwaukee’s housing market, like most places in the country, was hurt badly in the recession of 2008. Many homes went into foreclosure or disrepair. I hope to partner with the city and nonprofit organizations such as One Hope Made Strong, MICAH, and Better Homes Better Communities to give people the skills necessary to renovate these homes, and by proxy our city. Working to make Milwaukee’s housing market one of the most attractive in the country will not only draw people to come live here, but it will create jobs for thousands of people who could not previously find work.

Lastly, I hope to facilitate the creation of parent centers throughout Milwaukee. The phrase “education begins at home” is commonly used when discussing reforms to our education system, but this ignores the fact that many parents don’t have the resources to properly supplement their child’s education. Parent centers are places that families can go to get the resources they need to develop their own skills so they can better assist their child. Parent centers and similar programs such as the Boy Scouts Learning for Life and My Life My Plan programs prepare our youth for the future, help to make parents jobs easier, and grow our community. By creating parent centers we create communal bonds that transcend the realm of policy, creating change for the good through the most powerful power we have – neighborliness.

Together, these five industries constitute a practical plan to put Milwaukee back to work and on the track to success. These industries represent values we can all get behind – conservation, hard work, innovation, humanity and cooperation – the vary ideas that has made Wisconsin what it is today. If we band together and get behind these industries, we will without a doubt make Milwaukee the envy of the country. I look forward to working with all of you to seeing these initiatives through!

Madison Office - 608-266-5810

Room 5, South Wing
State Capitol , P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882