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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Transcript: Mayor Barrett's state of city address


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett praised the city's achievements and outlined his plan to increase green jobs, economic development and workforce training in the coming year in his state of the city address this morning at state-of-the-art Harley-Davidson Museum.

Following is the transcript:

Fellow Milwaukeeans and special guests, I am pleased to stand before you to present my fifth report on the state of our city.

Thank you, Gail for that welcome and introduction, Harley-style.

Welcome to Harley-Davidson's world-class attraction and welcome to the Menomonee Valley. When I took office in 2004, the Harley-Davidson Museum project was at a standstill. I immediately committed my administration to moving forward with the plans and together, with Harley-Davidson and the Common Council, this incredible cultural asset rose out of an old public works yard. We also saved the taxpayers money by consolidating two public works facilities into one.

These projects are never easy, but they are certainly worth our efforts. Thank you Harley-Davidson for your commitment to Milwaukee.

I chose this venue not only because of the Harley-Davidson story, but also because of the story of the Menomonee Valley. I hope when you drove here this morning you took Canal Street, and if you didn't, I strongly encourage you to drive through the Valley soon. What you see today is in stark contrast to what you would have seen five years ago. What was then the city's biggest eyesore has become home to growing companies and first-rate attractions. It's an invigorating drive, and during a time when the economic news is not good, it's a great example of what forward thinking can achieve. It is because of the collective efforts of all our Valley Partners that The International Economic Development Council recently recognized Milwaukee with an Excellence in Economic Development Award for its achievement in redeveloping the Menomonee Valley. The Valley was recognized as one of the world's 25 best economic development programs. Drive through it, and you'll see why.

The Harley-Davidson Museum rightly deserves all the praise and press it receives. As this museum showcases, this is a 106-year-old company that has survived the Great Depression, the economic turmoil of the 1980s and other difficult times.

What hasn't grabbed a lot of headlines is Harley's commitment to its historic west-side neighborhood. It's there where you'll find the Harley-Davidson Targeted Investment Neighborhood strategy at work.

The targeted investment initiative dedicates public and private resources to improving quality of life and strengthening the neighborhood.

Working with the city, Harley employees and residents around its headquarters worked to address nuisance properties, improve public safety, clean up litter, and make home repairs. In fact, 48 percent of neighborhood residents participated in this effort.

I am confident Harley-Davidson will continue to be one of the most successful brands associated with the City of Milwaukee.

We are all facing difficult and uncertain times. But just like Harley-Davidson, Milwaukeeans are resilient.

I am fully confident that Milwaukee will withstand the current economic downturn. We will make smart investments, continue to build strong partnerships, provide training to our workforce and improve our public schools. We will emerge as a stronger and more competitive city.

Even during this economic downturn, we see signs of optimism. In late 2008, we transformed a brownfield into a success story. We used a remediation strategy to help a central-city business expand in its current location. Medovations, a medical products company, embarked on a $3 million expansion, maintaining its current workforce and creating 12 additional jobs. This is the first physical expansion of this company and we are thrilled to put a brownfield back to use. Equally exciting, the company hires nearly all of its employees from the central city, and provides on-the-job training.

The city celebrated the ninth groundbreaking in the valley with Charter Wire's new facility, a facility that will be home to 115 employees. Elsewhere in the valley, the Canal Street Commerce Center, the Harley-Davidson Museum and Derse have all opened for business, and the Potawatomi Casino has expanded. Through the development of more than a dozen projects, more than 2,000 jobs have been created.

I'm proud to say that one of the first new businesses in the Valley is already exceeding our expectations. Palermo's Pizza now has 400 employees and is strongly committed to my Summer Youth Jobs Initiative.

In an effort to replicate the success in the valley, the city has invested $6.4 million in assisting businesses in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. Through the use of our TIF financing tool, we assisted DRS in upgrading its facility.

In 2009, we plan to tackle three of the worst brownfields in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. The old tannery on 32nd & Hampton will be part of the Bishop's Creek development. Further south, we have our sights set on the former Tower Automotive plant, and we're going to clean up the former Esser Paint factory on 31st & Galena.

Great progress is being made on Milwaukee's south side in the Airport Gateway Business Improvement District. I'd like to thank Alderman Witkowski for his leadership on this project.

We couldn't be more pleased with the progress on the Brewery Project. The $205 million redevelopment project will be the first 'sustainable' LEED-certified neighborhood. The city assisted with a $29 million TIF to fund demolition, environmental cleanup, new 'green' streets, sewers and sustainable public improvements. The Keg House was converted into the Blue Ribbon Lofts. And, we celebrated when the newly-converted Boiler House welcomed it first two commercial tenants.

I'm grateful to Joe Zilber for his continued civic philanthropy, and I look forward to working with him for years to come.

One of the keys to a stronger neighborhood is a stronger workforce. I want our workforce development to be the best in the nation in helping those most in need find family-supporting jobs. Since taking over Workforce Investment, we've created a more demand-driven and customer responsive system with activities to connect employers with employees. The Workforce Board has identified key new partnerships with city employers, such as Supersteel on the Northwest side. Through its customized welding and manufacturing skills training program, the board helped meet Supersteel's need for an additional 26 trained employees.

The board is also poised to play a key role in providing workforce assistance and training for any federal stimulus projects.

We must continue to invest in the greening of Milwaukee. New technologies create jobs and lower costs. A 2008 sustainability survey ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities based on water quality, recycling and energy efficiency efforts. Milwaukee ranked 12th, up from 16th in 2006.

And we're not slowing down.

Growing and attracting green industries is central to my vision for Milwaukee.

At the current rate of water use, the U.S. will need 16 trillion additional gallons of fresh water per year by 2020. This is equal to one-fourth of the combined outflow of all the Great Lakes.

One point two billion people worldwide suffer from a lack of clean water. Two point six billion people lack adequate sanitation, primarily due to water conditions.

Milwaukee must grow its water economy. Here in Milwaukee, our companies have developed cutting-edge research and technologies associated with treating water and preserving water quality. We're also home to companies that invent and produce water-quality related equipment.

I'm not talking about selling our water. I'm talking about growing and selling our expertise and products associated with 'treating' freshwater. Water will be one of the largest economic growth sectors in the world over the next few decades. And Milwaukee can be the hub for freshwater technologies and research if we do something now to plan for our future.

That's where the Milwaukee 7's Water Council comes in. It has a membership of more than 100 water technology companies. Combining that business innovation expertise with UWM in a School of Freshwater Sciences and the cutting edge research of the Great Lakes Water Institute is a shared goal that must be realized. Gov. Doyle has authorized the school in his budget. Now, we must work to ensure that the financial commitment is there at the end of the state budget process.

Imagine a School of Freshwater Sciences with a front door on our incredibly beautiful lakefront. And on the near south side, we will have the School's research facilities and a water technology business park. We can and must accomplish this. I want to thank Badger Meter's Rich Meussen, UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago and GMC President Julia Taylor for their leadership in shaping and pursuing this goal, and I pledge that I will do all I can to make the school and the water technology park a reality.

Innovations in the way government delivers services will also improve Milwaukee's competitive standing.

Over the past few months I have been in discussions with MMSD over its annual $14.6 million natural gas bill. We think it's time for a less expensive option.

Yesterday, I announced that Veolia Environmental Services and MMSD will proceed on the construction of a 17-mile methane gas pipeline that will capture landfill gas in Muskego and deliver it to the Jones Island Water Treatment Facility.

Presently, the landfill gas is flared off at the landfill. That's money going up in smoke.

The methane gas will be transported through the pipeline and then converted into a fuel source to heat and dry Milogranite. With the installation of five new methane gas turbines, MMSD will be able to meet its electrical needs and eventually produce excess electricity to put back on the electrical grid.

This project will result in lower customer bills for families and businesses, especially our businesses that use a lot of water in production ... think Miller beer. This is a great win-win for businesses and the environment. I want to thank MMSD Director Kevin Shafer, Commissioners Preston Cole and Ald. Ashanti Hamilton as well as the staff from Veolia.

This pipeline is ripe for federal stimulus dollars and we're going to do all we can to get the funding for this and other job-producing projects that help to improve our infrastructure.

I know there are critics of President Obama's stimulus plan. I'm not one of them. Congress and the President have made the decision to spend the money. Since our taxpayers are going to help pay that money back, I'd much rather have that money spent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin than Milwaukie, Oregon.

Since last November, I have been working with Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congressman Dave Obey, Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold to ensure Milwaukee's needs were addressed in the bill. Last Friday I met with President Obama and members of his cabinet.

I want to acknowledge the leadership that Common Council President Willie Hines has brought to this issue. The Council and I understand that spending wisely and putting Milwaukeeans to work is paramount. Thank you, President Hines.

We have the opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and our workforce. In these difficult times, we have to do all we can to build upon both. Improving our local roads is good for residents and businesses alike. Attacking lead poisoning lowers health care costs. Weatherizing our older housing stock reduces energy bills and improves the value of City homes.

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Talkbacks

brewtown82 | Feb. 14, 2012 at 8:09 a.m. (report)

foreclosures cut into the tax base by reducing property values. When homes are worth less, the property tax collected is reduced.

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mike3333 | March 2, 2009 at 12:39 p.m. (report)

Expanding the public sector while the private sector is contracting: geniuses. The private sector funds the public sector. Let's explain this in a manner even Socialists might understand: YOU ARE KILLING THE GOOSE THAT LAID THE GOLDEN EGG. Hello, McFly....

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corrina252 | Feb. 26, 2009 at 8:09 p.m. (report)

The entire foreclosure problem in housing was simply the extending of credit to non-credit worthy borrowers. Lord Obama, the most merciful one, should just let these homes go into foreclosure and then have them bought by people who can afford them. Owning a home is not a right. Can't afford your mortgage? Too bad, go rent. The sense of entitlement that ineffectual liberals embody is stunning.

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corrina252 | Feb. 26, 2009 at 8:07 p.m. (report)

It is absolutely maddening to live in an area where my elected officials consists of extreme leftists such as Barrett (the most do-nothing big city mayor in the country), Russ "partial birth" Feingold, Herb Kohl, Gwen "mafia racket" Moore and Gov. Jim "Indian gaming" Doyle. These bozos would not know how to create a real private-sector job if it smacked them in their lazy, ineffectual liberal faces.

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sas_tarr | Feb. 25, 2009 at 2:03 p.m. (report)

Why a foreclosed property is "cutting into a tax base"? A bank is legal owner of foreclosed property and must be required to pay all the city taxes as well as keep an eye on its property, have it in manageble and sanitary condition, and must be keeping streets around its property clean or pay the city tickets... That will teach banks not to rush into any foreclosures. And if a bank fails to pay city taxes, the bank must go bankcrupt as well as any individual non-payer.

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