What's the real picture on joblessness in Milwaukee?
At a conference I attended this past weekend titled OneMilwaukee and sponsored by the NAACP, Mayor Tom Barrett estimated that there are 30,000 people out of work presently and up to 20,000 jobs lost in the city since 2007. He went on to describe the dilemma he faces as mayor.
People in one community talk about the devastating lack of jobs. Then he'll hear from employers in the city who say they cannot fill the openings they have.
OneMilwaukee conference-goers were reminded of data released recently in "Milwaukee Today: An Occasional Report of the NAACP:"
- More than half of all African American males in Milwaukee between the ages of 16 and 64 are unemployed.
- In 2009 there were more than 70,000 job seekers in Milwaukee for fewer than 10,000 job vacancies.
- Milwaukee employers are more likely to respond to a white job seeker with a criminal record that a black job seeker without record. (See ac360.blogs.cnn.com.
- Milwaukee ranks last among 52 major cities in the forecasted role of minority entrepreneurs.
Business leaders like Tim Sheehy, president of the MMAC, claim, "...We don't have a jobs crisis in Milwaukee, we have an education crisis." But OneMilwaukee's overview points to a more varied and urgent set of solutions.
The keynote speaker at the conference, Dr. Keenan Grinnell, Vice President and Dean of Diversity at Colgate University, affirmed that Milwaukee needs go far beyond some tweaking, advocating for economic development at the level of a Marshall plan.
Dr. Grinnell outlined a number of steps with the goal of creating inclusive prosperity and eliminating the wealth gap in the city. He maintains that the business environment is not inclusive, and that there is a brain drain along with a lack of multi-ethnic approaches to solving the existing economic devastation.
Among the solutions Dr. Grinnell called for was creation of entrepreneurial ecosystems connected to job creation, job and skill training in poor communities, and training all children at high levels.
This effort by the NAACP is refreshing and bold.
It seems high time for Milwaukee to come together, as OneMilwaukee, to create economic equality and justice for all communities.
Colgate University has 2,825 undergrads and is located in tiny Hamilton, NY with a population of 3,509. The school is 5% Black, while the town is 3% Black. Exactly what qualifies this person to be a "Dean of Diversity," let alone tell a major city like Milwaukee what it should be doing to fix its segregation problem? There's nothing bold or refreshing being proposed here, it sounds like the same touchy-feely nonsense these conferences always produce. I have no idea what "creation of entrepreneurial ecosystems connected to job creation" even means; perhaps somebody else can explain it to me. If the Black community is waiting around for White business leaders to suddenly become enlightened and equitable, then they're going to be waiting a while. Asians and Latinos seem to own a lot more businesses than Blacks in Milwaukee, and they seem to be doing slightly better economically as a result. There needs to be more Black-owned businesses that aren't nail salons, wig stores, rim shops, and the like. Another, more obvious, solution is to break up the concentration of poverty by moving to outlying communities. I grew up in Appleton and can honestly say I think the people up North treat minorities with more respect than they receive down here in Milwaukee. I think all minorities, not just Blacks, would fare better living in places like Appleton (WI), Rochester (MN), Fort Collins (CO), Sioux Falls (SD), and Ashville (NC). Smaller, less diverse communities appreciate the added diversity and usually have much better public schools and social services that aren't on the brink of collapsing, unlike Milwaukee. It's something to think about, that I'm sure never crosses most people's minds.
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