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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

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Bye, bye, bowling?
Bye, bye, bowling?

Bowling centers fall into the gutter

If you do a Google search for the phrase "bowling is a dying sport," you will discover that folks have been predicting the demise of keggling since the dawn of the digital age.

However, that speculation recently turned into reality in South Milwaukee and Waukesha when AMF Bowling Worldwide abruptly closed the AMF South Park Lanes and AMF Waukesha Lanes.

Bowlers had flocked to the two large bowling centers for generations.

American Machine and Foundry (AMF) began in 1900 as a manufacturer of equipment for the tobacco industry. The company invented the pinspotter in the 1940s, revolutionizing and automating the game. After World War II, the company began expanding its bowling business and later turned to manufacturing sports equipment and bicycles. At one time, AMF owned Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. and Hatteras Yachts, but it remains the largest operator of bowling centers in the nation, by far.

Bowling peaked as a sport in the mid-1960s with approximately 12,000 bowling centers built mostly in blue-collar neighborhoods across the United States. By 2011, the number of certified bowling centers had shrunk to 5,160, according to the United States Bowling Congress.

The closings in South Milwaukee and Waukesha came in the aftermath of AMF filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2012. It was the second bankruptcy filing for the Mechanicsville, Va.-based company in 11 years.

Last year, AMF merged with Strike Holdings LLC to form a new company, Bowlmor AMF.

Bowlmor AMF put some of its 300-some bowling centers up for sale but apparently could not find suitable buyers for the South Milwaukee and Waukesha sites.

South Milwaukee Mayor Eric Brooks said the closure of South Park Lanes is a significant blow to his community.

"It’s clear that AMF South Park Lanes has a special place in many hearts in South Milwaukee and the South Shore," Brooks said in his mayoral blog.

Brooks pursued an explanation for the closures and received a statement from Bowlmor AMF…

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What's needed to build support for a new NBA arena?
What's needed to build support for a new NBA arena?

Arena needs public champions to get it done

The Milwaukee Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force today conducted a discussion featuring business leaders from Oklahoma City, Denver and Cleveland, who shared insights about how their communities rallied to build public support to build NBA arenas and invest in other cultural and mass transit infrastructure projects.

The featured speakers were: Roy Williams, president of Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Joseph Roman, president of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

After the discussion, the speakers told BizTimes that it is critical for key publicly elected officials to be champions for public investments in entertainment and cultural assets such as a new arena.

"It’s critical because they have constituents," Williams said.

"We had governors who were very supportive," Roman said.

"The public sector has to part of it," Brough said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele did not attend today’s meeting.

Aside from lacking a vocal public champion, the Milwaukee initiative faces one other headwind that the other markets did not: The perception that local talk radio hosts, who scream every time the words "mass transit," "trains" or "new taxes" are even whispered, can disproportionately dominate the public discourse.

"People, they hear all that clutter, and they think that reflects the masses, but it doesn’t," Williams said. "Just let it go, because the next bloody accident will take over their show. We go around them to the people."

"We go to the people who vote," Roman said.

Fifty years from now, people in Milwaukee will be assessing the legacy their forefathers left them, Roman said.

"That’s you. That’s us," Roman said.

BizTimes conducted in-depth interviews with Williams, Brough and Roman in advance of today’s forum to document how Oklahoma City, Denver and Cleveland have invested in their cultural assets a…

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Sometimes, in order to put employees first, companies have to show the client the door.
Sometimes, in order to put employees first, companies have to show the client the door. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Don't be afraid to fire a customer

Chad Albrecht, president of Centare, drew some rather inquisitive looks when he told the audience at a recent business luncheon that the most important strategy driving growth at his Brookfield software development company is not "putting the customer first," but instead is "putting employees first."

Though it may seem counterintuitive, there are times when the customer is not worth the drama, and the customer must be fired, Albrecht said.

"We feel the damage to our team and our company is too great to stay in relationships with abusive clients," Albrecht said. "By standing behind our team first and foremost, we ensure that our attrition stays low and they each give 110 percent for all of our clients. It then falls to our leadership team to protect this team from abuse. If we allow abuse to continue we are implicitly communicating a lack of respect for our team. This translates into a negative work environment and passive aggressive behavior. Centare is a top brand because of its premium people. They deserve both a top notch work place and premium clients."

Albrecht’s proclamation reverberated a few days later when Ad Age magazine reported that it had obtained an internal memo by Cramer-Krasselt chief executive officer Peter Krivkovich, announcing to his employees that the Chicago-based ad agency, which has an office in Milwaukee, was dropping  the lucrative Panera Bread account.

"There comes a time when no matter what the acclaim for the work, no matter what that visibility, no matter how good of a relationship we have with the marketing department, no matter what the test scores and results that contributed to reversing falling comps before the campaign and that outpaced previous work and became great case histories - despite all that: the constant last-minute shifts in direction, the behind-the-scenes politics, the enormous level of subjectivity that disregards proof of performance -- all churn people at a rate that becomes much too much even in this crazy…

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Health care apps are the wave of the future.
Health care apps are the wave of the future. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Health care is due for next disruption

One of the coolest aspects of my job is that I get to meet and interview a lot of smart people.

A lot of real smart people. People such as Kay Plantes, an MIT-trained economist, author and expert on business model innovation.

Plantes recently predicted the next big wave of innovation in health care.

"As a nation we pay more for health care than other nations yet achieve worse health outcomes. The three to six extra GDP percentage points we pay in healthcare costs are needed for infrastructure, education, federal R&D investments and our pocketbooks. We pay more because payers exert too little pressure on providers relative to other nations; and we’ve historically paid providers to do procedures versus improve health. In addition, many consumers are sheltered from cost and do not know the relative cost or quality of providers," Plantes wrote.

"Capitalism’s competitive forces disrupt markets that are inefficient or serve customers poorly. Wal-Mart disrupted Main Street retail, Staples disrupted local office supply businesses, Google disrupted Encyclopedia Britannica and Apple’s iPhone and iPad disrupted Microsoft’s Windows. Disruption creates greater benefits at lower costs for consumers. Products, categories, companies and entire industries can be disrupted.

"The only barrier to disruption is crony capitalism, of which our nation has too much. If we can keep people healthier, identify health issues earlier, and treat health issues less expensively while still as expertly, we can move the needle on health care costs. Every other industry is figuring out how to do more for less while enhancing customer well-being. Health care, government and higher education, three sectors in need of radical reinvention, are ripe for disruption. A number of driving forces are weakening the forces of crony capitalism in health care, with technology being a key one."

Almost as if on cue, one day later at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple senior vice president of sof…

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