In July, I wrote a blog about developers in the private sector complaining that Milwaukee County government had failed to fill its long-vacant position of director of economic development.
County government has played virtually no role in the attraction of economic development and jobs in recent years.
The county also has been the slowest among the local government players at the table to embrace the aerotropolis concept of development around General Mitchell International Airport. The county-owned land in the former Park East Corridor still stands vacant.
By contrast, the City of Milwaukee government has been the driving force in bringing companies and jobs to the Menomonee Valley, the 30th Street corridor, the former Tower Automotive site and other developments, including the Manpower Inc. headquarters in Downtown Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the county's economic development director position has been vacant since October of 2008, when the county's previous director of economic and community development, Robert Dennik, left the job to become a vice president for Pewaukee-based VJS Construction Services.
County Supervisor Johnny Thomas blamed the length of the vacancy and the lack of economic development vision on Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker. Thomas Nardelli, Walker's chief of staff, said the length of the vacancy is the county board's fault.
Regardless, here's the update. BizTimes learned today that Walker has appointed Damon Dorsey as the interim director of economic development for Milwaukee County and is seeking approval from the Milwaukee County Board to permanently hire Dorsey for the post.
"A panel reviewed applications and recommended Damon Dorsey to me," Walker said in a statement today. "He has a good background on economic development and on work throughout Milwaukee County."
Dorsey has been the interim economic development director for the county since late August.
But here's the kicker to this story. Dorsey previously served as urban and regional planner for high-speed rail for the state Department of Transportation, according to his LinkedIn page, which indicates he held the DOT post this year from March until August.
However, the copy of Dorsey's resume submitted to the county board and Walker's letter to the board about Dorsey's appointment only refer to him as a regional planner for the DOT.
Let's bottom-line this story: Walker, who is campaigning as the Republican nominee to be the next governor and is vowing to stop the federal high-speed rail project if elected, is asking the county board to approve the appointment of a former high-speed rail planner in Gov. Jim Doyle's administration to be the county's next director of economic development.
"I think it's a sign that (Walker) has checked out, and it's a fight they don't want to have," said Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb, who is the vice chair of the board's Economic and Community Development Committee. "I'll be very happy to finally have someone who I can call on in economic development. I've been very disappointed by how long it has taken (to fill the job)."
Dorsey could not be reached for comment this morning. A county board receptionist said Dorsey does not have a county government phone number yet. Keep in mind, the guy has been on the job since August, and he does not have a phone.
The County Board's Economic and Community Development Committee will consider Dorsey's appointment at its meeting on Monday.
Dorsey has some experience in real estate development in the inner city of Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2006, he was the president of North Avenue Development Corp.
When asked if he thinks Dorsey is qualified for the job, Lipscomb said it will be up to Dorsey to create a role for the economic development director job, since it has been vacant for so long.
"You have to make it into something, because it hasn't been done," Lipscomb said. "He's got a lot to prove, and he's eager to do that. He's extremely passionate about economic development and job creation."
This story provides an illustrative insight into the differences in the governing philosophies of Walker and his Democratic opponent for governor, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Whenever possible, Walker has taken a minimalist position of government advocacy and involvement. He has tried to diminish the size and the reach of the county government. He has tried to privatize much of county government. Walker believes the private sector is best left alone.
By contrast, Barrett has used city government and his Commissioner of City Development Richard "Rocky" Marcoux as economic development catalysts to spur private sector development. In Barrett's view, government can provide legitimate functions that serve the greater well-being of the citizenry, including economic development.
Both models have merits. And both can have shortcomings. Voters will have a clear choice on Nov. 2.
- Steve Jagler is the executive editor of Biz Times Milwaukee (biztimes.com).
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Steve Jagler
Published July 23, 2014
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.
Published July 18, 2014
The Milwaukee Cultural and Entertainment Capital Needs Task Force invited business leaders from Oklahoma City, Denver and Cleveland to discuss a new arena, mass transit and other infrastructure projects in Milwaukee.
Published July 9, 2014
Though it may seem counterintuitive, there are times when the customer is not worth the drama, and the customer must be fired.
Published June 25, 2014
Kay Plantes, an MIT-trained economist, author and expert on business model innovation, recently predicted the next big wave of innovation in health care.
Published June 11, 2014
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to open up recently proposed rules concerning the future of the Internet for public comment. The changes could end net neutrality.
Published May 29, 2014
To many of my colleagues in the baby boom generation, the rising generation of millennials is a mystery.
Published May 15, 2014
Could Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Energy Corp. or Madison-based Aliant Energy Corp. become takeover targets for renowned investor Warren Buffett? Possibly, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg.
Published April 30, 2014
When Harry S. Dennis III walked into the room, more times than not, he was the smartest guy in that room. So it is with great sadness and a profound sense of loss that I inform OnMilwaukee.com readers that Harry passed away on Sunday, April 27, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.
Published April 22, 2014
After a national search, Marquette University decided that the best candidate to be its next president was sitting in an office five miles across town. Sources said it was Marquette that pursued Michael Lovell, rather than the other way around. After all, Lovell will leave behind a strong legacy of achievement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Published April 18, 2014
Sheboygan-based Johnsonville Sausage LLC says it is "as much amused as it is surprised" that the European Union, in negotiating the terms of a new trade deal with the United States, is pushing to trademark several different foods - including bratwurst - that have originated in an EU country.