Our office received a phone call late Thursday afternoon, informing us that WISN-AM 1130 radio talk show host Mark Belling was talking about us.
So, I turned on the radio on my desk to hear Belling reading, verbatim, a blog I wrote for OnMilwaukee.com last week. The blog featured the comments of five prominent local chief executive officers speaking at the Public Policy Forum luncheon, where they trashed Milwaukee as a terrible place to do business.
In classic Belling form, he read the blog and then directed his anger at me. He repeatedly referred to "This Steve Jagler ..." It was almost surreal, hearing myself referred to in third person, as if I was some sort of mystic.
My staff encouraged me to call in to defend myself on Belling's show, but I knew that would have been a pointless venture. So, I think I'll respond here, because he can't shout over me, and he can't hang up on me.
For the moment, I'm going to let Belling's personal attacks against me slide off my back. I have never even met the man. But I have thick skin, and I'll just consider the source.
After all, moments after he ripped me, he criticized Microsoft founder Bill Gates. I'll gladly accept that company.
I will, however, defend the blog and our publication, Small Business Times.
Belling blurted, "If this Steve Jagler wanted to do some good, he'd join the rest of us and try to improve the business environment in Wisconsin by fixing the problems, rather than saying we all ought to run around like the bluebird of happiness, acting like this is the most business-friendly region in America. It's not."
For the record, the blog said no such things. The blog merely pointed out that five local CEOs were trashing the region as a place to do business at a time when the Milwaukee 7 and other local business people were doing everything they could to convince the Miller/Coors conglomeration to locate their headquarters in Milwaukee.
For the record, I did not say we ought to run around like the bluebird of happiness. For the record, I did not say Milwaukee is the most business-friendly region in the nation.
But then again, the facts seldom get in Belling's way.
Belling then said Bucyrus International Inc., whose chief executive officer Tim Sullivan was on the Public Policy Forum panel, doesn't have to "put up with that crap" about global warming concerns when wants to build a plant in "Alabama or China."
So, Alabama and China should be southeastern Wisconsin's role models?
Finally, Belling billowed, " I don't really read the Small Business Times much, because it struck me as nothing more than a bunch of press releases from businesses, rather than somebody serious and conducting real journalism about the challenges we face in Milwaukee, in particular the terrible bureaucratic and tax climate that makes it so hard to attract to businesses and so hard to get young workers to settle in here."
There are no doubt countless times when Belling exposes himself as a loud-mouth buffoon, a bully, and this is just another one of those times. His venom spews forth, whether he's denigrating Hispanics, African-Americans, women or anyone who dares to disagree with him.
To his criticisms about our publication, I am obliged to present a rebuttal to this radio bully.
In the past few months, the cover stories of Small Business Times have included exclusive, in-depth articles about the likes of Kohler Co. CEO Herbert Kohler, Robert W. Baird & Co. CEO Paul Purcell (who also was on the Public Policy Forum panel) and Crate & Barrel CEO Gordon Segal. We proudly told their personal stories, their adventures in good old American capitalism.
Not a press release in the bunch. In recent weeks, our cover stories have focused on the need for the City of Milwaukee to revive its 30th Street Industrial Corridor. We profiled how investors are breathing new life into a company that manufactures Barbicide in Milwaukee. We told the story of Joe Tucker, an African-American who is growing a staffing company in Milwaukee. We told the story of an under-the-radar company in Hartland that is becoming a player on the national fashion scene in New York.
In the past year, we have conducted our own polls of local small business owners to discuss their most urgent needs and their most formidable challenges. In fact, we ask those very questions every issue in our "Just A Minute" feature.
We did a cover story in August that presented advice for how local companies can recruit, hire and retain the best people. Another recent cover story carried the headline, "Harvesting Homegrown Talent."
In person, SBT has presented several live events that celebrate and advocate for southeastern Wisconsin's business community. More than 200 of those businesses will have booth at our upcoming BizTech Expo, which will give awards to some of the region's fastest-growing and most innovative companies.
In sum, Small Business Times provides news and operational insight to the owners and mangers of privately held businesses throughout southeastern Wisconsin, and we have earned national and statewide awards for excellence in journalism. Our web site, www.biztimes.com, was voted one of the two best local business news web sites in the nation by the Alliance of Area Business Publications.
We welcome the viewpoints of Republicans, Democrats and independents on the issues of the day in our Milwaukee Biz Blog.
Belling IS right about one thing. He doesn't read Small Business Times. But he doesn't let that stop him from outright lying about us or any of the people, organizations or issues he cackles about on a daily basis.
But this moment shall pass, and he'll move on to harping about other topics he knows nothing about ... like parenthood.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.