If you're like many Milwaukeeans, you've been wondering about those neon signs popping up around town. The ones that resemble your computer's power button -- an eerie, blue light shining through windows of offices in the greater downtown Milwaukee area.
No, aliens haven't landed, nor has some weird cult invaded our city. They are a part of an initiative that began last year to promote the large and growing number of technology and other creative class companies that call Milwaukee's downtown (and environs) home. The city and private organizations, like We Energies, SBC, Kahler Slater Architects and TechStar, are co-sponsoring the campaign. The hope is that by promoting what we've got, more technology companies will come to Milwaukee.
"Milwaukee is Wisconsin's hub for high-tech companies," said Mayor John O. Norquist when the campain launched. "The word is out -- downtown Milwaukee is where today's technology companies and young professionals want to be. The city is proud to be part of this effort to recognize and promote our emerging technology cluster."
The 15-inch sign depicts the Universal Power Symbol, an international sign for power and energy. The signs are made of blue Plexineon, the color symbolizing technology, and will stay lit for 6 1/2 years. About 130 companies designated as part of Milwaukee's downtown technology zone wear the signs on their windows, like proud badges. OnMilwaukee.com sports one with pride, in one of its windows at 1504 E. North Ave.
"Having lived in several other metropolitan cities, I think Milwaukee excels in lifestyle options for young professionals," said Lane Brostrom of Techstar. "It's got the dynamics of a big city, but it also offers a tight supporting community you only find in a smaller city. It's been a great place for my wife and me to land with our two little girls. We're here to stay."
Even the flame on top of the former Wisconsin Gas building was lit blue to compliment the kick-off the campaign. And new lights are going up every day. As the campaign continues more and more innovation companies like design firms, ad agencies and the like also will receive blues lights. Where there is technology there is creativity and vice versa. And Milwaukee is showing its true, or should we say blue colors.