We received a news release from Ald. Terry Witkowski this week. It said that a "new group" was being formed to "assess Milwaukee's identity."
Witkowski, primary sponsor of the resolution, says this task force will help establish an entity that is responsible for creating and maintaining Milwaukee's image.
"Although a brand identity is important for tourism and conventions, in this global economy, a first class city like ours needs a stable and recognizable identity for doing business," Ald. Witkowski said.
The resolution calls for the group to identify the agency that will be responsible for making progress in this area, so that in the years to come, the future studies do not identify the same problems. Currently, many groups work on promoting Greater Milwaukee but no one has the sole responsibility for it or for improvement of its image.
According to the release, the task force is slated to deliver its recommendations to the Common Council within the next year and consists of 24 designated members, including the mayor, the Common Council President, representatives from General Mitchell International Airport, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Milwaukee 7, VISIT Milwaukee and others.
Ah, yes, another task force. Another study. Another white paper. Please. I'm one of the biggest Milwaukee fans there is and have personally and professionally put my "money where my mouth is" when it comes to selling the city.
Trust me, I can see why Ald. Witkowski and others see the need to focus our message and brand. But, branding isn't done by committee or through a slogan. It's done with action, stories and consistency. Maybe a task force can help this, maybe it can't.
Witkowski, according to a news release, has stated that for years that reports have shown that nationally people have misidentified that Milwaukee "is in Minnesota" or identified Milwaukee as Minneapolis. A task force isn't going to change this.
In 2002, the Spirit of Milwaukee's perception study noted similar challenges. And, judging from the survey results, the perception of Milwaukee needs to improved both locally and nationally and it needs to begin first from inside the city walls. This could be said about nearly every city.
And in 2005, the Spirit of Milwaukee officially made the Milwaukee Art Museum our city's "mark." It's been a symbol for Milwaukee, its opportunity and spirit.
Someone once told me "a city is only as good as the story it tells." I believe this and as one of the owners of OnMilwaukee.com and first president of Young Professionals Milwaukee (YPM) now Fuel Milwaukee, I see a world of opportunity in Milwaukee but it has to involve stepping up and getting off the sidelines.
Whether you live, work or play (or do all three) in Milwaukee, you are called to be an ambassador and cheerleader for your hometown. Sure, we have our challenges, as any city does, but our reluctance to pat ourselves on the back needs to stop.
Milwaukee is a city rich in culture, the arts, sports, people and places. We have all the right ingredients, it is our call to mix the right recipe and get our bosses, friends and family off the sidelines and into the game.
By this, I mean it's time to do the little things and tell the good, big stories. Talk and tweet about Milwaukee with pride. Smile and be assertive when someone asks you where you are from and educate folks who need to know that Milwaukee isn't what he or she might think. Big bold, loud and proud.
We have an incredible opportunity today to continue to evolve as a community. Our team lives this challenge every day at OnMilwaukee.com and today, if I may, I issue the challenge to stand up and project the spirit that we all know our city has.
Can a task force do this, too? Maybe. But, a little collective community collaboration, pride and optimism can go a long way, too.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.