Sunday, August 31, 2008

M-7 Needs New Focus

The Journal Sentinel produced a story the other day with some muddled comment about the regional business collaborative effort known as M-7.

Seems because it hasn't scored a home-run - - the so-called trophy business acquisition or relocation - - some think it's failing, or deserves an incomplete grade, even though you can wring out of the data proof that jobs are being created in the region.

And job creation is a good thing, so what's the problem for this group, now in its fourth year?

As some of the commentators indicate, hoping for the Big Score is an impossibility: neighboring states, like Illinois, can offer huge tax incentives and other giveaways that Wisconsin cannot, or will not, so a headquarters move like Boeing's from Seattle will end up in Chicago, not Milwaukee.

Of course, having O'Hare International and loads of other amenities in a world-class city like Chicago doesn't hurt, either.

Maybe the M-7 should think less about job increase bottom line numbers, and more about quality-of life-improvements in the Milwaukee area that would assist business development.

Maybe the priority ought to be on improvements to the public schools. Or building a light rail system.

Or in remaking the region as more environmentally-conscious, with priorities on cleaner air, water management, and fitness-and-health - - indices on which the region too often falls down.

Those would be strong selling points for business leaders and entrepreneurs thinking of coming to Milwaukee, or expanding a business here - - putting down roots and raising a family here, too.

Think of it the way we tell modern managers to define their jobs and successes. We tell them not to total up every year how many dollars you manage, or employees you have, or trucks or computers or square-feet of office space you control.

Instead, we tell managers to show us how they have added value to their operations, improved customer relations, trained and enhanced their workforce and its productivity, or expanded services with efficiencies and ingenuity.

Quality-of-life enhancements to Milwaukee and the region will help sell both.

Let's put the horse before the cart.

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