Inner city focus of new initiative

The inner city, according to Shukla, consists of areas in the city with high unemployment rates and high poverty rates. The GMC has been working on such an initiative for close to 18 months. To help plan for Milwaukee, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a Boston-based, non-profit group, was called.

“The ICIC was introduced through a 2001 community development summit,” said Roxanne DeFoe, project coordinator for the Urban Economic Development Association, a statewide, non-profit membership association concerned with economic development.

By bringing the ICIC to the summit the initiative to bring them to Milwaukee was born, thus the ICM was born, DeFoe said.

“They came in and did background research on the economic conditions” of Milwaukee’s inner city and helped develop a strategy plan, Shukla said. The ICIC suggested looking at specific business clusters and working within the clusters.

The four clusters being used as a starting point for inner city re-development include health services, business processing centers (service centers that help facilitate callers), construction and development and manufacturing, Shukla said.

“From here on out, the Greater Milwaukee Committee will do most of the work,” Shukla said. ICIC may come back from time to time to help.

Cluster action teams have been formed consisting of business leaders, technical service providers and university professors from all over the city. These teams develop “strategies in each sector based on the needs identified,” he said.

For example, in the area of manufacturing, “macroeconomic issues are driving (manufacturers) to China or Indonesia,” Shukla said. He said the cluster action team would work on maintaining them and bringing more into the city.

As of now, the ICM has been privately funded for the next three years, but Shukla said the goal is to have individual cluster groups working “indefinitely” and move into more clusters.

“On some initiatives, cluster groups will seek out their own funding, from the state or federal level,” he said.

The GMC is currently working on hiring a CEO of the initiative, as it is only one of the initiatives the GMC is involved with, Shukla said.

The offices of Gov. Jim Doyle and Mayor John Norquist support the ICM, as well as many local businesses, he said.

DeFoe said the UEDA also is involved in many aspects of the ICM as part of the coordinating effort.

“We will be coordinating the involvement of community-based organizations with the ICM,” she said. The UEDA will also help establish a network for entrepreneurs, among other things, she said.

Other businesses and organizations helping the ICM include Journal Communications, Wells Fargo Greater Milwaukee, Central City Construction and the Milwaukee Department of City Development, according to the ICM.