Marquette Wire

Economic opportunities could keep graduates in Milwaukee

Harvard+economics+professor+Ed+Glaeser+speaking+at+this+year%27s%C2%A0Real+Estate+Strategies+Conference+at+the+Alumni+Memorial+Union+Sept.+18.
Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser speaking at this year's Real Estate Strategies Conference at the Alumni Memorial Union Sept. 18.

Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser speaking at this year's Real Estate Strategies Conference at the Alumni Memorial Union Sept. 18.

Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser speaking at this year's Real Estate Strategies Conference at the Alumni Memorial Union Sept. 18.

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Research shows Marquette graduates tend to leave the state of Wisconsin after graduation.

But growing economic opportunities and a cheaper cost of living leads researches to believe Milwaukee is a growing center for innovation and talent, which could buck this trend and keep Marquette graduates in the dairy state.

It is unclear exactly how many Marquette graduates specifically remain in Milwaukee, but the American Institute for Economic Research found that Milwaukee ranks eighth out of 20 mid-size metropolitan areas for the population size of its college educated individuals.

According to the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis’ 2015 alumni survey, 45 percent of Marquette graduates remained in Wisconsin one year after graduation and 41 percent remained five years after graduation.

Ed Glaeser, a Harvard economics professor, gave a keynote speech at this year’s Real Estate Strategies Conference at the Alumni Memorial Union Sept. 18. He said Milwaukee’s relative affordability is an attractive quality for the city. Milwaukee’s cost of living is 1.7 percent below the national average, according to Forbes. He explained that places such as San Francisco and New York City, which can be attractive after graduation, become affordable only for the ultra-rich.

Doug Fisher, assistant professor in the College of Business Administration and director of the Center for Supply Chain Management, echoed a similar thought.

“Milwaukee is a very livable city. The cost of living is not that high,” he said. “The cost of living in Seattle is terrible. The cost of living in San Jose (and) San Francisco is not only terrible, but congestion is terrible. You might pay $3,000 a month for a cot.”

In addition to inflated rental costs, the concentration of young talent staying in Milwaukee will benefit the city’s growth.

“It’s less clear that what Milwaukee needs is a housing market fix as much as it needs human capital, upgrading, investment in poor areas — particularly skills in those poor areas — and an increase in the amount of entrepreneurship more generally,” Glaeser said. “Skills are really the lynchpin on which urban success lasts.”

Size and affordability is why recent May graduate Nick Contezac decided to stay in Milwaukee. He grew up in a suburb of Madison, and currently works for Manpower.

“The thing that made me stay in Milwaukee was the fact that this is a really good sized city for me, coming from a smaller town to begin with,” Contezac said.

However, Glaeser said students are looking for more than to work for large companies. He believes the best model for Milwaukee’s students is to start their own businesses.

“It’s hard to think of any talent that is more important for the long-run health of the city than the inclination to be an entrepreneur,” he said.

Glaeser said that the student body can be a wellspring of entrepreneurship, and Milwaukee should focus on empowering students rather than attracting large and durable employers.

“I would be much less focused on attracting outside employers and much more focused on how is it that we can make sure we empower students of Milwaukee to make their own jobs,” Glaeser said.

For those less entrepreneurial-minded, recent installments of large corporate headquarters will draw graduates to stay in the city.

Fisher said Marquette’s planned partnership with Foxconn Technology Group will hopefully bring about a clustering mentality, attracting other businesses and more talent.

Besides Foxconn’s new center in the works, Milwaukee is also applying to be Amazon’s second headquarters, a move that would be a catalyst to attract others due to the talent base, Fisher said.

“If you had asked me five or 10 years ago (if we) would be talking about global electronics manufacturing at probably the highest level of advanced sophistication being located in the U.S. — not even to mention southeast Wisconsin — I would’ve said there wouldn’t be a chance,” he said. “The fact that they’re coming in will bring an incredible supply base, but also an awful lot of what I would call intellectual talent.”

Fisher also said that the financial state in Illinois is driving companies to move to Wisconsin.

While Milwaukee does lose some of its graduates, Beth Krey, associate director of the Center for Supply Chain Management, said that’s bound to happen.

“You can’t change a student’s dream if they’ve always wanted to move to California,” Krey said. “At the same time, you can provide them with enough opportunities of companies that are seeking students here in Milwaukee.”

 

 

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