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Milwaukee gets $100M development boost (UPDATE)

By DINESH RAMDE
Associated Press

Gov. Scott Walker delivers a speech Friday to employees of Milwaukee Light Bulb, Raymond, to announce a business expansion and employee hiring there. Walker on Monday announced a $100 million "Transform Milwaukee" initiative that will fix up blighted areas and provide economic incentives. (AP Photo/The Journal Times, Scott Anderson)

MILWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker announced a $100 million Transform Milwaukee investment Monday that he said is intended to attract businesses by fixing up blighted areas and providing economic incentives.

Milwaukee’s economy especially has been troubled in recent years. While the state unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, unemployment in Milwaukee has remained around or above 10 percent. Of the 4,500 jobs lost in Wisconsin last month, 4,400 were in the Milwaukee metro area.

Walker announced the investment days after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of four Democrats vying to oppose Walker in June’s recall election, criticized the governor for not doing enough to create jobs in the city. Walker, who said Transform Milwaukee has been in the works for a year, said the investment would help improve the state’s overall economy and decrease the number of people dependent on state resources.

“For the state to be successful, Milwaukee has to be successful,” Walker said.

Walker said his team met about the plan in March with officials in Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee, including Barrett.

Barrett released a statement Monday after the announcement suggesting its timing was politically motivated. Walker, according to Barrettís news release, is using the initiative as a way to win votes in the recall election.

Walker said a key step in pushing ahead with the plan was a law he signed in early April allowing the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to issue as much as $150 million in bonds for economic development.

The agency has agreed to commit $100 million to Transform Milwaukee by offering federal tax credits, business-development loans and residential mortgage loans.

But there are better ways to help Milwaukee succeed, Alderman Robert Bauman said.

“If Walker was interested in helping Milwaukee, he should start by giving us the money back he took from transit cuts,” Bauman said. “He could also quit trying to run Talgo out of the city.

“That would be a start.”

The five-part plan includes developing vacant business properties and improving transportation infrastructure. It also involves building new systems to carry away stormwater runoff, an effort Walker said would help businesses avoid flooding that had plagued the area in recent years.

Walker said he expected the plan to create 2,000 jobs in construction and other long-term jobs, in addition to other secondary jobs that come with economic growth.

When asked whether any businesses had agreed to come to Milwaukee contingent on the state providing new incentives, Walker said the plan was more aimed at making Milwaukee a more attractive business destination, adding that the state is always looking for ways to attract jobs.

— Daily Reporter staff writer Kirsten Klahn also contributed to this report.

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