It’s 11:01 a.m. Thursday. Northwestern Mutual Vice President of Communications and Corporate Affairs Kimberley Goode strides to a makeshift lectern in the white marble lobby of the company’s 100-year-old world headquarters in Milwaukee.
TV camera lights illuminate, photographers jostle for position, print reporters ready their voice recorders, city officials fix their ties.
And so it begins.
It’s a grand spectacle that plays out in reaction to press releases announcing a major announcement. Reporters flock to press conferences like addicts to their dealers, returning to each one with high hopes and low expectations, knowing this “presser” will be much the same as the last. The company making the announcement Thursday is different; the officials about to head to the lectern are many of the same on the press conference junket.
Goode welcomes all members of the media and distinguished guests to Northwestern Mutual’s major announcement that it plans to replace a building on its downtown Milwaukee campus with a high-rise that could be 35 stories and cost $350 million. She personally welcomes Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Common Council President Willie Hines, Commissioner of the Department of City Development for the City of Milwaukee Rocky Marcoux, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan and the myriad of others who want to bathe in any spillover credit for a project that will create jobs, change Milwaukee’s skyline and create jobs.
One by one they head to the podium, handshakes in hand, praising everything connected with this major announcement: the company, the city, the benefit to constituents, seeming to leave out only Aaron Rodgers and bratwurst.
It is an announcement that will bring hundreds of construction jobs to Milwaukee.
That’s great news for the beleaguered construction industry.
“Happy St. Nick’s Day,” Lyle Balistreri, Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council president, said after the press conference. “This will create many hundreds of jobs. Construction can’t start soon enough. We have people who have been waiting for this for a long time.”
But, as with other press conferences around the city, from Talgo to Park East to a bridge re-opening to Thursday’s announcement, the main news is there’s really no news.
On the cost of Northwestern Mutual’s new building, CEO John Schlifske says: “Obviously, because we haven’t fully designed it yet, those numbers are very preliminary.”
On the height of the new building, Schlifske says: “It’ll be tall.”
On when the project will start, Schlifske says: “We’re still in the planning stages, so it’s too early to speculate.”
And with that, everyone is thanked for coming. The smiles splashed across the faces of corporate and city big shots declare, “We accomplished a lot today.”
Yes, if “accomplished” can be stretched to mean, “created not jobs, but optimism.”
“Accomplished” will have to wait.
Maybe next time.
Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. When he’s not at press conferences he can be reached at [email protected].