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Wisconsin releases ads to draw Chicago millennials north

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s job-creation agency has launched a push to convince Chicago-area millennials to leave the big city and move to Wisconsin in the hopes of boosting the state’s workforce.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation began its “Think-Make-Happen In Wisconsin” advertising campaign on Monday. The project is designed to attract more workers to Wisconsin.

The state’s lack of workers figures to become a bigger concern in coming years as the electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group moves closer to opening a massive flat-screen manufacturing plant in Pleasant Prairie, about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. The company has said the plant could employ up to 13,000 people.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin’s labor force stood at 3 million people in November. The Chicago-area workforce alone was 4.7 million that month.

WEDC officials say they’re trying to change a national perception of Wisconsin as flyover country with nothing to offer except snow, dairy farms, cheese and the Green Bay Packers.

“We just don’t have enough people,” said Kelly Lietz, vice president of WEDC marketing. “People don’t think of Wisconsin in the terms of all the opportunities it has to offer. People outside the state don’t know and don’t understand.”

The $956,000 campaign calls for placing ads on Chicago commuter trains and train platforms as well on drink coasters in downtown Chicago bars and restaurants. Ads also will appear in health clubs and on social media and will be meant for both people between the ages of 21 and 34 who live in or around Chicago and Wisconsin college alumni who have scattered across the country.

Jack Lavin, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said in an email to The Associated Press that Chicago has invested heavily on initiatives meant to attract and retain young talent, including universities, parks and public transit.

“At the end of the day, the Chicago region offers career opportunity and a great quality of life,” Lavin said. “Millennials in our workforce know that. It’s why they came here, and why they stay.”

Most of the ads boast that Wisconsin’s shorter commutes lead to less stress and more time for family, friends and exercise. Other ads tout Wisconsin’s lower housing prices, lower property taxes and the state’s lakes.

“Don’t Just Make Dinner. Make Dinner,” reads one ad with a photo of exhausted train commuters juxtaposed with a photo of a happy-looking couple cooking dinner in their home. “Bump Elbows or Bump on the Court?” reads another with photos of train commuters and sand volleyball players. Yet another features a photo of a traffic jam juxtaposed with a photo of a sailboat on Lake Michigan.

“Sunset on Michigan (Avenue) or Sunset on (Lake) Michigan?” the ad asks.

The campaign, two years in the making, is scheduled to run through the end of June. The WEDC is paying for the campaign out of its 2018 budget.

Walker asked the Legislature at the end of November to approve $6.8 million for a second ad campaign designed to attract veterans and millennials to the state from other Midwestern areas, particularly Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago. The campaign would be modeled after the Chicago effort. A legislative committee was scheduled to hold a public hearing Wednesday on a bill that would release the money.

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