Barrett brings home the silver (literally)
The news that Ingeteam, the Spanish company that makes those high-tech, pinwheel-looking contraptions used to convert wind into electricity, has agreed to locate a factory right here in Milwaukee was greeted with the joyful acclaim normally reserved for a visit by the Pope or when a Packers Super Bowl win.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Mayor Barrett. He made the announcement during his annual State of the City address, which guaranteed him a robust audience of other politicians, business leaders and assorted muckety-mucks from every corner of the realm and sure media coverage.
Barrett is running for governor, and when your campaign theme is “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” it doesn’t hurt to take credit for bringing 270 good, family-supporting jobs to your backyard, especially when the economy has been as anemic as an 85 year-old heroin addict with AIDS.
These are the types of announcements that used to be routine around these parts. In the good old days, groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings were as common on the campaign trail as baby-kissing and hot dog-eating. For much of the 20th century companies with names like Allis Chalmers, Allen-Bradley and Tower Automotive were on the rise and politicians would regularly show up to bask in the glory of their growth.
But as we all know, the last thirty years or so have been marked by devastating losses of manufacturing jobs, here and elsewhere. Companies that make things still remain a significant part of our local economy, and thriving companies like Bucyrus, Harley-Davidson, Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls continue to employ large numbers of people, but major announcements such as this week’s have become as rare as hen’s teeth.
Equally troubling is that many of the new jobs being created are lower paying service positions, and even some of the traditionally good-paying fields have turned to contingency workers hired to fill temporary positions through staffing firms like Milwaukee’s own Manpower. One of the dark secrets of the economic growth of the ‘90s is that it came as a result of downsizings and outsourcings that prevented the real earnings of most households from growing.
Even the Clinton-Gore Reinventing Government initiative, which helped eliminate the federal deficit, however briefly, involved reductions in employment forces and increases in outsourcing.
Which is why announcements like the one this week are so significant, and deals like this don’t happen by accident.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler suggested that Barrett’s announcement had “upstaged” the Tuesday news conference planned by Gov. Jim Doyle, but the undeniable truth is that the stage was set for this agreement by action on the federal, state and local level.
The Obama administration announced $1.66 million in clean technology tax credits for Ingeteam and the state is offering $4.5 million in tax credits over ten years in return for meeting job creation goals. According to City Development Director Rocky Marcoux, the amount of city financing hasn’t been determined and will require Common Council approval.
It has been said that success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan, so why quibble when everyone under the sun steps forward and takes credit for good news?
One of Barrett’s first initiatives when he took office as mayor six years ago was the launching of the Milwaukee 7 effort which, incidentally, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker dismissed at the time as an attempt to put lipstick on a pig.
This was the very sort of major win that the Milwaukee 7 was created to engender and since its birth even some business leaders like Manpower’s CEO Jeffrey Joerres have criticized the coalition for needing to put a big score on the board.
And it must have been particularly sweet for Mayor Barrett and the M7 leaders to be on hand for the big announcement which, coincidentally, was held at Manpower’s downtown headquarters.
So let’s take a moment to praise Barrett and his team for orchestrating a week of great news.
Okay, folks, the moment is over: time to get back to work and prepare for the next announcement. Because if there’s anything to be learned from the amount of discontent among voters, it’s that they want to know what our elected officials have done for them lately.