Food for Thought

New Recipes for Job Growth

By - Nov 19th, 2011 05:17 pm
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Now that the season for indulgence is upon us, it is a good time to explore how food impacts our communities. In light of the current economic downturn, it is important to seek opportunities for job growth in new and expanding business sectors.  In southeastern Wisconsin, opportunities within the local food economy are rapidly expanding.  Food manufacturing, distribution and urban agriculture are major employers and are continuing to grow and evolve.  It’s imperative that we need to take notice if we are to capitalize on their economic development and job-growth potential.

For the past 10 years, the Urban Economic Development Association (UEDA) has hosted its Community Development Summit, focusing on various topics that impact the economic climate in southeastern Wisconsin.  This year, on November 29th, the Summit will issue a call-to-action to southeastern Wisconsin, to come together and develop a plan of action to ensure that our region, and most notably our urban communities, builds upon the growth of this industry and commits to working toward enhancing the economic potential of the food sector.  As additional advancements and investments are made in this sector, the greater Milwaukee region needs ensure that we are at the table to bring jobs and economic development related to this industry’s growth back to our communities.

As a region, we must come together to create an environment that will produce opportunities for job growth in the food sector.  As a community, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to create local jobs that benefit our communities. Food manufacturing and urban agriculture not only create local jobs, they often connect low-income neighborhoods with fresh, locally-produced, healthful food options.

For event information please click here.

Guest post by: Bill Johnson Sr, Executive Director, Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (UEDA)


2 thoughts on “Food for Thought: New Recipes for Job Growth”

  1. Juli says:

    This is a timely subject and I agree with the general thrust of your post – that our local food system is an important focus for all of us. You have invited some interesting speakers doing important food sector work and I think you will engage valuable discussion at your event. That said, a couple comments.

    First, you assert that “urban agriculture.. (is a) major employer.” On what basis do you make this claim? I am an advocate for local production and farming, including urban agriculture, but I question the basis for such an assertion. In my experience, there are very few private sector jobs actually created in greater Milwaukee that are a direct result of “urban agriculture”. There are surely many efforts, much interest, and arguably some noble experiments in urban agriculture, but these are predominantly driven by nonprofit organizations with food-related missions. I think its important to be honest and clear about the real challenges and limitations of true urban production. There should be intense focus on identifying viable business models that truly can provide economic opportunity – without subsidy – and many of these will be dependent on peri-urban and rural partnerships that allow for production at scale.

    Second, any discussion about food, in my view, should involve the voice of the producer – the farmer – that is if you desire to include raw food production into the food system. Your event seems short on the producer part of the food system equation. Clearly processing and distribution are parts of the food system that create most jobs and have the most economic impact in urban places. These are important areas to focus on, but, for me, a more interesting discussion would also include the more difficult challenge of also tackling food production in urban areas and whether there are really any viable strategies.

    I welcome more discussion on the topic of food at the Urban Milwaukee forum. I always find your followers have interesting and productive comments. Bring them on.

  2. Kristi says:

    Excellent comments regarding this topic and all are on-point. In fact, I think they will be addressed in some form or fashion at this event. For example, the afternoon session will feature innovative efforts underway to address these kinds of challenges. Stephanie Anderson from IBM and David Drew from Gannett Fleming will discuss the recommendations in the recent Smart Cities report, and efforts to develop sustainable business models in urban agriculture. The keynote speaker, Jeffrey O’Hara of the Union of Concerned Scientists, will speak directly towards the food production issue and what kind of investment is needed to support local and regional food systems, which they covered in a recent report. All in all, this event is a way to start these, and many more, kinds of conversations about the food economy and what can be done on a local and regional scale to grow this sector.

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