Let’s learn to build a new Milwaukee: It starts with start-ups

By David D. Haynes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MKE_startup_webThe poster is bright white with big red letters. You can’t miss it on the wall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

It asks:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

It’s a provocative idea, the notion that fear can paralyze but absence of fear can liberate. Good advice for Facebook’s employees.

And good advice for a risk-averse city.

There is, of course, reason for fear. Over the past few weeks we’ve been told that Milwaukee is one of the nation’s most “distressed cities,” that the city has an eviction epidemic and that poverty is the worst it’s been in 30 years.

The Great Recession carved a swath of hurt through old industrial cities. Workers, homes and dreams were abandoned. Since then, state budget-cutting has made matters even worse. For every dollar Milwaukee taxpayers sent to state government in 2014, they received only 80 cents in return, far below what they got back in years past.

Milwaukee also has a poor track record for business development. The area was 39th out of 40 large metros for entrepreneurial activity, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s 2015 report.

These statistics matter: Start-up businesses account for nearly all net new job growth in the United States, according to a 2013 study led by John C. Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland, which echoes what the experts at the Kauffman Foundation have found. More new companies can equal more new jobs. If a city or region isn’t creating new companies, its economy likely will lag.

Milwaukee needs a better, bigger pipeline so good ideas can flow faster into the market and so more new companies can create jobs.

What could we do if we weren’t afraid? Read more …

Tags: , , , ,