Will we allow Downtown to change, grow and evolve?
Will we allow Downtown to change, grow and evolve? (Photo: Bobby Tanzilo)

Invest in Milwaukee's future

My column in this space and in the Feb. 23 edition of our magazine generated an inordinate amount of reader feedback.

The column was headlined, "Let's get out of our own way." The essence of the message was that downtown Milwaukee stands at a generational crossroads, with several catalytic projects hanging in the balance, including a new arena, a streetcar system, the Couture office tower, a Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc. tower and maybe even a 50-story Johnson Controls Inc. headquarters. However, each time a project is proposed to propel the city forward, someone or something seems to pop up and attempts to stop it.

Judging from the feedback we received, many readers feel the same way.

Bob Monnat, partner and chief operating officer of Milwaukee-based Mandel Group Inc., said, "Steve Jagler correctly points out that Milwaukee could very well be on the cusp of greatness – if only we’d let it happen. Our parochial nature – after all over 70 percent of residents have lived here their entire lives – contributes to an attitude skewed against change of most kinds. The fear seems to be based in the belief that 'change' in Milwaukee will cause us to lose those special qualities that we have all come to appreciate. The truth couldn’t be further from this 'no change' attitude. Milwaukee has curated – perfected – every way to say 'no' to nearly any creative proposal brought forth by either the public or private sector. Yes, public funds should be thoughtfully invested, not thrown about, but at some point we have to have the commitment to view long-term investments as such, rather than simply characterizing them as expenditures."

Consultant and BizTimes columnist Christine McMahon said, "Your article, 'Let’s get out of our own way,' captures so eloquently and succinctly the prevailing mindset in Milwaukee. Thank goodness our forefathers had vision. They saw the lakefront as a place where people could gather and create community. Because of their vision, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world gather each year and create memories that last a lifetime. Thanks for being a gentle but courageous voice in addressing a pervasive issue: how the fear of change paralyzes progress."

Milwaukee attorney Jay Urban said, "There's one thing that is certain about change, and that is things change. No matter what opposition to the amazing, forward thinking and positive for the regional Milwaukee place in the economy, these changes are coming. The question will be whether Milwaukee will have the courage to be part of great things or whether those opportunities will go elsewhere. Those who want to stay the same will witness change because it is coming, but they could also prevent us from benefitting from it."

Milwaukee marketing consultant Todd Fabos said, "Loved your commentary column in the last page of the BizTimes. You hit it on the head, and I couldn't agree more. People love to pipe up when they want to complain about something. You pretty much took the words out of my mouth with that column though. Always seems like there's someone more concerned about stopping the project than working to make it a reality. I've lived downtown for nine years now and would love it if more of these projects were seen through to completion."

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

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