Walker, Farrow focused on workforce in bolstering economy
County exec sets big goal for Waukesha County

By ARTHUR THOMAS - Freeman Staff

Nov. 14, 2015


Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the Pewaukee Chamber of Commerce Government Update luncheon on Friday at the Milwaukee Marriott West in the City of Pewaukee.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

CITY OF PEWAUKEE — Gov. Scott Walker on Friday indicated he plans to shift investment towards workforce development and away from economic development, while Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow set a lofty goal for the county’s economic growth.

“I know Milwaukee and Dane County are one and two when it comes to economic strengths in the state,” Farrow said. “I think Waukesha County is going to be one or two in a couple of years.”

Walker and Farrow were among the speakers at the Pewaukee Chamber of Commerce Government Update luncheon held at the Marriott Milwaukee West. Other speakers included state Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, City of Pewaukee Mayor Scott Klein and Pewaukee Village President Jeff Knutson.

Walker spoke for just over 30 minutes, detailing some of the efforts of his administration and lawmakers. He noted the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in the last 14 years and hinted at some efforts planned for the spring.

“I believe, increasingly, we need to shift even more of our traditional economic development resources into workforce development,” Walker said.


From left, State Rep. Adam Neylon, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, City of Pewaukee Mayor Scott Klein and Pewaukee Village President Jeff Knutson participate in a panel during a Pewaukee Chamber of Commerce Government Update luncheon on Friday at the Milwaukee Marriott West.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

The shift would likely move the state government away from issuing loans and tax credits and towards training programs.

“We know that if we can train people in the whole spectrum, from a short-term certificate to a two-year associate degree to some of the areas where it requires a four-year degree and beyond, we can fill the positions out there,” Walker said, adding filling available positions would allow businesses to create more jobs in the future. “We believe it will fundamentally move our state forward in terms of creating more jobs.”

Farrow’s goal

Like Walker, Farrow expressed a desire to get the county government out of economic development, at least financially. But before that can happen, the county is working on restarting its economic development efforts after the Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation was dissolved in 2014. “It wasn’t effective, it wasn’t efficient with what we wanted to do,” Farrow said.

Since taking office earlier this year, Farrow has been working with a group of about 40 stakeholders, discussing what a county economic development entity should look like. The efforts included a survey of businesses that showed 72 percent of respondents are at maximum capacity and 84 percent plan to expand their workforce in the next three years.

He hopes the group will have a report out with recommendations by the end of the month and the new entity will be in place by the middle of 2016.

“My goal, personally, is to make sure the county doesn’t have funds in there after about six years,” Farrow said, adding he has directed the group “not to recreate the wheel, but to leverage the resources we have in place already.”

The goal is to create a one-stop shop for businesses looking to expand. He said rather than creating a large loan fund, the group is working with the banking community on ways to help facilitate loans. He also indicated he wants to make sure public officials are not the ones making final decisions on loans.

Even though he is looking to surpass Milwaukee and Dane counties in terms of economic activity, Farrow said he isn’t focused on attracting new businesses to the area.

“Our goal right now, I’ll tell you, it isn’t the first high priority to bring brand new businesses into Waukesha County,” he said, noting that the majority of companies in the county have between one and 50 employees. Expanding those companies will be the key to the county’s growth, he said.