Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly and Milwaukee Mayor Tom
Barrett talk regionalism and economic development Friday
morning as part of a Waukesha County Business Alliance
“One-on-One with Public Officials” event.
PEWAUKEE — The need for a more regional approach to
economic development in southeastern Wisconsin emerged
as the central theme of a Waukesha County Business
Alliance discussion Friday morning with Waukesha Mayor
Shawn Reilly and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Fresh from the inking of a historic water deal, the
mayors teamed up to discuss local and regional goals
with business leaders
as part of a monthly “One-on-One with
Public Officials” event that took place at the offices
of VJS Construction Services in Pewaukee.
company sponsored the event, along with Quad/Graphics,
HNTB Corporation, MLG Capital LLC and Ruekert & Mielke,
Kicking off the discussion, Barrett said that the coming
together of the mayors, whose cities have historically
been at odds, was in and of itself something to
think when you talk about the region there are many
things that are very, very entrenched, and I used joke
to prior to my becoming mayor (in 2004) that the history
of mayors in Milwaukee... was that they didn’t recognize
the right of Waukesha to exist, that there was a lot of
bad blood. And in some regards, that went both ways,”
Congressman in the 1990s where he represented parts of
Milwaukee as well as some of its suburbs, he realized
that the region never really benefited from such
Today, he said, it is more important than ever that the
communities work together as the region competes with
other metropolitan regions seeking to attract businesses
question is: how do you act as advocate for the people
who hired you, but at the same time have a bigger
picture?” he said.
Reilly agreed, noting the deal Waukesha recently reached
to buy Lake Michigan Water from Milwaukee was a perfect
example of how leaders can negotiate, and even disagree
on facts, without letting emotions muddy the waters.
most important issue for Waukesha is our water issue.
It’s why I ran for mayor in 2014, and it’s why I am
running again, to hopefully complete the project,”
Reilly said. “My goal has always been to provide
Waukesha with clean, sustainable drinking water.
Regionalism was also important, Reilly said, as both
cities struggle to deal with infrastructure costs,
limited revenues, and growing housing and transportation
Attracting workers, businesses
Taking questions from Business Alliance members, the
mayors talked about ways to help the regional economy
grow and make the Milwaukee area a more attractive place
to live and work.
Touching on the Wisconsin Economic Development
Corporation’s efforts to draw workers and businesses
through its new “Think.Make.Happen” campaign, one
alliance member asked what role the cities can play in
making the effort successful.
Reilly said his role was to help make Waukesha as
inviting to those workers and businesses as it can be.
younger people are moving to where they want to live,
not where the jobs are, and then they make the jobs for
themselves,” Reilly said.
same is true for Milwaukee, Barrett said.
“Part of our job is a sales job,” he said.
asked what they would tout as benefits to would-be
business and workers, Reilly said good schools, as well
as the sort of things that make Waukesha a great place
to be, such as its downtown.
Barrett noted that while his sales pitch would be
different for different business or groups, the city’s
downtown resurgence is a big selling point.
Acknowledging ongoing struggles with crime, segregation
and poverty in segments of the city, Barrett said he
nevertheless believes the city is riding a “crest of
positive momentum,” one that Reilly noted earlier is
something good for the entire region.
downtown renaissance in Milwaukee, for me, is just
phenomenal,” Reilly said. “Our goal is to bring people
into the region. We are not doing well with our
population. If we want to be a vibrant economy, we need
to draw people to southeastern Wisconsin, and any
community that is doing that right is helping all the