Friday, June 18, 2010

WMC Prez for a Day

Last week we learned that James Haney, President of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) plans to retire. I instantly thought that it could be an opportunity to chart a more constructive course. Under Haney WMC has essentially ceased to be an organization that really represents the best interests of Wisconsin business. On his watch it has become little more than the sugar daddy arm of the Republican Party.

All of this made me think of what I would do if I were WMC Prez for even a day. Some of my immediate plans might include some of the following:

  • Shut down the WMC's "Issue Mobilization Council" which spent approximately $4 million to buy two seats on the State Supreme Court in 2007 and 2008. They have also spent massive amounts trying to sway other elections in other years.

  • Invest that money in a program with a laser-like focus on Wisconsin entrepreneurs that bring new technologies and ideas to the table. Maybe it involves grants for training programs (perhaps partnering with the Department of Commerce which is already doing something similar) or maybe it involves grants to help worthy projects develop their technology or idea. Maybe the grants could help already established businesses grow or expand in ways that are critical to their success. The bottom line is that the current partisan slush fund could be put to much more constructive use.

  • Pardon me, but could we focus a bit more on actual small business? I know that the typical WMC idea of "small" comes from some special dictionary in an ivory tower somewhere. I'm talking about actual small businesses here. Think of "mom and pop" shops around the state. They could use more attention from an org the purports to represent them.

  • Its legitimate to lobby for and against specific pieces of legislation, but WMC should make sure that their messengers and the message is equally legitimate. All too often both have been little more than an expensive exercise of hyper-partisanship. Perhaps we could start by focusing on a major issue where there could be constructive compromise and collaboration rather than focusing on rigid ideology and isolation.

  • Speaking of rigid ideology. I would put a select group of WMC's research/policy folks on probation until they have proven that they can do their work based on facts and data rather than running every single thing through a hard right filter.

  • And the most important change. I would ban all WMC employees from wearing bow ties on company time.

  • For all I know, WMC could be doing some of these things already. If they are then they should be doing more of it and making it even more visible. While Haney has been in charge, WMC has been increasingly known for one thing, electing Republicans. That has to change or they will eventually lose all relevancy. They are not the only game in town anymore. There are newer biz orgs that are focused on actual ideas and solutions rather than hyper-partisanship. If I were WMC Prez for a day, it would look a lot more like New North and la lot less like Mr. Burns.

    No comments: