Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where are the Milwaukee Biz Leaders Now?

Last week I openly wondered why the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) failed to take a position on the stalled high speed rail project in Wisconsin. Later in the week we finally heard from them when it was reported that the project wasn't a big deal to business elites in general and the members of MMAC in particular.

After reading about the MMAC and other business elites shrugging off the high speed rail project, I was a little surprised to hear some of the comments on the video posted below. It is about the importance of public transit to business. Here are some of the comments that I thought were particularly relevant:

  • First the President and CEO of Bucyrus International, Tim Sullivan spoke in the video. It should be noted that he is also the chairman of MMAC. He starts by saying how important transit and transit legislation is to business. He goes on to explain that a key problem that Bucyrus has faced has been an inadequate transit system. He also comments that most of his growing workforce is unable to take public transit because there isn't reliable service near Bucyrus. Later in the video he describes reliable transit as an "absolute need" for the business community.

  • Julia Taylor, President of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, describes how public transit can be an important consideration for businesses when they decide whether they will locate here (maybe Talgo could be an example of this?). She goes on to confirm that transit currently is a "major frustration" for the business community in Milwaukee.

  • Ed Zore is the CEO and President of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. It should also be noted that he is also on the board of MMAC. In his comments he very bluntly complains about the "constant deterioration of public transit". Specifically he says that this is happening because the "fare goes up" and "the service is cut" and "at some point there is a limit to this" and then we wont have public transit.

First, I have to say that I don't disagree with anything that the above listed speakers said in the video. However, I must admit to being a little surprised to hear them so passionately support a strong and reliable public transit system. I say that because I have not noticed a single one of them taking the lead or being a voice on the high speed rail project. As far as I know they have not done this as individuals, as business leaders or as board members of MMAC and/or GMC.

I guess I'm left wondering where this kind of advocacy and passion for transportation is now? When a voice from the Milwaukee business establishment is needed most on transit, why are they so silent? These business leaders stepped up for our transportation system in this video, why can't they follow their counterparts in Madison and Watertown and do it again now?

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