Friday, December 17, 2010

MMAC Membership: The Haves and the Have-Nots

Last month I wrote that Wisconsin businesses were soon going to be put on a list of haves and have-nots. Scott Walker clearly has a list of his business favorites that he will do anything to support as well as a black list of businesses that he will endlessly undermine. But what is perhaps more tragic is the fact that entities which purport to represent businesses in Wisconsin seem to be adopting that same Walker approach.

The best example of the business elite using Walker's "haves and have-nots" approach comes from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC). Originally MMAC encouraged Talgo to locate in Milwaukee and even attended a welcoming press conference for them. But when it was most important and when businesses and jobs were on the line, MMAC stood mute as Scott Walker killed high speed rail and all of the commerce, development and jobs that went with it.

However, this lack of real representation by MMAC gets even worse and goes beyond one individual company. As James Rowen revealed on his blog, MMAC members were evenly split on the issue of high speed rail in Wisconsin. In an act that seems to verify their timidity, MMAC didn't release the results until well after they were largely irrelevant.

A full 214 MMAC members (50%) that answered their survey said that they supported the high speed rail project. Some of the supportive comments that came with the survey sound as if they could have been taken directly from the most fervent high speed rail supporters. But MMAC chose to ignore half of their own membership. In addition a combined 54% of their surveyed members considered the high speed rail issue "important", "very important" and "critically important". But MMAC still stood mute on the subject as the opportunity eventually died.

This entire episode makes me wonder if MMAC has adopted a "haves and have-nots" priority list not just in general but even within its own membership? Based on the information that is public, this sure seems to be the case. I further wonder if the MMAC members that are internal "have-nots" feel that they are getting their money's worth? Why would they waste precious resources simply to be ignored when it matters most?

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