Thursday, November 04, 2010

Walker's High Speed Killing of Jobs

Wisconsin Republicans repeatedly promised that their number one priority was jobs and the economy. Scott Walker promised to essentially eliminate all unemployment in Wisconsin by creating 250,000 jobs. He claimed it would be his number one priority but he certainly has a funny way of showing it. Apparently because of his dogmatic opposition to the jobs created by the high speed rail project, the Department of Transportation has temporarily halted work on it. Estimates were that the project would create thousands of new jobs. However I am only going to focus for the moment on one specific element of this project: the Talgo jobs and the related development in the City of Milwaukee.

The City of Milwaukee worked very hard to successfully compete with other cities and it won the Talgo factory, the development and the jobs that came with it. However we are learning today that Talgo may cancel those plans if the high speed rail project is killed in Wisconsin. This brings a terrible impact to Wisconsin's largest city in several ways:
  • Milwaukee loses the permanent jobs at the Talgo facility.
  • Milwaukee could lose its $3 million investment to win the business.
  • Milwaukee could lose the job-creating economic development that was tied to the project at the former Tower Automotive site (which is in an area of high unemployment).

It has been very clear that Scott Walker has simply not shown one ounce of real concern about jobs and economic development in Milwaukee County. He failed to create one real job for all of his eight years as county executive and he even eliminated his economic development office in the middle of the recession. He also has been totally AWOL on developing the county's valuable Park East land. But he did make endless campaign season promises about creating jobs if he were elected governor. Will he break them just like he has broken so many promises as county executive? It sure seems that way. How do you keep your jobs promises by seeking to kill so many of them before you even walk in the door?

If Scott Walker kills the high speed rail project then at the very least the state should be prepared to make the City of Milwaukee whole. They should reimburse it for its $3 million investment, have a real plan to quickly replace the lost Talgo jobs and put together a special package to redevelop the Tower Automotive site. Anything less would be negligent and would lead to yet another broken promise from Scott Walker on what he said was his top issue.

If Scott Walker needs some convincing to make Milwaukee whole, then maybe the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) should "man up" and call on him to do so. Don't they have an opinion on the loss of the Talgo deal and the planned development of the former Tower Automotive site? They should hold some sway with Walker since they willingly funneled nearly $400,000 to him via the Republican Governor's Association. Maybe they can tell Walker that creating jobs in Wisconsin shouldn't start with killing them in Milwaukee.

UPDATE: The Governor-elect of New York is already saying that he would like the federal high speed rail funds if they are abandoned by Wisconsin and Ohio.

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