From the President

Letter from the President: March 2018

How many times have we heard about a place being unsafe or abandoned and wished that we could change it? It may be a place we remember from times when it was full of people, fun and vibrant. Today, people and neighborhoods are taking back those places to create spaces where people gather, children play, and artists create. Sometimes it is a vacant lot full of litter and broken glass that is transformed to a neighborhood pocket park with art, play spaces, and gardens. Sometimes it is events like NEWaukee’s Night Market that transform a downtown area into the place you wanted to be at night. Sometimes it is reinventing the role of a library in a neighborhood. The ripples of change that come from these transformations inspires others to learn, invest, and create. Nationally, this practice is called creative placemaking.

The GMC is nationally recognized as a Midwestern leader in creative placemaking. With the help of two leading national foundations for creative placemaking, ArtPlace America and The Kresge Foundation, we invested in two Creational Trails in Milwaukee. We worked with NEWaukee to test the Night Market concept on West Wisconsin Ave., and continue our work with the Beerline @ Harambee. The GMC has long worked with Sara Daleiden, founder of MKE <-> LAX, on our creative placemaking efforts. We’ve shared the practice of creative placemaking with other key partners in the community including the Milwaukee Public Library. Joan Johnson, Deputy Library Director – Public Services has been engaged in the GMC’s Creative Placemaking Committee and our projects from the beginning.

Milwaukee Public Library is performing important cultural leadership with its Mitchell Street Branch creative placemaking project called “Gathering Art, Stories and Place” with support from a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant. As a branch of the City of Milwaukee government, the library is embedding both new artists-in-residence and a new Arts Project Coordinator staff position over two years in collaboration with local arts organizations and artists, based in the innovative “Listening to Mitchell” public art project. This investment will encourage civic engagement through the arts that celebrates the beautiful range of cultures in the neighborhood.” – Sara Daleiden

The Milwaukee Public Library recently opened its newest and most technologically advanced branch library on one of the most dynamic blocks in the city: Historic Mitchell Street. This catalytic project, in partnership with Gorman & Company, Inc., included a top-to-bottom renovation of the historic 97-year old former Hills Department Store building, converting an underutilized building into 60 apartments and a brand new library. The Mitchell Street Branch is a unique hub for creative expression and cultural discourse and will empower neighbors to create, share, and celebrate cultural diversity through storytelling and art. Joan Johnson and City Librarian Paula Kiely reached out early in the development of the library project to the GMC and Sara Daleiden to partner in utilizing creative placemaking to gain local residents’ input and national foundation support. The community input helped the library decide to create a neighborhood digital maker space within the new renovation and the successful award of a grant of $150,000 from the National Endowment of the Art (NEA) to fund a project called the “Gathering Art, Stories and Place”.

The project leverages the library’s maker space and other indoor and outdoor gathering spaces to host a variety of storytelling-themed programs, an artist lecture series, writing workshops, a new archive of collected neighborhood stories, and two artist-in-residence programs. Free art education and cultural enrichment activities through a mobile art workshop will be available to young people.

This space is the future of the Milwaukee Public Library and the community. From hosting community events, artist in residence, and a teen connected learning program, the Mitchell Street Library, the fourth of many Library redevelopments, is an example of how the GMC’s work, alongside Daleiden’s, is reshaping how our city thinks about development and placemaking.

Creative placemaking is driving how we engage artists in the development of our city, both physically and socially. The Mitchell Street Library is a prime example of how creative placemaking work attracts new developments, creates jobs, and bolsters our economy through art and neighborhood engagement.



Letter from the President: February 2018

There are many incredible things happening in our city, yet the renaissance happening in our Downtown has not been felt by many in our city, including many of the adjacent neighborhoods. MKE United, a cross-sectoral effort to create a 10-year strategic action agenda for a shared and inclusive vision for our Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, is working to ensure this prosperity spreads across all neighborhoods, both adjacent to downtown and beyond. In the coordinated effort between the City of Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and Milwaukee Urban League, we are working to reimagine how Milwaukee engages its residents and leaders and are working to develop an action agenda that will result in meaningful change and equitable growth for our city. Last summer, we released six transformative directions, key areas of focus for intention and change, relating to jobs, housing, demographics, retail and cultural assets, transit, and building the capacity of the many groups already doing great work in these areas.


In early February 2018, MKE United moved into Phase II with a Strategic Actioning Session, engaging a group of 70 area business and community leaders from diverse backgrounds. These leaders spent two days incorporating the extensive research from the Phase I community engagement sessions and worked to develop a tangible plan to move forward. By creating seven working groups, we were able to develop unique strategies in multiple important areas for implementation of the MKE United vision.  We are focused on:


  • Aligning resources from Milwaukee Development Corporation, LISC Milwaukee, and other partners, to develop a fifty million dollar neighborhood development fund, to invest in catalytic community-based projects, as well as gap financing.
  • Building an alliance to demonstrate cross-sector support for policy changes, in areas such as shared revenue and regional transit authority, increasing local control and creating a more sustainable and equitable path for growth in the Greater Downtown and the region.
  • Committing to growing equity and access, including a partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to host an Equity Forum, building local fluency around racial equity and providing participants with a tangible equity framework.
  • Connecting with businesses, community organizations, and potential partners, to engage over 200 in the next year, with multiple points of connection each, ensuring the ongoing work is iterative and connected to the needs of the community.
  • Working to support aligned projects and initiatives, both existing and new, through a weighted prioritization of impact, equity, time, partners, and resources.
  • Building out a robust community-driven communications strategy, incorporating a website refresh, social media, and video along with a speaker series of local individuals discussing intersections with the six Transformative Directions.
  • Building out an infrastructure for change assessment and support, using ADKAR change management theory, across partnerships and constituents.
  • Formalizing a longer term structure for governance and growth of MKE United’s implementation.


The success we saw in 2017 would not have been possible without the support of the GMC membership. We know that this path forward will result in an inclusive Milwaukee, one that is prosperous for all neighborhoods and Milwaukeeans. If you would like to get more involved in this area of our work, please reach out to Tony Panciera, Director of MKE United, at 414-905-0101 or

January Letter from the President

We had an exciting membership meeting in January, with Mayor Barrett and Reggie Moore highlighting Milwaukee’s plan for reducing and preventing violence within our communities through the Blueprint for Peace. They walked through the six goals and key strategies. I had the honor of serving on the Steering Committee for the Blueprint for Peace along with other GMC members, businesses, non-profits, and foundations. Now more than ever, we need to address the issue of violence in Milwaukee. Violence is a public health issue, and when it affects one of us, it affects us all -the economy, education, and the vibrancy of our communities, all issues we are extremely passionate about. This community-wide plan identifies actions to reduce violence and build stronger communities.

Goal #1 of the Blueprint is “Stop the Shooting. Stop the Violence.” The best way we know how to do that is to interrupt the cycle of violence our communities are experiencing.  Based on the violence reduction strategies we have seen in large metro areas such as Chicago and New York City, The Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) deemed a violence interrupters program to be a first step in reduction in Milwaukee, called Ceasefire, one integral piece of the Blueprint. Utilizing violence interrupters, those who have experienced violence and trauma and are now willing to prevent it, work to interrupt a violent situation before it escalates.

This New York Times article quotes an interrupter as saying “You don’t go preaching – you build relationships and bond with them,” he said, “It takes time.” And, over time violence interrupters have proven to be successful in areas like Chicago, whoseCure Violence model has seen a 41-73% drop in shootings and killings in Cure Violence zones. Milwaukee’s Ceasefire program, modeled after the Cure Violence model, aims to do the same.

Ceasefire is currently planned to launch in two of Milwaukee’s most violent neighborhoods. Many of you have asked how you can support the Blueprint and its efforts. The City of Milwaukee Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention is currently fundraising for the second site of Ceasefire. This program uses violence interrupters to deescalate heated situations before they become violent. For a better understanding on violence interrupters, please watch this PBS Documentary, called “The Interrupters”, highlighting their work. It truly is a remarkable and successful concept, having aided in the 16% reduction in violence in Chicago, overall.

The OVP needs $280,000 to facilitate a second site of interrupters. If you are inclined to give, gifts can be made to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation Violence Prevention Fund by contacting Mark Maurice at or 414-336-7067.

Special recognition should be given to those who participated in and funded the planning process, including a grant from the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, with partial funding from the Tides Foundation and ReCAST Milwaukee. We’d also like to recognize Bader Philanthropies for a gift of $100k, announced immediately following the release of the Blueprint, GoogleGreater Milwaukee FoundationBairdPriebe Family FoundationAnon Charitable Trust and the Croens Foundationfor their generous gifts to aid in the creation of the Blueprint. Additional thanks to the Common Council, the Office of Violence PreventionMayor Barrett and the City of MilwaukeePresident HamiltonMilwaukee Public SchoolsMilwaukee County, and the community. I’d also like to thank the steering committee, including GMC members Ellen Gilligan, Peggy Troy, and Mary Lou Young, as well as Amy and Fred Croenand Les Weil for their diligent and committed efforts towards this Blueprint. 


Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

December Letter from the President

We look forward to an exciting 2018 full of promise. Our success in 2018 will be built from our progress in 2017, working with the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention on a new plan for a safe Milwaukee , building together greater economic prosperity, vibrancy of place, and an innovative and talent filled Milwaukee. There is still much work that needs to be done.

In 2017 we helped drive region-wide business growth, workforce talent development and retention, improvements in school quality and curriculum, and improved teacher recruitment and retention rates. Our initiatives and strategies are deployed by our staff, our partners, and our members, like you. We summarized our achievements below, demonstrating the impact our work –your work- is having in Milwaukee.

As we look forward, here are our team and GMC members’ wishes for Milwaukee in 2018

 “That Milwaukee continues to prosper, and that the prosperity is spread more throughout the community. Also, that Milwaukee becomes less of a hidden gem.” – Greg Marcus, Marcus Corporation

“Health and wellness for all.” –Cristy Garcia-Thomas, Aurora Health Care

“That Milwaukee would embrace positive change.” – Elizabeth Cizinsky, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“That we can continue progressing on the positive trajectory that we achieved in 2017.” – Elmer Moore, Jr., Greater Milwaukee Committee

“A stable environment with ample education and health and wellness resources for all youth.” – Heather Pechacek, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“Unity.” – Shawn Allen, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“That we start saying more nice things about Milwaukee, while building capacity to support those who are actively engaged in solving our challenges.” – Michael Hostad, Greater Milwaukee Committee

 “Decrease in the amount of young deaths in Milwaukee.” – Samantha Giles, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“For more people to be doing more things and taking leadership positions.” – Joe Poeschl, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“To increase cross-cultural conversations city-wide, regionally, and state-wide.” – Tony Panciera, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“Authenticity. Have difficult conversations about our own perceptions of each other. Intentionality. Be more purposeful in making connections and sharing your network with those around you. Growth mentality. When looking at the dynamics of power and resources, it’s not about redistributing the limited pie, rather, about baking a much bigger and ridiculously tastier pie, together.” – Leana Nakielski, Greater Milwaukee Committee

 “Increased compassion for each other and understanding of what it’s like to be in others’ shoes. Understand each other’s struggles.” – Rich Greene, Greater Milwaukee Committee

“For people to be honest about the issue of race and the power around it.” – Julia Taylor, Greater Milwaukee Committee


Our wishes can come true if we work together towards that north star of a better, great and equitable Milwaukee. Milwaukee is thriving, it is growing, and it can be greater for all of us.

Happy holidays, and cheers to a prosperous New Year!


November Letter from the President

Published November 21, 2017

Technology has become a foundational element of our society. The way we communicate, do business, travel and manufacture our products is reliant on technology. As a growing region that is now attracting international companies like Haribo, Foxconn and potentially, Amazon, our ability to match the demands of a technology centered economy is more imperative than ever.
Milwaukee is home to some of the world’s largest innovative and technology focused companies -GE, Johnson Controls, Rockwell Automation, ManpowerGroup, Northwestern Mutual, FIS and Fiserv…just to name a few. Our biggest issue is a regional shortage of tech talent. As we learned at the past GMC membership meeting, the need for more tech talent increased exponentially with the entry of Foxconn into the region. Foxconn plans to invest in an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem in Milwaukee, which will create 13,000 high wage jobs. This is an opportunity for not only Foxconn to call on our region to develop innovative ways to support Foxconn’s products, but also for industries that already call Milwaukee home to be recognized on a national level.
The good news is that a collaborative group of academic leaders, innovative corporations, and regional-minded civic leaders are coming together to grow a talent pipeline in support of new companies to the area as well as those that helped build Milwaukee into what it is today.
We’re seeing examples of this work already:
  • On November 1, Northwestern Mutual hosted a large summit to support the creation and growth of a sustainable tech hub.
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. and Aurora Health Care each are committing $5 million to venture funds that will invest in startup companies in the Milwaukee area.
  • M7 formed a regional team focused on growing and attracting tech talent working with a number of partners including higher educational institutions, workforce investment boards, K-12 systems, and corporations.
  • Last weekend, Northwestern Mutual partnered with The Commons to host a 32-hour innovation “Hack-It Bracket” that brought together nearly 100 college students from 16 colleges and universities in the region to build innovative technology solutions for NM.
  • Existing initiatives like Milwaukee Succeeds aligns in meeting the talent needs.
These are just a few examples that illustrate how our region has the necessary assets and mindset to meet our growing talent demands. With urgency, transparency, and collaboration, we have come together to take advantage of the opportunity to grow the talent pipeline of the future. As the Governor noted at the bill signing for Foxconn, while there were worries whether Foxconn would keep their promise to the region to create 13,000 jobs, he worried whether we could keep our promise to Foxconn to fill the jobs. This opportunity for prosperity for so many in our region compels us to keep this promise.
Finally, I invite you to come see the future of innovative talent in action at The Commons’ upcoming Demo Day on November 28. The Commons’ Fall cohort comes to a close with 11 student teams presenting innovative solutions to challenges put forward by companies like Kohl’s, We Energies, and Sartori Cheese. For more details and to RSVP, visit
Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee
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