From the President

A Letter from the President: November 2015

Our Innovation in Milwaukee, or MiKE, initiative is making great strides in connecting companies and organizations with our region’s talent, whether college students, young entrepreneurs, freelancers or seasoned professionals. In 2015, MiKE’s major programming included Walk the Talk, in collaboration with Creative Alliance Milwaukee and attended by 250; Destination Innovation, which flew college students via Southwest to the Kohl’s Innovation Center in California to pitch their ideas; and the third annual 180 Reverse Job Fair during YPWeek, where MillerCoors, Quad/Graphics, Zywave, Associated Bank and Harley-Davidson pitched young professionals on their companies.

MiKE’s premiere program, The Commons (in collaboration with Startup Milwaukee), saw 140 students participate in the 2014 pilot program. The Commons is a cross-university program promoting the applied use of entrepreneurial teachings, providing an opportunity for students to explore innovation in a supportive low-risk environment, serving as a source of talent for area businesses looking to work with and hire the city’s emerging thinkers and playing a pivotal role in economic development and job creation in Southeast Wisconsin.

This past weekend, The Commons hosted Demo Day to celebrate the achievement of its second class of students. These 65 students participating in both startup and corporate innovation teams presented on the work they had done with their teams through the 10-week program. Rather than making financial asks, students asked for feedback and requested connections to other talent who could help further develop their projects. Corporations teaming up with students in this cohort included Briggs & Stratton, Kohl’s Corporation, Direct Supply and Brady Corporation.

In addition to the Demo Day presentations, most corporate teams had the opportunity to present their projects to the staff, including CEOs and higher-level leadership, of the companies with which they were paired. By providing this kind of experience to students and companies, The Commons hopes to continue improving the chances that students will look for jobs and business opportunities right here in Wisconsin.

Moving forward, The Commons team plans to continue developing and fine tuning the program curriculum, hire a full-time entrepreneur-in-residence to implement programming, increase the size of each class and develop a student database.

The Commons is making a serious impact on our region. Already, Milwaukee companies have hired students both for full-time positions and internships. Fourteen of the 23 academic institutions involved in The Commons are providing financial support for The Commons, and five are providing academic credit to the students involved. Marquette University also provided a $50,000 Innovation Fund grant.

If you’d like to hear more about or get involved with The Commons, please contact Michael Hostad.



Julia Taylor

A Letter from the President: October 2015

Many of you were able to join us for our October membership meeting featuring a pertinent debate over whether K-12 education is the most important issue facing our emerging leaders. At the meeting, we were presented with another perspective – that segregation is actually the most important issue.

Clearly, these are two problems which are connected and intertwined, and perhaps equally important to address. The Global Shapers group, a part of the World Economic Forum, passionately argued the two sides of the issue – education and segregation – while sharing personal stories and anecdotes and making the arguments easy to identify with for our members.

We received positive feedback from the membership meeting.

“I think this is one of the best programs we have had.”

“I enjoyed the discussion. Both teams were prepared and articulate.”

“Topic was great. Debaters were polished… it was good exposure for the group.”

Thank you to all of our members who engaged with the meeting and shared their positive, as well as critical, feedback with us and the Global Shapers.

We know it’s important to face these issues, and it is reassuring – and encouraging – see tomorrow’s leaders’ willingness to face them head on, no matter how uncomfortable. We hope that through our work at the GMC within issues of race, equality, education and workforce development, we can begin to solve some of the barriers facing Milwaukee in becoming – or remaining – a world-class city.

Check out video from the meeting  here.



Julia Taylor

A Letter from the President: September 2015

The Greater Milwaukee Committee’s initiatives – in which many of you are involved – have unique and important impacts on our community. Two of our initiatives in particular are top-of-mind right now.

As you know, the GMC launched the creative placemaking committee last fall. The committee presently focuses on three main areas – the Beerline Trail Extension in Riverwest/Harambee, West Wisconsin Avenue, and Walker’s Point. Last week, the Beerline Trail Extension (also known as Beerline X) hosted events as part of Riverworks Week 2015, an event by Riverworks Development Corporation to showcase the area as Milwaukee’s emerging creative district.

Riverworks Week events included speakers, a “Dolphin Pool,” the Open Air Medina Market and many participating businesses in Doors Open Milwaukee (a celebration on the Beerline X was rescheduled due to severe weather). Hundreds of Riverwest and Harambee neighborhood residents, as well as residents of other Milwaukee neighborhoods, came out to support the week and the important work going on along the trail.

Riverworks Week shows the impact that the GMC and its creative placemaking committee have had on placemaking and economic strategy in Milwaukee. This corridor in Riverwest and Harambee of large industrial buildings often underused or vacant is now redefined as a growing creative district with the buildings now full of micro-creative industries. Real estate brokers and entrepreneurs now see the area as a spine for redevelopment. We look forward to continuing to work with our many community partners – and many of you – to encourage vibrancy, creativity and economic development in Milwaukee.

Our creative placemaking efforts on West Wisconsin Avenue are transforming the way people think and interact with the street. The Avenue is coming alive with over 300 new units of housing and another 400 proposed for development. WAM-DC is active on other redevelopment plans for the area. NEWaukee’s Night Markets bring alive an area in the past seen as empty and unsafe at night. Ten to twelve thousand people showed up for each Night Market this summer. Creative Alliance Milwaukee’s Spot 4MKE is bringing people and life to the long term vacant lot on 4th and Wisconsin.

The GMC’s Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative exemplifies the impact the GMC can have on innovative talent development strategies. Milwaukee has everything it needs for a thriving economy – small and large businesses, corporate headquarters, college students and plenty of talent – but it often struggles to connect everyone together.

Enter Walk the Talk. MiKE this year is partnering with Creative Alliance Milwaukee to host this one-day conference focusing on the intersection of creativity and innovation. The conference includes workshops and keynotes throughout the Third Ward and Walker’s Point – two of Milwaukee’s most innovative neighborhoods – to move attendees from talk to action.

Walk the Talk, on Wednesday, October 7th, connects artists, entrepreneurs, educators, young professionals, established professionals, industry experts, designers, creatives, and everyone in between, through speakers, workshops, one-on-one conversations with Milwaukee’s “Super Colliders,” a food truck lunch hour, a recess break and more. Showcasing the innovative and creative people, projects and businesses in Milwaukee, Walk the Talk provides a new and unique way for people to connect.

We hope that you’ll share information on Walk the Talk and our creative placemaking work with your networks and beyond.


Julia Taylor

A Letter from the President: August 2015

Providing access to quality education to all students, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic class or zip code, is one of the most important efforts of the GMC. Our education committee, co-chaired by Mark Sabljak, Nancy Sennett and Katherine Gehl, works to achieve this through a number of initiatives, including Teachtown MKE, the Milwaukee Talent Dividend, Milwaukee Succeeds and Bradley Tech. We work closely with educational leaders throughout the region to overcome challenges and find solutions.

To that end, in July, the GMC partnered with Milwaukee Public Schools to host a Strategic Actioning Session (SAS) with the goal of re-envisioning what MPS high schools can and should be in order for all students to be successful and to create a vibrant community. Sixty-two caring, divergent thinkers, including teachers, representatives from the MPS central office, school leaders, community and business leaders, students and the College Board,  came together for three days with one goal: to transform MPS high schools.

Everyone agreed, over the course of three days, to commit to positive and sustainable change now. Small, flexible, rotating cross-sector groups with targeted, specific, critical topics focused on subjects broken out of larger ideas identified to redesign MPS high schools. Candid conversations about tough topics revealed game-changing opportunities as powerful stakeholders and influencers got out of their individual comfort zones and set aside agendas to collaborate and invest in a shared win for students.

This new vision puts students first in order to empower citizens who are resilient, learning and leading to innovate real world solutions.

Our MPS high schools will provide every student with a magnitude of opportunity and pathways to success in the community and adulthood with:

  • High standards for learning
  • An inclusive and celebrated multicultural student body
  • An excellent faculty
  • A vibrant environment
  • A caring community

Our high schools build curiosity and inspire creativity.

Some “big learnings” came out of the SAS:

  • Paradigm shift: If we want different results, we need different inputs
  • Business and philanthropic communities are on board for MPS high school success
  • Developing synergy amongst our community is critical
  • We have much to celebrate in MPS high schools

Out of the SAS emerged a courageous action plan to tackle critical MPS issues facing high schools to help them move forward. We developed 30- and 90-day plans that are already being implemented, as well as some quick wins that will immediately begin the shift towards better schools and outcomes for our children.

We hope you’ll join us in the journey towards better schools for our students. We will continue to update you in the coming months on our progress, and thank our GMC members for your ongoing commitment to providing quality education to all students.



Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

A Letter from the President: July 2015

Dear GMC members,

For many of our members (and even the GMC itself), the word “summer” is synonymous with “interns.” College students – some of them Milwaukee natives, some not – arrive in droves in May to work at area companies, nonprofits and other organizations big and small and learn what they can in the three months before heading back to school. Looksharp reports that Milwaukee is one of the most likely places in the United States to find a paid summer internship – 70.1% of internships here are paid – making our city desirable to the more than 10,000 students who flock to Milwaukee annually.

We know that interns need more than busywork to make their time here worthwhile. If given meaningful projects, interns can see the impact of their efforts and even have the opportunity to make enough of an impact to secure a job offer after graduation.

Interns are also vital to the health and future of our city. We must ensure that interns enjoy their time in Milwaukee and see it as more than just a summer stop-over; by opening the doors to the city to them, interns will see Milwaukee as a place to return to after graduation to start their careers, families and more.

The GMC worked diligently throughout the year to help place summer interns, especially through Morehouse. The GMC partnered with the MKE Fellows program, championed by Quarles & Brady and John Daniels, to pair students with GMC companies. A total of 15 students were paired and are receiving joint programming all summer long through an organized “Lunch & Learn” series and professional development workshops hosted by The Commons, part of the GMC’s Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative.

The GMC’s summer intern, through the Morehouse Scholars program, is Justice Hudnall. Justice is a Milwaukee native himself, having graduated from Washington High School. He will start his junior year at Morehouse in the fall, studying business marketing, finance and accounting. At the GMC, Justice has worked on several projects, including our multiple summer strategic actioning sessions, the Scale Up Milwaukee initiative and a weekly intern newsletter. He has learned how to use marketing software and the benefits of the GMC’s work to the community, school systems, businesses and transportation. He plans to come back to Milwaukee after he graduates in order to build strong foundations in urban communities. We hope other interns have had such eye-opening experiences and plan to bring their knowledge back to Milwaukee.

Earlier this month, the GMC, in partnership with United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, hosted the third annual Intern Celebration right here at the Global Water Center. Interns were encouraged to network and meet others outside their own companies in an informal setting at a location that they might not otherwise visit. Badger Meter president, chairman and CEO Rich Meeusen gave a resounding welcome to the interns, stressing the fact that companies and their CEOs are aware of how vital interns are to their inner workings. In order to facilitate networking, interns also filled in the blank of the statement, “My favorite thing about Milwaukee is…”. Some of our favorite answers:

  • Summerfest
  • The Riverwalk
  • Accessibility to leadership
  • Lake Michigan
  • No traffic!
  • Affordability

Thank you to the many companies who are employing summer interns through the Morehouse Scholars program and Earn and Learn. We’d love to hear what you’re doing with interns at your companies to ensure their success and excitement about our city – please email Danya Strait at the GMC with any suggestions and best practices you’d like to share with other members.




Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

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