A bill that would set aside funding for a multi-million dollar marketing program to attract more workers to Wisconsin passed the Assembly today 67-28.
The bill would set aside $6.8 million in one-time GPR dollars for WEDC and other state agencies to develop and implement an advertising campaign that could run through mid-2019.
The campaign, if approved, would be headed by WEDC and the Departments of Workforce Development, Tourism and Veterans Affairs.
Some Dems were quick to criticize the marketing program for not focusing on the right priorities, such as healthcare, education and worker training. They had offered a failed amendment that would have required WEDC to first focus on programs that help consistently underemployed people before funding the advertising program.
“To me [marketing] is a last resort. The first resort should be to take care of Wisconsin citizens,” said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, read off the testimony of several millennials who, in a survey, wrote that job opportunities for them don’t exist in the state.
“The intention behind [the bill] is good, but if we’re not seriously digging into this issue … we’re wasting our money,” Riemer said.
But Republicans such as Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, argued that they’ve already funded worker training programs, and that the marketing program is necessary to attract workers.
And bill author Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, argued that attracting workers to the state is vital given the state’s job openings, which he said will only increase with the Foxconn project.
“This is a solution to a problem,” Rohrkaste said. “We have thousands of jobs coming in. This is not going to end.”
WEDC spokesman Mark Maley has said the strategy would likely build off a similar state campaign already underway in Chicago that targets millennials. Maley also said the new campaign could extend to the Twin Cities and a couple other large cities. The strategy also includes a nationwide campaign that promotes Wisconsin to veterans; it would likely include a mobile DWD job center.
The bill now heads to the Senate.