WEDC issues false claims of producing jobs in Sherman Park

Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker’s troubled job agency has not created new jobs in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood, despite claiming credit for 483.

Citizen Action conducted a review of reporting by Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency and could verify no job creation in the area, which was the site of civil unrest over the weekend.

As Citizen Action of Wisconsin documented in its statement Tuesday on the Sherman Park civil unrest, the neighborhood has borne the brunt of the outsourcing and deindustrialization that has taken place since the 1970s.

Citizen Action’s review of the Wisconsin Economic Development Agency’s database found claims of creating 483 jobs in the area. But an investigation revealed that the companies named do not actually exist in the neighborhood.

WEDC’s map on their website lists eight companies in Sherman Park receiving tax credits or related programs. Only three of them claim to have created jobs.

But a review of the companies show they do not exist in the community, despite what is indicated on the WEDC map. All of the locations are listed with the same area on WEDC’s website, which is in fact residential neighborhood:

  • Saelens Corporation, which received $400,000 in tax credits, is actually based closer to Menomonee Falls on Milwaukee’s far northwest side
  • Novation Companies, which received $750,000 in tax credits, is actually based downtown and is selling its office to a California tech company.
  • Merge Healthcare Inc., which received $500,000 in tax credits, was actually based in Hartland

Even if WEDC had created 483 jobs, that would not be nearly the scale of employment necessary to help the thousands of area residents who cannot find good jobs.

The revelation that Wisconsin flagship economic development agency is doing little to nothing for one of the most economically distressed areas in the United States is consistent with early reports by Citizen Action and others that it is emphasizing investments in wealthy suburbs. WEDC’s own website takes credit for impacting more jobs in Waukesha County (12,317) than Milwaukee County (11,889), despite Milwaukee’s much greater population and poverty rates.

Also, Walker choose to turn down over $800 million in federal money for high-speed rail, forcing a train manufacturer in the Sherman Park neighborhood to leave Wisconsin. This could have been an anchor for further economic development in the area.

“It is clear that Sherman Park and other economically devastated areas like it have been abandoned by Gov. Walker’s failed economic strategy,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “WEDC’s misrepresentations of its job creation efforts in Sherman Park are yet another affront to area residents, who simply want real economic opportunity and their fair share of the American dream.”

“For decades, jobs within Milwaukee’s industrial core have been lost to other countries and other communities. We know investment is deeply needed, yet we haven’t seen it — and now must find answers to where the state’s flagship jobs agency is actually making its investments,” said state Rep. Evan Goyke, whose district includes part of Sherman Park. “Where did the money actually go?  As we move to build strong neighborhoods throughout Milwaukee, we are left asking questions about the state’s investment, which could be the economic foundation from which to rebuild prosperity in Milwaukee’s most economically distressed neighborhoods.”

See also:

Ex-banker to plead guilty in fraud case against WEDC recipient

WEDC approved tax credits for Walker donor who cut jobs

Dem official: WEDC illegally gave out $21 million in taxpayer dollars