Did Barrett Redevelop Menomonee Valley?

Two Related Quotes

Barrettjobs2 "Tom Barrett redeveloped Menomonee Valley which now supports nearly 4,000 jobs in Wisconsin" and "Tom transformed the Menomonee Valley from a long forgotten wasteland into a thriving commercial and recreation center."

Fact Check

Although Menomonee Valley always had commercial value,  it was less than aesthetically pleasing.  According to the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1874, the pollution was "disgusting in the extreme to the sight and fearfully offensive to the olfactories".  Despite various stages of development, this description remained true to modern times.

Fast forward to the 1970's.  Mayor Henry Maier's administration bought Menomonee Valley, cleared the ruins, and rebuilt roads with the design to create jobs.   But the real development came in the late 80s and early 90s under Mayor John Norquist.  He oversaw the building of the Marquette University sports complex, the opening of Potawatomi Casino on Canal Street, the building of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District facility, and the erection of the Miller Park Stadium.  This might be the "recreation center" Barrett referred to in his ad.

Overall, what was Mayor Barrett's role in developing the Menomonee Valley?  Well, by the time Barrett came on the scene, most of the modern real estate had already been developed.  However, Barrett's campaign ad touts his role in bringing Ingeteam, Helios USA, Talgo, and Republic Airways Holdings to the Valley.  So let's look at these.

  • Ingeteam received $1.66 million in clean-tech manufacturing tax credits from the federal government to build wind turbine generators in Milwaukee.  Ingeteam followed the money and Governor Doyle took the credit.
  • Helios USA received $1 million from the federal government to invest in green technology in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. (a private firm) supported Helios USA with a $500,000 loan to build a 40,000 square-ft factory.  The funding to make it happen did not involve Mayor Barrett.
  • Talgo came to Wisconsin because the federal government awarded us $823 million in stimulus funds to build a Milwaukee to Madison high speed rail line, $12 million to improve service between Chicago and Milwaukee, and $1 million on a route between Wisconsin and the Twin Cities.  Without a federal subsidy of $835 million, Talgo wouldn't have considered the move.  Antonio Perez, Talgo's CEO, said the reasons for choosing Milwaukee were based on economic conditions, logistics, cost of living, training facilities in the area, and an available work force - none of which has anything to do with Barrett.

Each of the companies followed federal money.  We're not saying that Mayor Barrett played no role in the economic development of the Menomonee Valley; we're just saying that the federal government caught the fish, wheeled it in, took it off the hook, and Barrett got to hold it for a photo op.


The role Barrett played in redeveloping Menomonee Valley is minimal.  However, his claim that Menomonee Valley was a "forgotten wasteland" before he improved it is false.  At a time when a recession hit Wisconsin, it's in the best interests for candidates to tout a job-creating message.  However, Barrett's job-creating record is dismal.

A new report published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that Milwaukee is now the fourth poorest city in the nation, with a poverty rate of 27%.  This means that on of every four residents in Milwaukee live in poverty.  Furthermore, the Center of Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said, "Our analysis of employment data shows that Milwaukee has had among the worst job creation records of any big city in the U.S. for over a decade, so it's not surprising that poverty numbers have worsened."  In other words, Mayor Barrett's poor job creation record has contributed to the poverty numbers that we see in Milwaukee today.

Overall, we give the campaign ad a rating of "Total Crap".




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