John Roach

Roach: Money talks

Our economy depends on educated millennials

Gov. Scott Walker recently floated the idea of spending $6.8 million on an advertising and marketing campaign to entice skilled and educated workers to come to Wisconsin to live and ply their trade.

Specifically, Walker needs more educated millennial workers to pick up stakes and make Wisconsin their home. Our economy depends on it.

As a small businessman who returned to his home state of Wisconsin to create and grow a company, I’d like to offer some perspective to Scott, especially since our small shop has been successful in attracting college educated workers to stay or return to Wisconsin.

First, don’t do an advertising campaign. Government creative is an oxymoron. Most government advertising doesn’t make people move. It makes them wince. Having a bunch of Republican assemblymen review creative will mean the spots will have polka music. Not good. 

The governor’s folks have done some legwork on the issue. It really comes down to our great state appealing to the Hipster Generation.  To put a finer point on it, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch told the Wisconsin State Journal that “Wisconsin needs to be more than beer and cows.” Tricia Braun, the chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., or WEDC, has taken the lead on this issue by trying to determine what Wisconsin means to millennials.

Well, before the governor and his staff spend money trying to woo smart, young workers, they should read the 2016 Pew Research report on education and political affiliation. The data isn’t good for the Walker administration. The research shows that the younger and smarter you are, the less likely you are to like the policies of the Walker administration and the state that Republicans have created.

According to the Pew Report, college-educated millennials aren’t very Republican. To quote the survey, “Among millennials, 45 percent express consistently liberal (16 percent) or mostly liberal views (29 percent), compared with just 15 percent who have conservative attitudes.” So that means 85 percent of millennials are more than likely not Republican.  

Anecdotally, as a small business owner with a staff that consists of more than 40 percent educated millennials, and as a father of three in the same demo, I can tell you that they are almost uniformly fond of choice, gay rights, voting equity, a healthy environment and a belief in global warming. They don’t demonize Black Lives Matter, and didn’t vote for Donald Trump. So, the workers Walker is seeking are almost exactly the opposite of the voters he attracts.

Walker and Wisconsin Republicans have actually created a state that is exactly what educated millennials don’t like. Which may explain why Walker can’t attract or keep the workers we desperately need.

As one Walker spokesperson enthusiastically proclaimed about our state, “We’re biomedical. We’re aviation and aerospace. And now (with the pending arrival of Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn), we’re LCD and software and the cutting edge of information and internet and high-end technology.” 

OK. Fine. But what are the odds that educated folks in those scientific fields want to work in a state that doesn’t allow its Department of Natural Resources folks to say the words, “global warming”?

Scott Walker has won three elections. He knows his base. Good for him. But he doesn’t know the workers he needs to recruit.

So, let me help you, Scott. Here’s a simple idea that will help you get the workers we need.

Bribe them.

Take your $6.8 million and double it to $13.6 million. Then proclaim to millennials that Wisconsin is “going to help you pay off your student loans!”—the debt that hangs so heavily over their heads. Offer educated workers a $5K signing bonus to be used specifically to pay down college debt, with the promise to stay and work in Wisconsin for five years. Such an investment would result in more than 2,500 smart young workers moving to Wisconsin. 

The only problem, Scott?

They probably won’t vote for you.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at 

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