Walker announces national ad campaign to attract workers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to launch a nearly $7 million national marketing campaign to persuade millennials and military veterans to move to his state to help with a worker shortage.

Walker on Wednesday called on the Legislature to approve funding for the $6.8 million ad campaign before the end of the current session in early 2018. He said the marketing campaign would pitch Wisconsin as a more affordable place for millennials to live where they could be spending more time in a canoe, having a drink with friends or attending a concert, rather than sitting in traffic.

Walker announced the marketing effort at the Future Wisconsin Summit, an annual meeting organized by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation bringing together some of the state's business leaders.

Calling it "critically important" to "get more bodies," Walker said the effort would be a collaborative marketing campaign that involves the state's chief economic development and job-creation agencies and the Tourism Department. The effort would include $3.5 million in ads targeting military veterans and their families and $3 million marketing Wisconsin as a destination for young professionals, particularly those already living in nearby Midwest cities of Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago, Walker said.

An additional $300,000 would be used to develop a mobile job resource center that could provide services and recruitment in areas in rural Wisconsin with limited access to permanent services.

"It's not enough to just give speeches and talks, we have to put a whole campaign behind this," Walker said.

Part of the effort would be to woo back young adults who attended college in Wisconsin. The key time to reach them is four or five years after graduation when they start thinking about where they want to live long term and raise children, Walker said.

The push to attract more workers comes as Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group proceeds with its plan to open a display-screen factory between Milwaukee and Chicago that could employ up to 13,000 workers over the next 15 years. Much of the summit where Walker spoke focused on the impact that Foxconn will have in Wisconsin both in terms of economic benefit and need to attract more workers.

Walker said the need for workers goes beyond just Foxconn and includes employers across the state. He urged conference attendees to lobby their local lawmakers to approve funding for the campaign.

"This should be a nonpartisan issue," Walker said. "Building our workforce should be something easy for Republicans and Democrats alike."

The idea won support from Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who said he looked forward to getting more details in the coming weeks and discussing it with senators in January.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in October, down from a high of 9.2 percent in January 2010 as the state felt the impact of the Great Recession. Wisconsin's low unemployment, couple with an aging population, has exacerbated the problem of finding enough workers for available jobs. The state is projected to need 45,000 workers in seven years with shortages cutting across industries, including manufacturing, nursing, information technology and services.

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