by Rich Rovito, WMEP Industry Reporter

Manufacturers expected to benefit from Initiative

“With Milwaukee’s large manufacturing base, this points to enormous opportunities to expand and strengthen exporting by the region’s manufacturers, especially small- and mid-sized firms that are either new to exporting or slow to expand their current export programs.”

-Jim Zehner, Milwaukee 7

The Milwaukee Region is joining a new exchange network created by the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of The Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. The Exchange is a network of metropolitan areas committed to establishing actionable plans that will promote greater global trade and economic competitiveness.

Brookings, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public policy organization, selected metropolitan areas to join the network after an extensive application process that evaluated regions’ readiness and capability to pursue the Exchange’s curriculum and commitment to fulfill its goals.

The Milwaukee Region is one of eight inaugural Exchange metro areas that will design and implement a regional export plan in 2014.  The network will expand over time to include additional U.S. and international cities working together to strengthen their local economies through increased engagement with the rest of the world.  This builds on the Global Cities Initiative’s work, which equips metropolitan leaders with the information, policy ideas, and global connections they need to bolster their regions’ positions in the global economy.

“For the Exchange, we selected metro areas that are committed to expanding their global economic reach by working together to identify regional competitive strengths and increase exports,” said Brad McDearman, a Brookings fellow. “The eight metro areas selected for this round represent a growing group of U.S. metro areas that understand the need to embrace the global market to remain competitive in the 21st century economy.”

Milwaukee Region representation in the Exchange is led by Pat O’Brien, executive director of the Milwaukee 7 economic development group, with key core team members including Buckley Brinkman, executive director/CEO of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s World Trade Association board with co-chairs Kurt Prange of Bentley World Packaging, and Lauren Morrow of M.E. Dey & Co.; and Lora Klenke, vice president of International Business Development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership as we partner with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Milwaukee 7, and other partners to expand our participation in the global economy,” Brinkman said. “The Global Cities Initiative will enable us to harness the resources of The Brookings Institution and the experiences of 19 other communities as we build an effective plan to grow exports in the region. Our intention would be to use this information throughout the state to help our clients grow their businesses globally.”

Rapid urbanization in mature and developing markets is creating a new consumer class and 85 percent of global GDP growth is projected to occur outside the U.S. between 2013 and 2018.

Metro area leaders play a critical role in promoting trade and developing infrastructure. The Milwaukee Region is uniquely positioned to make exports and global engagement a central, consistent part of broader regional economic strategies.

Although exports in the region are expanding (up 10.1% from 2009-2012 in metropolitan Milwaukee, ranking 18th among top 100 metro areas), current exporting activity is dominated by larger companies. Data shows that statewide, 12 percent of exporters make up nearly 75 percent of exports, according to the Milwaukee 7.

“With Milwaukee’s large manufacturing base, this points to enormous opportunities to expand and strengthen exporting by the region’s manufacturers, especially small- and mid-sized firms that are either new to exporting or slow to expand their current export programs,” Milwaukee 7 spokesman Jim Zehner said.

The Milwaukee Region also has three major cluster networks (Power, Automation & Controls; Food & Beverage Manufacturing; and Water Technology & Manufacturing) supported by industry councils that are driving initiatives within their markets, Zehner noted.

“Each of these clusters understands the importance of exporting to their industry growth,” he said.

Regional economic development leaders representing both the public and private sectors can help local firms access new markets and align existing export services because they know their regions best. These leaders are also best equipped to coordinate regional assets—such as skills training, innovation capacities, and freight and logistics—to better support global trade.

The Milwaukee Region will join Atlanta; Greenville, S.C.; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; and Wichita, Kan., in the Exchange’s inaugural class, which will work together over the next four years to establish new metro-to-metro relationships and to share best practices in global economic development.

As part of the Exchange, the Milwaukee Region will first develop a regional export plan and later integrate a foreign direct investment strategy. Together these plans, which may also grow to include logistics and advanced industries, will comprise a customized global engagement strategy to strengthen the region’s global economic connections and competitiveness.

The leaders of the Milwaukee Region’s Exchange team will join those of the other accepted metropolitan areas at Brookings in Washington, D.C., in December to participate in their first working group session, where they will learn how to develop an export plan as part of a global economic development strategy. Throughout the four-year Exchange, participating metro areas will periodically convene for in-person working groups and will continually engage in curriculum via conference calls and webinars.

The inaugural cohort of eight metropolitan areas will join twelve that are already involved in Brookings-led metropolitan export planning. Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Los Angeles; Louisville-Lexington, Ky.; Minneapolis-Saint Paul; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio; San Diego; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Tampa Bay, Fla., are all existing members of the Brookings Metropolitan Export Initiative and have been invited to continue their work as part of the Global Cities Exchange.

Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative is a five-year joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase aimed at helping city and metropolitan leaders become more globally fluent by providing an in-depth and data-driven look at their regional standing on crucial global economic measures, highlighting best policy and practice innovations from around the world, and creating an international network of leaders who ultimately trade and grow together.

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