Monday, January 28, 2008

Milwaukee has good company in having image problems

Two weeks ago, the Public Policy Forum’s Viewpoint Luncheon stirred media attention regarding local C.E.O.s’ cautions about the Milwaukee business climate and image. This week, the Twin Cities launched a new $2.5 million marketing campaign that touches on surprisingly similar issues. Many Milwaukeeans would predict that the Twin Cities are doing better in the image department than our city, but Milwaukee’s situation may be less than unique.

A recent editorial about the new Twin Cities marketing efforts has the headline “We need to sell cities to ourselves, outsiders.” The campaign seeks to help local companies attract workers from across the country, while stanching the chilly and boring “Fargo” image that some have of the Twin Cities region.

Does this sentence sound familiar, Milwaukee? “Research for the campaign found that national perceptions of the Twin Cities don’t match reality, and that local residents are partly responsible for perpetuating stereotypes because we too often adopt a low-profile, self-deprecating approach to selling ourselves.” The same thing could be said of our Milwaukeean motif, the dreaded inferiority complex.

The Twin Cities ranks number one among U.S. cities in median household wealth, major company headquarters, patent intensity and worker productivity. And even they have an image problem. A recent survey indicated that people think the Twin Cities region is a boring, "economically deprived" area.

Milwaukee has its share of good news. The city was recently named one of the top 20 places in the U.S. to educate children. AARP picked Milwaukee as one of “Five Great Places to Live” in the U.S. Conde Nast Traveler named the Milwaukee Art Museum one of the world’s 12 icon buildings of the last two decades. In the list of Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in the U.S., the Milwaukee region was only topped by California.

The Twin Cities' hand-wringing about image could indicate an intensified need for the efforts of Milwaukee's M7 group to keep pace as other cities step up their marketing game.

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