With the Milwaukee 7 celebrating its biggest year ever of attracting economic development, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Republican Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow shared an actual "Kumbaya" moment.
Barrett and Farrow are two of the co-chairs for the regional group that cooperates on recruiting new employers to the area and expansion by existing employers. They were on stage at the same time Monday evening during the M7’s annual meeting at the We Energies auditorium in downtown Milwaukee.
Check out the attached slideshow to see photos from the event.
First, Barrett said he was glad to see a turnaround by Farrow, who when he was elected Waukesha County executive, had reservations about the M7 as being too Milwaukee-centric. Barrett said the seven counties in the region have developed the ability to work together and pointed to the city of Milwaukee’s recent agreement to supply water to the city of Waukesha.
“It shows what happens when people work with each other,” Barrett said. “What we need to focus on and refocus on is how we can do what’s best not only for our own communities but the entire region. Of course we want the jobs in our own city or our own county. But we also recognize that at the end of the day, we’re better off having the jobs in Walworth County than in Walla Walla, Washington.”
Barrett said the M7 has become very good at partnerships and then introduced “my colleague, Paul Farrow.”
Farrow, who is a good half-foot shorter than Barrett then took the microphone and only half-jokingly said: “We see eye to eye on a lot of things and we see eye to eye on a lot of situations that are going on in this region.”
What’s going on is excitement, especially after the M7 worked closely with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in recruiting Foxconn Technology Group’s planned massive complex in Racine County community Mount Pleasant, Farrow said.
“I’ve got to tell you, yeah, I was skeptical (about M7) because it seemed to be ‘Milwaukee,’” Farrow said to about 200 business and community leaders from Milwaukee and surrounding counties. “It’s a big thing when you stand next to Milwaukee like this.”
Farrow then gave Barrett, who remained on the stage, a quick one-arm hug, eliciting light laughter from the audience.
“But you realize the catalyst that’s here and what’s happening in the other six counties really drives this whole region and gives us an opportunity,” Farrow said.
Foxconn clearly gave the M7 leaders something to brag about but M7 co-chairman Gale Klappa, the CEO of WEC Energy Group, also pointed to German candymaker Haribo choosing Pleasant Prairie in Kenosha County earlier in 2017. Farrow cited Milwaukee Tool’s multiple expansion projects in Brookfield on the eastern end of his county.
Klappa credited Gov. Scott Walker with playing an instrumental firsthand role in recruiting Foxconn. Walker also made remarks from the stage, saying the recent news that Foxconn also will open an office in downtown Milwaukee will bring “hundreds of white collar jobs” to continue revitalizing the city of Milwaukee.