For many years – and despite nearly a decade of corporate welfare and crony capitalism from the WEDC and local versions of it – Wisconsin has seen a decline in younger workers and families. Shamane Mills writes Report: Migration Key To Wisconsin’s Workforce (“State Has Seen Large Drop in Net Migration Of Families With Children Who Will Hold Jobs When Baby Boomers Retire”):
Wisconsin used to be a magnet for young families. Not so much anymore, according to a new report.
Forward Analytics, the new nonpartisan research arm of the Wisconsin Counties Association, has released a new study that examines the change to the state’s population and raises concern about the state’s ability to lure people to move here. This matters because these children will grow up and replace an aging workforce in the state.
“We’ve got to figure out how to turn that around and we’ve got to do it fairly quickly because baby boomers are nearing retirement,” said Dale Knapp, research director for Forward Analytics.
Traditionally Wisconsin had no problem luring people in their 30s, 40s and even 50s to the state. They more than made up for an exodus that started in 1990, when younger people began leaving the Badger State — many of them recent college graduates, he said.
But now the state not only has fewer young people, but also those who are middle-aged. Prior to 2010, Wisconsin added 40,000 children from outside the state over a five-year period. That migration of children dropped below 10,000 from 2010 to 2015. And to top it off, Wisconsin’s birthrate has declined to its lowest rate in four decades.
(The migration the study discusses includes newcomers from other parts of America.)
Wisconsin does need net migration, very much so.
Years ago when I first started writing (in ’07), local notables insisted that Whitewater was the very center of the universe. After the Great Recession’s effects lingered, some of those same notables changed their song to claim that, in fact, not enough people knew where Whitewater was.
Neither claim was true: Whitewater was always a beautiful but small part of a very big country, and people in the rest of Wisconsin were more than able to locate Whitewater on a roadmap.
These contradictory claims were just excuses for the failure of policymakers to offer a compelling invitation. These right-of-center, big-project businessmen tried to sell the city based on what they found attractive; turns out their insider policies and cream-colored aesthetic weren’t appealing.
These local gentlemen foolishly thought that Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt was a combination policy manual and travel brochure. They mostly aped a Walker Admin policy that was much the same.
That’s unattractive to prospects for Whitewater or pretty much anywhere else in Wisconsin.
I’m a libertarian, but that’s a minority viewpoint; God knows Whitewater will likely never be a libertarian town. (Nor does Whitewater need to be a libertarian town; one loves it no less in any event.)
To succeed, however, Whitewater (and Wisconsin) will have to be something more than yesterday’s (slowly declining) right-side cronyism.
Part of that transition – to something hip, tolerant, and prosperous – has begun, but there’s far more yet ahead.