Wisconsin Pitches Quality of Life to Lure Millennial Workers

Wisconsin Pitches Quality of Life to Lure Millennial Workers

Facing a shortage of talent and a surplus of unfilled jobs, the state of Wisconsin is pulling out all the stops to attract millennials from other parts of the midwestern US to the state to work, Shayndi Rice reports at the Wall Street Journal. In January, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation launched a $1 million ad campaign in Chicago, while the state legislature is soon expected to pass a proposal from Governor Scott Walker to spend another $6.8 million to advertise the state throughout the midwest.

Too many jobs and not enough workers may sound like a luxury problem compared to what some parts of the US have reckoned with in the past decade, but Wisconsin policy makers fear that the slow growth of the labor force (just 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2016) could hinder economic development in the state. That low growth—a product of demographic aging, low birth rates, and negative net migration—has left Wisconsin with an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a projected 45,000 unfilled jobs by 2024, Rice reports.

Along with the abundance of job opportunities, the ad campaigns tout the low cost of living in Wisconsin cities (compared to Chicago), easier commutes and higher quality of life. Cities like Milwaukee and Madison are also running social media campaigns to advertise themselves as fun, vibrant places for young professionals to live. Critics of the campaigns, however, contend that these funds would be better spent on public services.

Wisconsin’s advertising blitz comes just a few months after the state landed a deal with the Taiwanese multinational Foxconn Technology Group to build a display panel factory there, which will see the company invest as much as $10 billion and hire as many as 13,000 people. The deal was somewhat controversial, both because of the $3 billion in tax incentives the state offered Foxconn and because the success of the Foxconn factory will depend on Wisconsin being able to attract large numbers of workers from other states, as it is now trying to do.

Other states with low unemployment and talent shortages have been pursuing similar initiatives to try to attract workers away from the high-cost urban areas in which millennial professionals have tended to congregate. Maine, for example, is looking at ways to entice native Mainers who have left the state to move back, including help with student loan repayment.