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Center for Urban Initiatives and Research

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Milwaukee Community Outreach Partnership: Housing and Design Services
Sherry Ahrentzen, Rick Jules 
Other Senior Personnel:
Welford Sanders
Graduate Student Researchers: Nisha Fernando, Lynne Dearborn-Karan

The Milwaukee Community Outreach Partnership, established in 1996 with HUD funding, is a campus-wide partnership with non-profit community organizations located in two Milwaukee Empowerment Zones. The overall goal of the program is to assist in revitalizing these areas by bringing together the key players and resources to meet expressed community needs. SARUP provides housing and design services. The major projects undertaken to date are: 

1. A participatory community design project for a children's village to house homeless children, which is now being developed by SOS International.
2. With Walker's Point Development Corp. and the Grand Avenue Club, developed plans for renovations of Section 8 existing properties into supported housing for persons with chronic mental illness.
3. Completed an extensive survey to assess current status of housing projects and projected housing needs. 


Economic Issues
Sammis White

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Greenfield versus Brownfield Development

Several observers of metropolitan development contend that suburban development is subsidized by the many individuals who absorb costs of that development without receiving benefits from it. For example, commuters suffer from greater congestion, more accidents, more air pollution, and the like, if more people must commute to more dispersed jobs. Is this view accurate? White and grad student Ryan Dent attempted to find out by replicating a detailed methodology developed by two faculty members at UIC. The result is an enormous spreadsheet that reveals that given the specifics of the Milwaukee area, the public costs created by greenfield development are very close in value to the private benefits received by those who do benefit from the greenfield development. It is hard, therefore, to argue on that basis for greater public sector intervention in cleaning up and developing brownfields. On the other hand, there are a number of benefits to private employers who do choose to place their business in the well-located brownfields (such s Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley) that can well overwhelm the additional costs of doing so. So, for some employers, the rational decision is clearly brownfield not greenfield location. But they must be convinced of such.

Day Reporting Center

This is another multi-year project. White is helping to improve the quality of the offering of this alternative to incarceration by continually monitoring and evaluating it. This was its first full year of operation in Milwaukee. Participants must report to a specific site every day for seven hours. There they are offered a series of classes, ranging from alcohol and drug abuse counseling to such topics as literacy training, basic education, anger management, and life skills. These offerings are not available in jail. Participants are given the alternative of time in jail or this opportunity along with the opportunity to live at home. Building this program from scratch with a very modest budget has been challenging. The DRC is functioning better, but it has a ways to go still
White also recently completed an examination of the merits of private enterprises locating operations in public prisons. With funding from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), this study explored experiences across the country and concluded that private efforts should be expanded despite the difficulty identifying businesses that meet the restrictive set of requirements for operating in prisons.

Wisconsin's Infrastructure for the New Economy

The UW Board of Regents has ed the way in assessing what it is Wisconsin should do so that the state can participate in and benefit from the new economy. For the first state-wide Economic Summit in November 2000,  White was asked to undertake an assessment of the physical infrastructure and whether it is an inhibitor to the growth of the new economy. Examining roads, railroads, airports and airline service, electric power, and telecommunication services, White indicated that all needed some attention. Roads and bridges need to maintained. Electric power needs to be expanded. Airports, especially Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, needs further investment to obtain more direct service. And the fiber optic network in the state needs further investment, especially in switching. But the real key is the people of the state: they need to be open to the changes that come with participating in the new economy. White also co-authored a paper with Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and several others on the southeast Wisconsin economy and what should be done to strengthen it.

Wisconsin Employment Data

White has created an extensive employment database for the UWM Center for Urban Initiatives and Research, which greatly expands the accuracy of State employment prognostications in studies performed by UWM researchers. White recently studied the relationship of manufacturing employment growth in communities to highway size serving those communities. Contrary to popular belief, his study revealed that growth in manufacturing employment is not necessarily directly tied to an interstate highway system. 

White also completed the latest of his series of analyses of the economic change in WI. The 1990s were very good to the state in terms of the creation of new jobs. It grew 21% v. 13% for the nation as a whole. But the rate of growth declined over the decade, and real earnings per worker grew at but 1% per year. In other words, Wisconsinites worked harder, but they made little headway compared to many other workers elsewhere. Service industries experienced the greatest growth (35%), but manufacturing grew by 14% while nationally it held even. Milwaukee grew faster (15%) than the nation, but slower than Brown County (34%), the Fox Cities (29%), and Kenosha (27%) and most other parts of the state. High tech employment is a factor in Madison (6%) and Milwaukee (5%), but not elsewhere. The majority of employment growth occurred in smaller employers, those with between 20 and 100 employees.

Using a new and unique database, White has been able to follow some 96,000 women who were on welfare in WI sometime in 1990. He initially tracked their employment histories. He is studying how important the choice of employers is to the earnings outcomes of these former recipients. His findings suggest that employer choice is important, but that choice is a function of the women's commitment to work and to a variety of personal characteristics of the women themselves. White is continuing this work to learn more about the role of individual characteristics relative to commitment to work and employers.

Menomonee Valley Development

White is working with 16th street Community Health Center on an effort to assess and bench mark the impacts of development in the Menomonee Valley compared to development in the exurbs, such as Pabst Farms in the town of Summit. With student assistance, a Chicago study is being replicated that estimates the costs, benefits when a manufacturing plant is located in the inner city vs. the exurbs. The students are also creating measures for monitoring changes in the Menomonee Valley over time.

Academic Achievement

White recently completed a study of the private schools of Milwaukee. With survey responses received from 757 teachers and 77 principals, the study investigated who these educators and administrators are, what their attributes are, what needs they have, what needs they identify for their schools, and what strengths they see in their schools.

White has completed extensive research on factors determining student achievement in Milwaukee. A recent project examined the role of parent involvement in student academic achievement. With funding from the Bradley Foundation, White and his team sought to identify what forms of parental involvement, whether at home or at school, are thought to be most important for student achievement. The team also explored whether different forms of parent involvement led to different education outcomes.


University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

last updated on May 03, 2007