Monday, January 6, 2014

WEDC pt. 1- Very silly commercials

A few recent developments are brewing involving our old friends at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). I wanted to deal with them in separate stories, so I could get into them in detail.

The first involves a new TV advertising blitz that WEDC will put out to try to encourage businesses to locate in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will use close to 10 percent of its $5.75 million annual marketing budget — itself more than triple last year’s $1.5 million budget — for the two ads, which feature brief testimonials from business executives touting the state’s “pro-business climate” and “strong workforce.”

Featured leaders include Christopher Lofgren, CEO of Green Bay-based trucking giant Schneider National, and Louise Hemstead of Organic Valley, a cooperative of organic farmers in La Farge.

The 30-second spots will run for eight weeks in three television markets: Chicago; Rockford, Ill.; and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. They will air on cable news channels CNN, CNBC and Fox News.

The ads will air during programs that target business leaders, including CNBC’s “Mad Money,” “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox and CNN shows hosted by Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett and Wolf Blitzer, at a total cost for production and airtime of $537,000, according to Kelly Lietz, WEDC’s vice president of marketing.
First of all, while it's not unusual or even wrong for the state to use some funds to try to pump themselves up (even if the whole "steal other states' companies" plan is generally a big fat FAIL), I gotta object to a couple of things here.

1. Why would you put ads on in states that Gov. Walker has constantly denigrated over the last 3 years, despite those states generally outperforming Wisconsin's economy (especially Minnesota)?

2. I love the idea of "shows that target business leaders" like "Mad Money", "O'Reilly" and "Erin Burnett". So we're not going to market to younger, start-up types that might bring vitality to an area. Nope, we'll try to impress self-important, old white male d-bags who judge themselves on social comparison, and fancy themselves as be far more interesting and intelligent than they probably are. Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

3. If you're going to talk up a "pro-business climate" and "strong workforce", wouldn't you want to have policies which reinforce that? You know, like improving the quality of education instead of cutting it to the bone and lowering teacher pay? Or by not being in the lower half of the country for job creation or having the lowest manufacturing wage in the Midwest? Now making people dumb and destitute might impress scumbag owners who think the pathway to success in business is by reducing things to the lowest common denominator, but that doesn't get the job done with true creators and leaders in the business world, who value places with a high quality of life that attract talent (including marriage equality, which both Minnesota and Illinois have approved of) and are open to new ideas. WEDC's strategy is a very 20th Century mentality in a 21st Century world.

4. While the Organic Valley folks have a history of low-dollar campaign donations to Dem candidates over the years (like you'd imagine organic farmers might), it's noteworthy that Chris Lofgren at Schneider National is one of the other spokesmodels for WEDC. A quick check of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's website shows that Lofgren has given Scott Walker $2,000 in the last 2 years, and thrown thousands more to other Republicans. And Schneider employees have given nearly $30,000 to Walker's campaigns since he took office as governor in 2011. It's not hard to figure that there might be some kind of payback involved in Lofgren's appearances in these WEDC ads, and you have to wonder if the favor will be returned in more WEDC tax breaks in the future.

Lastly, I noticed that one of the main people quoted in the article on the new WEDC ads is it's 2nd-highest official, Ryan Murray. Isthmus's Marc Eisen went over the then-30-year-old Murray's background when he was hired in July, 2012 after WEDC's first round of screw-ups was coming to light, and its original leadership was being shoved out the door resigning.
Murray's resume shows him to be conspicuously devoid of any private-sector experience, but well schooled in the political arts.

Murray studied political science at UW-Superior and Macalester College (no degree is noted), and then blazed like a meteorite from the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign through multiple Republican legislative offices to a series of senior positions for Walker, culminating as director of policy and legislative affairs.

I tried and failed to contact Murray to see how his immersion in politics made this young man so knowledgeable about business and economic development. Knowing his type, I'll bet that Murray is exceedingly smart, highly political, a razor-sharp tactician (indeed, a reputed author of Act 10), and a tireless toiler on behalf of his benefactor. Of course, an ordinary person might ask how the backrooms of the Capitol prepared him to master the difficult chemistry of job creation. But that would be a dumb question!
I'm sure with guys like this heading up the business development strategy, WEDC's new ads are going to be a smashing success! Meh, probably not. In fact, it'll probably continue the pattern of underperformance, incompetence and pay-for-play corruption that has been synonymous with WEDC since it started 30 months ago.

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