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Gov. Walker unveils new initiative called “Transform Milwaukee”

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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker announced a $100 million "Transform Milwaukee'' initiative Monday, April 30th that he said is intended to draw businesses to Wisconsin's largest city by fixing up blighted areas and providing economic incentives.

Milwaukee's economy has been especially troubled in recent years. While the state unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, unemployment in Milwaukee has remained around or above 10 percent.

Of the 4,500 jobs lost in Wisconsin last month, 4,400 were in the Milwaukee metro area.

Walker announced the initiative days after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, one of four Democrats vying to oppose Walker in June's recall election, criticized the governor for not doing enough to help create jobs in the city. Walker, who said the newly announced plan has been in the works for a year, said the investment will help improve the state's overall economy and decrease the number of people dependent on state resources.

"For the state to be successful, Milwaukee has to be successful,'' Walker said.

Walker said his team met about the plan in March with officials in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, including Barrett. A message left with Barrett's campaign was not immediately returned.

Walker said a key step in pushing ahead with the plan was a law he signed in early April allowing the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to issue up to $150 million in bonds for economic development. The agency has agreed to commit $100 million to "Transform Milwaukee,'' by offering federal tax credits, business-development loans and residential mortgage loans.

The five-part plan includes developing vacant business properties and improving transportation infrastructure. It also involves building new systems to carry away storm-water runoff, an effort Walker said would help businesses avoid flooding that has plagued the area in recent years.

He said he expected the plan to create 2,000 jobs in construction and other long-term jobs, in addition to other secondary jobs that come with economic growth.

When asked whether any businesses had agreed to come to Milwaukee contingent on the state providing new incentives, Walker said the plan was more aimed at making Milwaukee a more attractive business destination, adding that the state is always looking for ways to attract jobs.

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