The state’s first-ever advertising campaign to attract and retain Wisconsin workers is getting a thumbs-up from business and economic development leaders.

Mark Tyler, president for OEM Fabrication, says it’s a good idea given the workforce shortage plaguing Wisconsin manufacturers.

“We’re a state that doesn’t beat its chest and say ‘Look how good we are,’” Tyler told WisBusiness.com, a sister site of WisPolitics.com. “The problem is, you’ve got to find a way to get the message out.”

OEM Fabrication creates custom components for original equipment manufacturers, offering services in engineering and design, product welding, advanced machining and other areas. The company has three locations in Woodville, Neillsville and Phillips.

Tyler points to the increased web presence and the ads themselves as good ways to spread the word about the opportunities available in Wisconsin.

“We have a lot to offer that people in other states don’t know about,” he said. “Our manufacturing sector in particular ... it’s a sleeping giant.”

Ads of all shapes and sizes are peppering the Chicago area.

The $1 million price tag for the campaign is coming out of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s fiscal year 2018 budget, covering paid advertisements in a variety of channels. These ads highlight specific advantages of living in Wisconsin compared to a bigger metro area, such as shorter commute times, lower taxes and lower rents.

Aaron Jagdfeld, president and CEO of Generac, says “we look forward to talking to applicants from the Chicago area who are interested in helping us with everything from engineering to operations to finance at more than half a dozen facilities statewide.”

James Otterstein, economic development manager for Rock County, says the Janesville-Beloit region welcomes the opportunity to leverage this initiative as a platform to leverage messaging in the Chicago area.

“Today’s business development environment is increasingly driven by workforce development considerations, which is why a strategic and targeted talent recruitment campaign makes perfect sense,” Otterstein said.

Paul Jadin, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership, notes the Madison region and the state overall offers numerous opportunities both for career advancement and for social, recreational and cultural pursuits.

“There is an abundance of professional opportunities here, both in legacy industries and in areas of innovation,” added Jerry Murphy, executive director for the New North. He says this campaign complements talent attraction efforts already being undertaken in northeast Wisconsin.

Bill Rubin, executive director for the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation, says the group also supports this approach to growing the state’s workforce.

“Wisconsin offers young professionals unlimited opportunities in cutting-edge careers, including biotech, med-tech, advanced manufacturing, engineering and software,” Rubin said. “Pick your region, pick your lifestyle, Wisconsin has ‘it.’”

The WEDC’s Tricia Braun says momentum has been building for this campaign for about two years.

“We had been hearing as an agency from all of our partners, businesses that we work with, etc., that talent is increasingly the number one issue for Wisconsin,” she told WisBusiness.com. “Looking at what we could do to market Wisconsin to out-of-state workers, the reality was there was a large lack of perception or misperception on the types of opportunities that Wisconsin offered.”

She says the effort to draw Wisconsin alumni and millennials from out-of-state will reframe the narrative by showcasing opportunities for careers and for personal fulfillment.

Ads will take the form of targeted social media posts, streaming video and audio ads, mobile app pop-ups, banners on trains, backlit billboards in downtown health clubs and branded coasters in restaurants and bars.

All the visual ads have a similar look, with bold colored frames surrounding two-pane images contrasting big city life with living in Wisconsin. Video ads share the same comparative structure.

One billboard has an image of cars stuck in busy traffic above a photo of two paddle-boarders soaking up the sun. It reads: “Brake pedal, or board paddle? The choice is yours. In Wisconsin, the average commute time is less than 22 minutes, so you can spend less time traversing Michigan Ave and more time exploring our 15,000 lakes. Wisconsin. It’s more you.”

The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Copyright © WisPolitics.com

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