Effective July 1, Jim Paetsch will take over the management of Milwaukee 7, the regional business development company that covers southeast Wisconsin.
Paetsch has been with M7 since it started in 2005, but his work has mainly focused on attracting and expanding companies. He doesn’t expect much to change in his job when it comes to encouraging companies to locate and expand in southeastern Wisconsin, but his new role will make him more involved in strategy and other aspects of the organization.
One of the other areas M7 operates in is talent acquisition and development, an issue that became more prominent before the COVID-19 pandemic and is back in the spotlight as companies complain that they keep moving forward recovering economy are unable to find workers.
Paetsch joined Associate Editor Arthur Thomas on the BizTimes MKE Podcast to talk about the work of corporate attraction, people development, and the direction of M7. He also dealt with the use of tax incentives, an often criticized component of economic development.
Paetsch said a common thread that M7 has heard from companies since the mid-2000s is whether companies can find the people they need to be successful. But he added that the type of talent companies seek has evolved, with an increasing emphasis on salaried, technical talent. At the same time, he said M7 needs to work to ensure that there are opportunities across the skill spectrum.
As it is difficult for many employers to recruit and retain employees, it may seem counterintuitive for M7 to continue to focus on attracting companies to the region. Paetsch acknowledged that there was a tension between recruiting companies and the workforce available for companies in the region.
“It’s not a perfect process,” he said. The aim is to create more economic opportunities for people, which in turn should attract more people to the region.
“Every single region, nobody believes they have found that out, the talent piece,” said Paetsch and described personnel development as the most modest part of economic development. “That is not easy.”
He also discussed the use of economic incentives, noting that sensible people disagree on whether they should be part of economic development. However, he also pointed out that any region uses them and therefore not using them would essentially require disarmament.
“If we disarm, we can only expect losses,” he said, adding that it would mean losing jobs and other economic benefits associated with business expansion projects.
“When (companies) are thinking about where to invest, a business case has to be made and it is competitive,” said Paetsch.
To hear more from Paetsch, listen to the full episode in the player above or find the BizTimes MKE podcast on Apple or Spotify.