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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Business leaders want transit for SE Wisconsin

From a blog post on by Andrew Weiland in the BizTimes Milwaukee:

Some of southeastern Wisconsin’s key business leaders said today that the creation of a regional transit authority to upgrade Milwaukee County’s bus system and create a Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail is essential for the economic vitality of the region.

Backed by some of area's most prominent business executives, Gov. Jim Doyle announced today new legislation to create a Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SERTA).

The plan includes a 0.5 percent sales tax increase in Milwaukee County to provide a dedicated funding source for the county’s financially troubled bus system.

Business leaders said mass transit is needed to help people get to work and is a key amenity to attracting talented workers to southeastern Wisconsin.

“This is not a want, this is an absolute need for the community,” said Tim Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International Inc. The announcement about the RTA legislation was held at the Bucyrus headquarters.

“It’s critical that this legislation pass during the spring 2010 session,” said Robert Mariano, chairman and CEO of Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. “It is foolish to ignore, this is an economic development issue. Transit builds the economy.”

“For the vitality of southeastern Wisconsin, getting this bill through the legislature is critical,” said Scott VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.

“We believe regional transit and the KRM is an important investment in the future of our region,” said J. Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of Racine-based S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. “More efficient and more affordable public transit can help make a city an even more attractive place for business and can help the vibrancy of a community. The lack of accessibility to Milwaukee and Chicago is a big reason it is more challenging to attract key people to our company.”

“It’s really frustrating to see the constant deterioration of public transit,” said Ed Zore, CEO of Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. “It’s really important for business to have a good public transit system.”

About 700 of his company’s employees use public transit, Zore said.

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