As business leaders, we place high value on fiscal responsibility and return on investment. If we didn’t believe so strongly in the value of transit, the potential for economic development and our ability to leverage a minimal local investment to maximize the amount of federal dollars invested in our region, we would not be advocating so strongly for an investment in our local transit systems and the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail. This is a wise investment in the long-term future and economic health of our region and state.
As employers of more than 11,000 working men and women in Racine, we believe it is imperative that our state Legislature work to stimulate economic development and new jobs in Racine. To do this, we must pass legislation allowing for a strong, regional approach to public transit in southeastern Wisconsin and the KRM commuter rail project to move forward.
In this difficult economic time — with unemployment at unacceptably high levels — now is the time to act on opportunities that serve to strengthen the economy. Public transit has proven time and time again, as experienced in metropolitan areas across the nation, that it can revitalize communities, enhance economic development and, most importantly, serve to create new jobs and connect workers to existing jobs.
With the KRM, we have an opportunity to create more than 5,000 jobs immediately through initial development of the rail line and business expansions that have been directly tied to this transit expansion. According to recent environmental impact studies and community impact studies completed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the KRM will support and assist in providing 71,000 jobs through transit-oriented development, connecting Racine workers to nearly 1 million jobs within the Chicago to Milwaukee corridor. Train stations, including one here in Racine, will encourage economic development to the tune of an estimated $7.8 billion increase in real estate values and a $750 million increase in retail sales, not to mention dramatically increased property values in the corridor from Milwaukee to Kenosha.
As transit and train debates continue in Wisconsin, members of all political persuasions have agreed: It makes sense to draw more connections to the greater Chicago area, and the time to do it is now, when jobs and economic development are more critical than ever.
To us, as employers and business leaders in this region, the benefits are crystal clear. Public transportation, both bus and rail, is good for our workers and our companies. Businesses near public transportation have better employee reliability and less absenteeism and turnover. They have a larger labor pool, and a higher quality of life for their employees, as access to transit options enhances personal economic opportunities.
There is no more time for debate, the need is urgent. This is a call to action for our representatives. We need your leadership on this most urgent issue. We must seize this job-creating opportunity and pass legislation to adequately support and bring about a regional, multimodal transit infrastructure encompassing both bus and rail transit. In Racine, we cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity.
Dick Hansen, President and CEO, Johnson Financial Group
Jeff Neubauer, President, Kranz Inc.
Jerry Franke, President, WISPARK LLC
Ed Lonergan, President and CEO, Diversey Inc.
Dave Perkins, President and CEO, Racine Federated Inc.
Dottie Metz, President, McDonald’s Restaurant
Dave Eberle, President, Norco Mfg.
Al Ruud, Chairman and CEO, Ruud Lighting Inc.
Mike Batten, Chairman and CEO, Twin Disc Inc.
Tom Burke, President and CEO, Modine Mfg. Co.
Jim Walker, Vice President, Case IH North America/CNH
Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO, SC Johnson
Jerry Ryder, President, InSinkErator
Jim Eastman, President, Merchants Moving & Storage Co.