As an alderman for the 8th District for the City of Racine and a County Supervisor for District 6 in the County, I am very interested in the development of the events center and hotel in downtown Racine. This opportunity to build a significant structure with two possible tenants in the wings and an adjacent hotel could transform our largest municipality and help level out the tax base of the county.
In 1998, the city accounted for 30.4 percent of the tax base in Racine County; today, it stands at 22.7 percent. An infusion of $391 million over the next 30 years as predicted by the Hunden report would go a long way to help level out the tax base across the county.
The report done for RAMAC recommends locating the proposed events center downtown to capture maximum economic growth and dramatically increase spending downtown and all along the corridors leading to downtown. In addition, it would add morethan 200 permanent full-time jobs and almost 300 part-time jobs. Construction will bring an estimated 443 workers to the project. This kind of employment opportunity cannot be ignored.
Opportunities such as this are not necessarily convenient. By their very nature, opportunities follow their own timelines, and this one comes knocking as we are dealing with a tough economic environment — roads need fixing, levy limits restrict our sources of income, but hard decisions need to be made.
Whatever economic issues we are grappling with, the only real way out of our spiral is to grow the tax base. This project will grow the tax base.
What if every family, every couple, every group of friends could decide to attend an event here rather than travel to Milwaukee for entertainment, burning gas just to spend their money there? What if our high school regional tournaments could be held here instead of our kids sitting on buses and driving 30- or 90-miles or further away with families tagging behind in cars? What if our local companies, from all over the county, could hold their annual meetings here, their trade shows here, their company events here, instead of in Milwaukee? These are just a few of the possibilities for the proposed events center.
This isn’t really just about the Bucks or a hockey team or a trade show. It’s about seeing the possibilities for pulling ourselves, all of us, out of a decline and being smart about our shared future. It’s about taking advantage of an opportunity that really only knocks once.
Q.A. Shakoor II represents the 8th District on the Racine City Council and represents District 6 on the Racine County Board.