M Milwaukees Lifestyle Magazine November 2013 : Page 104

Rob Henken » Public Policy Forum In a highly charged and polarized political climate, Rob Henken, the president of the Public Policy Forum, says the PPF will continue to do what it has for the last 100 years: strive to enhance the quality of public policy decision-making in southeast Wisconsin with nonpartisan and objective research. “I think the forum is the best thing in Milwaukee since the all-you-can-eat fish fry,” says noted Milwaukee historian John Gurda. “It’s vital to have a clear voice speaking to the issues of the day, a voice everyone can trust. The forum is exactly that.” Since he joined the PPF in 2008, Henken earned two national awards for reports he authored on the Milwaukee County Transit System’s fiscal crisis and structural reform in Milwaukee County government. Previously Henken worked in Milwaukee County government, directed a pair of nonprofits and worked on Capitol Hill. “He may be the only person in Milwaukee who can get along with everyone,” says Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at UW-Milwaukee. “Rob has the perfect blend of experience, education and temperament for this role. He is an even-tempered, disciplined leader who knows how to avoid the quicksand and sand traps of the policy-making and political world. He is playing the long game rather than trying to win today’s headline or vote.” After growing up outside of Boston and living in Washington, D.C., Henken says he made an easy transition to Milwaukee. He appreciates the easy access to cultural and entertainment options and the character of the city and its people. “Sometimes people in Milwaukee tend to under appreciate the cultural and entertainment assets we have here,” he says. “It’s an accessible city and a wonderful place to raise a family.” » » » » » » Paul Upchurch VISITMilwaukee we went down to Taste of Chicago a few years back and interviewed people, we found that if they come to Milwaukee once, they come at least two or three more times,” says Paul Upchurch, president and CEO of VISIT Milwaukee. “It’s a market we’ve worked very hard to get a good foothold in.” Since he began leading VISIT Milwaukee in 2010, Upchurch and his staff have seen those efforts to attract visitors from Illinois pay off. Events like Summerfest, ethnic festivals, the Wisconsin State Fair and attractions like the Milwaukee Art Museum are bringing tourists to the city. “We’re seeing a shift where a larger percentage of ticket-buyers are from northern Illinois,” he says. “They love Milwaukee, and they’re marketed by a million other events in the Chicago area and lots of other cities and destinations.” Why do they love Milwaukee? “You get here, it’s a beautiful day, you see that it’s easy to get here, we have phenomenal hotels — you just see a great city,” he says. VISIT Milwaukee also concentrates on » Milwaukee is a great place to visit — just ask residents of northern Illinois. » “When » » » bringing groups and conventions to the city. A major coup was landing the Connect Marketplace meeting planners’ convention last August. Connect Marketplace brought 539 meeting planners who book national conventions to the city, many for the first time. “In the U.S., there are almost 220 convention centers, so we have a lot of cities competing for this group,” Upchurch notes. Upchurch, who also chairs the Governor’s Council on Tourism, says most Milwaukeeans don’t fully understand the significance of tourism to the local economy. According to a state report, tourism accounted for $1.6 billion in direct spending in Milwaukee County in 2012, “and it ripples through the economy at almost $2.9 billion,” Upchurch says. Tourism also accounts for nearly 30,000 full-time jobs in the area, which Upchurch says is his “biggest thrill.” “When you see the streets full of people, restaurants full, hotels full, big lines to get into the art museum, it gives great vitality to the city,” Upchurch says. “At the end of the day, you know you’re having an impact on peoples’ lives.” » » » 104 M | November 2013

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