Marotta: Miller Brewing Revamping Community Outreach Efforts
MILWAUKEE - Kim Marotta toiled as a litigator in the Wisconsin public defenderís office for nearly 14 years.
But in the summer of 2004, the 38-year-old mother of four youngsters gave up representing poor Milwaukee residents in court and jumped to Miller Brewing Co.
There, she took on the newly created job of social responsibility director, charged with revamping the companyís community investment program.
In May, Miller unveiled REACH Ė which stands for Responsibilty, Employment, AIDS/HIV, Cultural Diversity, Heritage initiatives - as the new brand for its corporate giving efforts.
At a reception at the company Frederick J. Miller Pub, the company handed out $1.8 million in grants to 35 community organizations. The brewery also announced other partnerships, in-kind donations and volunteer efforts by employees.
ďUltimately, there can be no choice between doing the right thing for the community and the right thing for society,Ē Marotta said at the time.
WisBusiness.com Editor Brian Clark interviewed Marotta recently in her Milwaukee office.
Brian Clark: Itís been about a year since you made the switch from the public defenderís office to Miller. How has it gone?
Kim Marotta: Itís great and I feel like Iíve been here a long time. I loved the public defenderís office and I was there for almost 14 years. Iíd become kind of entrenched in it.
When I first started there, I went thinking that I loved to litigate. Iíd been working for a personal injury firm in the summers and I thought Iíd like to do some personal injury work. I knew I wanted to be in the courtroom, so I figured Iíd stop over at the public defenderís office and gain some great experience and then move on.
But I got so engrossed in what you are doing that it is hard to leave. When you enjoy a job that much, you think why would I want to do anything else? It filled a lot of gaps for me.
Clark: Did you spend your whole career there?
Marotta: Yes, I went there right out of law school.
Clark: You have four children, how have you balanced family with your career?
Marotta: One of the major benefits about working for the state is that there was flexibility that allowed me to stay there and even be promoted and move into different positions.
I got promotions even when I was pregnant, so my job was family friendly. That made me somewhat indebted because the agency went out of its way to work with me. There are other working moms there who feel the same way.
The great thing about our public defender system is that itís extremely well run. Itís a great place for a woman to work who wants to have a family. Itís a good job and I think Wisconsin is unusual in that respect. When I last looked, the average time people worked in the public defenders office was 10 years.
Clark: What made you want to make a change?
Marotta: Eventually I was helping run the Milwaukee office, while having to be in Madison on some Fridays. Then I was promoted up to the Madison office when I was pregnant with our fourth baby. I commuted back and forth to Madison from our home in Mequon after she was born. I felt it was a job I could do with kids, despite the commute.
When I took the job, we thought we would move to Madison. My husband Marc had taken a job with the governor (as head of the Department of Administration).
After Marc had about six months under his belt, he said we could handle commuting. And I was able to work part of the week in Milwaukee. We didnít really want to leave our home, which we had built, and our lives over here. Eventually, that drove me to look for another job. With four kids, I couldnít do the commuting and I began to look elsewhere.
Marc still commutes though. He gets up early to miss the commute traffic and comes home after rush hour. Now he has an intern who drives him back and forth so he can do phone messages and Blackberry stuff. Heís made it work, but it wore me out.
Clark: Do you think heíll stay the entire term?
Marotta: I donít know. If he were a woman, it would be all mapped out. But heís committed to the job, so I donít know.
Clark: You were a business and marketing major at Marquette, how did you make the jump to law school?
Marotta: I wanted to work for United Airlines in marketing, but they offered me a job as a flight attendant. I didnít go to college to do that. I figured I needed more schooling, so I went to law school figuring that I eventually would come back to business. But I fell in love with litigating.
Clark: Are there any similarities in your current job and being a public defender?
Marotta: Actually, there are a lot. As a public defender, I think I spent 50 percent of my time as what you would think of as a traditional social worker. I was meeting with my clients, helping them find jobs, working on alcohol and drug issues.
You couldnít just be concerned about what happened only in the courtroom. You needed to do everything you could to make sure they didnít end up back in court a year later. You wanted to help rehabilitate them while their cases were going on. I knew a lot about schools and community programs and organizations as part of my work.
Clark: Did you have any second thoughts or find any irony in coming to work for a brewery, when many of your public defender clients had alcohol problems?
Marotta: One of my jobs is to liaison with our "Responsibility" initiative. At Miller, we really take very seriously the responsible use of our products. To me, that goes hand-in-hand. It certainly isnít at opposite ends of the spectrum.
We support centers that deal with alcohol and drug problems. We also support and work with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Milwaukee. They have a program called Check 21 in which they talk to young people about the importance of not using alcohol products until they reach 21. They go on field trips, for lack of a better word, and visit convenience stores and have someone try to buy alcohol. If a product is not sold, they give that store a sticker.
I see our responsibility initiative as part of a continuous stream recognizing alcohol issues and working to prevent youth access and abuse.
Clark: How has the job changed since you took over?
Marotta: Right now, Iím spending about 50 percent of my time on our upcoming 150th anniversary. And thatís been an absolute privilege. That wonít continue once the event happens.
From the corporate and social investment standpoint it has changed in that prior to me starting and prior to South African Breweries coming on the scene, Miller looked at investing its communities in a much more philanthropic manner.
The philosophy was to give a lot to everybody. That was terrific and we were able to reach out to a lot of different groups and talk to those different groups and have some impact.
What we do now is more focused. In corporate social investment, we look at people and groups in our communities that challenge the dominant ways of thinking and stereotypes and help bring a voice to those individuals. We considered our business strategy and our business needs. We then looked at the community and tried to marry those needs together.
We asked ďwhat is the community most concerned about?Ē
Before we gave out a lot of checks, but we didnít know if the community needed it or if it would have an impact. So we did an extensive survey and asked employees and residents alike what were their top issues.
Overwhelmingly it came back that they wanted the creation of good, family sustaining jobs. But we hadnít really focused on that in years past. Still, as a manufacturing company, we are all about bringing family sustaining jobs to the community.
Clark: For example?
Marotta: We have a signature program we are retooling called the Miller Urban Entrepreneur Series. We have set up seminars and a mentoring and have dollars for individuals who want to start their own entrepreneurial businesses.
We are trying to make this bigger. And we partner with groups top create initiatives and jobs. We are also working with the Wisconsin Womenís Business Investment Corp. In the past, we would have given them $10,000 for their annual luncheon.
Now we are saying we want to not only support you, but be involved with you. We have a member on their board. We have volunteers there. We want to measure some impact and invest in your initiatives. We said ďWe love your luncheon, but we do more at the grass-roots level.Ē
We invested $100,000 last year with United Way and their employment initiatives and employment-focused non-profit organizations.
Clark: How much money did Miller invest in the Urban Entrepreneur program?
Marotta: One million dollars. We also have made a $25,000, two-year commitment to the Milwaukee Public Market that opens in July. That market will create 120 new jobs and 20 new businesses. It will support first-time retailers. Everyone in that market will be a new business.
Clark: What have you done with AIDS?
Marotta: We didnít want to duplicate what others were doing. We wanted to do something that was niche-defining. In Milwaukee, where we spend 70 percent of our dollars, we have had strong connections with Camp Heartland (for children with AIDS) and wrote out their second check ever back in 1991 or 1992.
We were one of the first companies that got involved in the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin about 20 years ago when it wasnít the thing to do to step up and talk about AIDS and HIV. We also have supported Wisconsin AIDS fund.
We asked ourselves what else we could do with AIDS and we recently invested with the Center for International Health run by Mark Anderson. We invest dollars that train physicians here so that when they go over to Africa, they train nurses, physicians and midwives to do what they can to treat and do what they can in regards to people with AIDS.
As a company that is international and has some significant roots in South Africa, it was an issue that we felt like we needed to stand up as a company and make a difference when it comes to AIDS/HIV.
Clark: How long has Miller been part of SAB?
Marotta: Two-and-one-half years.
Clark: Is what you are doing unique for an American company? Or are there other companies doing similar things?
Marotta: From what Iíve read and researched, corporate social investment has its roots in Europe. Our counterparts in South Africa have been engaged in it since the early 1970s. It is their way of doing business and
thinking. When SAB came in, they brought that philosophy that you need to
do whatís right for the company and the society.
I think what happens here, if you look at the giving, so many of the dollars are given to the arts. Thatís not so similar to what they do in Europe. At the same time, we have not stepped away from the arts.
What weíve done instead is what weíve termed the ďheritage initiative,Ē which ties back to the company. If we are supporting an arts organization, it needs to tie back to the company and the community.
So we have been name and title sponsors for practically as long as you can remember for the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts, of the Christmas Carol at the Repertory Theater, which had its roots at the Project Miller Theater Ė what the Rep used to be called. Weíre also sponsors of the Lakefront Festival of the Arts, with the Rainbow Summers, which are now called Live at the Center. So we are not walking away from the arts.
We still spend a lot. But now we are really tied to where our experiences are from our heritage perspective in things that make Milwaukee and are tied to our beer.
Clark: Have you dropped anything or any groups?
Marotta: When we were owned by Phillip Morris, we were focused a little more on domestic violence. We also gave a lot of money to arts programs across the board. Domestic violence isnít gone off the table, because we support those efforts through the Miller Brewing Company Fund. Employees chose domestic violence, at-risk youth and hunger and theyíve invested more than $5 million there in the past five years. Employees run that and it's administered by a board of 17 employees. ...
Clark: Are there any arts groups that have seen a reduction in what they received?
Marotta: We werenít involved last year with the ballet and the Nutcracker. We need to talk to them so that can be part of our heritage initiative. Some of the groups have not received the same level of spending. We sponsored KoíThi, an African-American dance group, for a long time and we are still interested in sponsoring them from a cultural diversity standpoint. Things are done a little differently. Our major effort is the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts, where we spend we spend $175,000.
They had 8,000 bicyclists participate recently. Even if we donít directly support an arts group, perhaps it will benefit from money raised in this and administered by the United Performing Arts Fund umbrella group.
Clark: How much do you invest a year through corporate social investment?
Marotta: A little over $6 million. In the past, weíve been quiet about that. But this May, we brought all of our grant recipients in and we had an activity in our pub and presented the grants. The different groups networked and we also invited other people from the community in so they could see and get a feel where our concerns and needs are.
We will do this three or four times a year. In September, we will invite our employees so they can what kinds of opportunities there are to volunteer. We are trying to be much more communicative in the ways we spend our dollars.
Clark: Has the total amount of spending gone up under your direction?
Marotta: To tell you the truth, I donít know because we didnít keep very good track of our giving. We didnít capture it. Everyone had their own budget and did their own thing across the company. We are now getting a handle on it. All I can do is tell you we are getting better at measuring it.
Clark: Do you have a sense that itís increasing?
Marotta: Iím trying to make that happen. There is support from both our parent company and from our CEO to make sure that the dollars we are spending are as significant and strong as ever.
Clark: What do you like most about your job?
Marotta: Thereís not just one thing, but I like making a difference. For years I thought about what might be my next step. I get to do everything I enjoy and believe in here.
Clark: Do you use your legal skills at all?
Marotta: No and for now I donít mind that. Itís nice to take a break. Obviously, I deal with the legal department constantly. But I can walk by the law library here and not have any yearning desire to open up a statute book. I do not miss sitting in court all day waiting for a case to be called or running to the jail or prison. I could stay at this job for years.
Clark: Do you wish you could help more organizations?
Marotta: I certainly wish we had a $100 million we could give away. But you also need to spend your money wisely. You donít want to be giving just to be giving. You need to measure your impact and make sure you are making a difference.
Clark: Is there a certain percentage of profits that companies try to give back to their communities?
Marotta: I think the standard is 1 percent of your pre-tax profits. We are above that.
Clark: Are there any companies in the United States that give a lot more than that? Is there a gold standard?
Marotta: Target, for example, talks about being in the 5 percent club. That is highly unique and unusual, though. One percent seems to be a pretty recognized standard.
Clark: Can you talk a little more about the REACH program and its diversity efforts?
Marotta: We wanted people to better understand our platform and we liked an acronym that symbolizes what we do. I know it might sound a little hokey, but we truly do want to reach down into the community to make a difference and reach out to our employees and touch the needs that they have.
Cultural diversity is very important because Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the country. We have the highest teen pregnancy rate, the highest disproportion of minority commitment rate and 56 percent of African-American males over the age of 16 are unemployed.
We looked at those issues, we decided we needed to get involved as a company that lives in the heart of central city. We need to look at our neighborhoods, what is surrounding us and make a difference.
We decided to reach out to Boys and Girls Clubs, the United Community Center, the Latino Community Center, the NAACP and other groups like LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The unemployment issues for Milwaukee, its minority communities and the city as a whole are significant.
Between 2001 and 2004, the city of Milwaukee lost 71,000 manufacturing jobs. As a manufacturing company, thatís significant and we said "what are we going to do in regards to those issues."
A year from now, I hope we can look back and see that we made a difference, that we hit the right areas, were able to help create more jobs, help bridge some cultural diversity gaps and improve life overall here.