WisBusiness: Manpower CEO blames poor risk management for financial crunch

By Russell Korinek

For WisBusiness.com

Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Joerres scoffed at notions that foreign markets were somehow immune or “decoupled” from the U.S. economic recession and blamed poor risk management for the recent market slide.

“Risk was disregarded, and terrible decisions were made,” Joerres said of the path chosen by financial institutions leading up to today’s economic troubles.

Joerres said the impact of the economic downturn will be two-fold. It is going to cause a global recession, and foster a cynicism toward working with U.S. institutions, he said.

Joerres made the statements today during a discussion on the Marquette University campus about the global and local economy as part of the “On the Issues” series with Mike Gousha.

The recession is like a line of dominoes tipping over, Joerres said, “We’re about half-way through that.”

Manpower is a global company specializing in workplace training and recruitment, as well as providing business outsourcing and consulting services to companies and individuals.

He mentioned the proposed halting of production at a Janesville General Motors plant and said the labor market had a way to go yet, and that it might be June before it bottoms out. He added that the draw on Manpower’s employee assistance program has increased 40 percent even though no one has been laid off.

Because it’s an election year, Joerres said, the parties are split on how to manage the economic crisis. He said whoever becomes president will have to overcome bipartisanship and reach across the aisle in order to work out a solution.

On local issues, Joerres said that Milwaukee has a unique opportunity to become a hub of water related industry and fresh water research. “It can grow jobs,” he said, adding that it would stimulate business in engineering firms.

When asked what the biggest economic challenge was in the Milwaukee region, Joerres said there needs to be a more courageous approach to growing business. He criticized traditional approaches to stimulating regional economy. “We are not courageous enough to break the rules,” Joerres said.