UpFront: Nettles says new Bucks arena would be ‘transformational’ for downtown Milwaukee

Former Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles says a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks would have a “transformational” impact on downtown Milwaukee.

The Bucks investor told “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” the facility would draw a $500 million direct investment, and generate another $250 million in ancillary development in downtown Milwaukee. Nettles said cultural and entertainment assets like the ballet and orchestra, as well as major league teams like the Brewers and Bucks, are essential to making Milwaukee a “tier one” city.

“When you’re talking about getting a billion dollars invested into the city of Milwaukee economy, that’s huge, and that’s transformational,” Nettles said on the program, produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

But Nettles said he understands why some oppose the $250 million public investment in the arena. A new public financing deal is slated to come before the Legislature as early as this week.

“There needs to be a very, very healthy, robust and constructive conversation about the investment of those kind of public dollars,” Nettles said. “It’s hard, because the process is moving very quickly and we’ve got a budget deadline that we’re up against, we’ve got an NBA deadline that we’re up against, we have a construction season deadline that we’re up against.”

Referencing his time as commerce secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle, Nettles said he experienced resistance to the use of public funds to assist or motivate a variety of private businesses. He said such investments are needed to draw in large companies and entice existing businesses to stay in Wisconsin.

“If you have a tier one corporation that’s a national or multinational corporation that could end up being anywhere in the world, we want them here in Milwaukee,” Nettles said. “The other states are going to compete and throw a lot of incentives at them… we don’t have to compete dollar-for-dollar, but we have to support those companies.”