Panther Promoters formed to raise UW-Milwaukee’s profile

The new Panther Promoters has been formed by Milwaukee community and business leaders to “raise the profile” of UW-Milwaukee and boost resources.

Supporters are already lining up, including GMC, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Area Chamber of Commerce, the Milwaukee 7 and other groups from southeastern Wisconsin.

“We will work to ensure that UWM wins its fair share of the resources managed by the UW Regents, the governor, legislature and the state building commission,” said Rich Meeusen, one of the founders for Panther Promoters, CEO of Badger Meter and chairman of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

The Promoters will shine a spotlight on UWM’s “compelling set of strengths,” including its willingness to pursue diversity programs and its rising status as a research institution.

In 2016, UW-Milwaukee was designated as one of only two R1 research universities in Wisconsin, joining UW-Madison in being recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Other strong points are the school’s connections to Wisconsin companies, Division 1 athletics programs in basketball and baseball, and its “emerging role as a hub for entrepreneurship and startups.”

But this new group points to some issues it will attempt to address in the Milwaukee area, like comparatively high rates of poverty, a shortage of skilled workers, and the “growing but lagging” level of startups and venture capital.

“A vibrant UWM is essential to the mission of moving these crucial metrics in the right direction and creating a vibrant 21st century economy for the region,” said Gale Klappa, chairman of WEC Energy Group and co-chair of economic development group the Milwaukee 7.

Despite the size difference, Madison has consistently had better numbers both for venture capital investment and startups. But Madison already has a similar group advocating for UW-Madison: Badger Advocates.

This organization has a similar purpose, to increase available resources for the university, and influence leaders at all levels to support its missions and goals. Like the Badger Advocates, the Panther Promoters will operate independently from the university.

The Panther Promoters group says its early-stage goal is to advocate for a new formula for UW campus funding, which would reward “the heavy lifting on access for lower income and minority students,” granting more benefits to UW-Milwaukee.

Another founder of the group, Senior Vice President of PNC Bank Lori Craig, sees UW-Milwaukee as a crucial economic keystone for the entire state.

“Milwaukee goes as our flagship campus goes, and Wisconsin goes as Milwaukee goes,” Craig said.

–By Alex Moe