Increased involvement and engagement with area schools is on tap for RAMAC, newly placed president Jim Ladwig told small business owners last week.

Ladwig was the featured speaker at the monthly Business Ideas Exchange luncheon at John’s Dock, 303 Dodge Street, followed by a Q&A session.

During his remarks, Ladwig outlined three areas on which he plans to focus.

Education

Ladwig said RAMAC (Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce) the last few years has been too silent about a number of public policy, most notably Racine Unified.

“We need to be involved in Racine Unified again because the challenge for area businesses is the available workforce,” he said. “We need our schools to produce the talent to fill positions.”

During a discussion about area schools during the Q&A session, Ladwig said RAMAC supports the creation of academy high schools that focus on different programs; IB/AP, construction, culinary arts, business, IT, healthcare, manufacturing, engineering and automotive.

“We need to train people to go into the community and work,” he said.

In answer to criticisms about district leadership, Ladwig urged residents to let Superintendent Lolli Haws and the new administrators try and turn things around.

“If the current administration doesn’t turn things around then we’ll have to look at radical change, but we have to give them a chance,” he said.

Worker training

Ladwig also said RAMAC training programs should go further than just getting people hired, so new offerings will include curriculum around “living as a leader.”

“The top 10 percent of workers get promoted, but they don’t know how to supervise even though they’re good at every other part of their job,” he said. “We’re going to offer that kind of training to new managers.”

Polling member companies first to find out what kind of training will better focus RAMAC’s efforts, Ladwig added.

Strengthening B2B connections

Businesses doing business with neighboring companies is another area Ladwig said could use more attention.

“It makes sense to do business with people you know already,” he said. “We’ll get better at providing networking opportunities so business owners can meet other business owners to make those connections.”

Q & A

Real estate values: Ladwig agreed property values have taken a hit but said he’s hopeful a turn-around is on the horizon. He pointed to Root River development plans and is also hopeful there’s interest in empty parcels along the lakefront just north of downtown.

Metra expansion: Ladwig confirmed any Metra expansion is a dead deal for now, but that he also thinks mass and commuter transit is important.

“Any plans will never get through Madison right now,” he said. “We do need better connections, including with Amtrak.”

Changing RAMAC’s name: Ladwig said the organization’s name will stay put and said the focus should be on whether or not RAMAC leaders are providing valuable services. He said 80 percent of member companies are more chamber-type businesses, but 70 percent of dues are from manufacturing.

“We’re trying to make everyone happy here,” he said.

Empty downtown storefronts: Ladwig confirmed RAMAC is involved in discussions to bring additional businesses downtown but said he has very little sway when it comes to the meters attendees agreed are a large part of the problem.

 

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