MILWAUKEE — After 29 years at the helm of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Tim Sheehy has a pulse in the Milwaukee business community. 

For decades, one of MMAC’s​ major goals has been attracting new business to downtown Milwaukee. Now, attracting workers to staff those businesses is a major goal as well.

“I think that is the preeminent challenge and opportunity for the region is to find the talent companies need to stay globally competitive,” Sheehy said.

Like in many parts of the country, Milwaukee area businesses have struggled to hire in a variety of roles.

Sheehy said it is all the more reason to make sure that Milwaukee remains an attractive place to recruit talent. He cites projects like the newly opened 3rd Street Market Hall as examples of things that can entice people to the city.

In an era where remote work appears to be at least somewhat permanent, Sheehy said he believes making sure people have reasons to still come downtown are important.

Sheehy said that the pandemic has likely made long-lasting changes to how people work.

“I think the pandemic has changed the way people look at work, it has changed how certain jobs are done, particularly in customer facing roles,” Sheehy said. “It has put a premium on every employer to make sure their working environment is attractive, safe, and that people can see improving their skills because if they don’t, they have other options and they are going to move.”

Sheehy said Milwaukee’s job market has made a major rebound since more than 110,000 jobs were lost in the region at the start of the pandemic. Sheehy said about 69% of those jobs have now returned.