While Lake Michigan serves as a natural barrier to the east, the region’s supply of land is plentiful, and barriers to entry are few. As a result, commercial and residential development will continue to expand.
The Milwaukee metro encompasses Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties, a region that spans 1,500 square miles. The metro is home to nearly 1.6 million residents, with around 600,300 living in the city of Milwaukee. Waukesha and West Allis are the most populated suburban cities.
Private business underpins Milwaukee’s economy, with manufacturing at its core. The local economy has diversified into other critical industries such as data processing, insurance, mutual funds and printing. This year, the metro’s GMP is expected to increase more than 2.4 percent, with retail sales also in positive territory.
Manufacturing, which accounts for 14 percent of the region's employment, produces an annual output in excess of $24 billion. Local policymakers and public institutions have begun to pull away from old-line manufacturing industries and place greater importance on high-growth technical industries by providing incentives to attract and retain these businesses. Milwaukee companies on the Fortune 500 list now range from manufacturing to insurance and retail.
Education and health services is becoming a more dominant sector in the economy, expanding even during the recent downturn. This segment will continue to grow as the aging population needs increased healthcare services.
The Milwaukee area’s topography consists of gently rolling terrain and fertile soil, which has historically supported a significant agricultural base.