DIANE HENDRICKS: AMERICA’S SECOND RICHEST WOMAN’S QUEST TO REVIVE BELOIT, WI!

https://www.nytimes.com/video/business/100000005337194/beloit-a-small-wisconsin-town-seeks-to-become-a-tech-haven.html?emc=edit_nn_20170807&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1

Alexandra Stevenson writes in the NY Times Business Section:

BELOIT, Wis. — When Diane Hendricks sees something she doesn’t like here, she buys it.

A bankrupt country club. A half-empty mall. Abandoned buildings. The rusting foundry down by the river.

Beloit used to be a town that made papermaking machines and diesel engines. Ms. Hendricks thinks it can be a place where start-ups create the next billion-dollar idea, and she is remaking the town to fit her vision. She can do so because she is the second-richest self-made woman in the United States, behind only Marian Ilitch of Little Caesars Pizza, according to Forbes magazine.

“I see old buildings, and I see an opportunity for putting things in them,” says Ms. Hendricks, 70, who got her start fixing up houses here as a single mother and made her billions selling roofing felt, copper gutters and cement with her late husband, Ken.

Now Ms. Hendricks is fixing up Beloit.

She took the library from its historic location downtown and resurrected it inside a failing mall at the edge of town, replacing the original with a performing arts center where dance and music students from Beloit College can study and perform each year. Then she scooped up nearly every building on a downtown block and knocked each one down, making way for a sushi restaurant, a high-quality burger joint and modern apartments with marble countertops and exposed-brick walls.

Lyndon French for The New York Times

“It’s the one thing that Ken and I said we’d never do: buy restaurants or a golf course. And now we have both.”

Diane Hendricks, founder and chairwoman of ABC Supply.

She called the complex the Phoenix. “It looks like we’re beautifying the city, but we’re really beautifying the economy,” she says, casting her piercing blue eyes out of the window of her office in Ironworks, the old foundry complex she converted into a commercial space.

She has wooed several start-ups, persuading them to set up shop in the old foundry building — one with the help of Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, who personally called the co-founders on her behalf.

Ms. Hendricks, a major Republican donor, was briefly thrust into the national spotlight a few years ago when she was recorded asking Mr. Walker to break up the labor unions. He then introduced a bill limiting the ability of public workers to bargain over wages. In response, protesters occupied the halls of the Capitol for weeks.

Not long ago, Beloit’s economy was ugly. Like many American cities — Detroit, Youngstown, Gary — it had fallen victim to the damage that is wrought when one major industry vanishes from town, reversing local fortunes.

Beloit is different today. That’s because this town of nearly 37,000 has a billionaire who has gone to great lengths to help it turn a corner.

In a nation with countless struggling towns and small cities, Beloit is not a model for economic revival that is easily replicated, although a few others have tried.

. . . .

Despite Ms. Hendricks’s efforts, unemployment is still high. A short drive south of the Phoenix and new buildings turn to boarded-up shops. Beloit remains deeply troubled. About a quarter of the population lives in poverty, twice the rate of residents in the rest of Rock County. One in every four children lives in poverty in the county, according to Project 16:49, a nonprofit group that works with homeless youth.

What’s more, many new jobs are filled by people who commute to Beloit from nearby cities. At AccuLynx, a software company based in the Ironworks, just 17 percent of the employees live in Beloit. The rest live in nearby towns in Wisconsin and just over the border in Illinois.

And many of the new jobs require technical skills, like engineering, that residents who once worked in manufacturing often lack. “I know that there are parts of Beloit that are not sharing in this renaissance,” says Scott Bierman, president of Beloit College.

Mr. Bierman credits Ms. Hendricks for providing a vision of how things can be. Still, he says, “I worry a lot.”

While he does see signs that what Ms. Hendricks has built can be sustainable, “We’ll know a lot more once we get through the next recession,” he said.

For now, around 1,000 people currently work out of Ironworks, according to Mr. Gerbitz of Hendricks Commercial Properties. “Our goal is to get to 5,000, which was what was lost when Beloit Corporation went away,” he said.

Ironworks today is a far cry from its foundry origins. At AccuLynx, the software firm, there is a giant slide running down from the second floor to the first, a video-game console and a giant gold bell that is rung when sales are made.

AccuLynx’s founder, Rich Spanton, described the day his grandfather, who had worked at the foundry as a superintendent for nearly a half-century, visited the building, where he had spent a career assembling steel parts for paper machines. He was astonished at what he saw.

“He walked in,” Mr. Spanton recalls, “and he said, ‘Jeez, we couldn’t have gotten any work done if this had been our office.’”

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Cathy, Luna, and I happen to be in Beloit, Wisconsin this week visiting our daughter Anna, who is a middle school teacher in the Beloit Public Schools, her husband, Daniel, who is a Professor of Musicology at Beloit College, and their children Oscar and Eve. Cathy, Luna, and I actually walked by the “Phoenix Complex” this morning on our way to a vegan morning breakfast and coffee at “Bagels and More.” On the way back to Anna’s we walked along the Rock River walkway and saw the revitalized Iron Works Complex on the other side. Daniel’s office and classrooms are in the Hendricks Center for the Arts, mentioned in this article. All in all, Hendricks’s vision is everywhere in this part of Beloit.
As its often the case, not everyone here is a “fan” of Hendricks, particularly because of her politics and opposition to unions. On the other hand, one has to respect that 1) Hendricks worked hard for her money — she was a key part of her husband’s American success story; 2) she is turning her money into a public good, something that certainly not all billionaires do (nobody is “making” her invest in Beloit, rather than buying more cars, private planes, swimming pools, vacation homes, etc,. or doing some of the self-indulgent things that some other billionaires enjoy), 3) much like “white resentment,” there is always a certain amount of resentment of the rich just because they are rich; and 4) she can’t do it all — she’s bringing a different kind of job opportunity to Beloit and maybe it’s now up to others in the community and those who want to improve their lot to work hard to develop the skills needed to be successful in a technology-based regional economy — heavy manufacturing and machine tooling aren’t coming back to Beloit — ever.
I have to say that I’m quite favorably impressed by Hendricks’s efforts. Makes me wonder what would happen if someone “on the other side of the political equation” like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg joined up with her in a nonpartisan effort to bring the technological training to the area necessary to get the rest of the community into meaningful jobs. At any rate, she’s certainly someone who is “walking the walk and talking the talk.” Seems like a good role model for folks of any political persuasion.
Interestingly, in the complete story, a key point was when Hendricks and her late husband were turned down for a loan in Janesville, WI because the bank “didn’t want their kind of entrepreneurs.” (Sort of reminds me of the attitude some folks take toward migrants today.) So, they got out of Janesville and went to a more welcoming community — Beloit.
Just shows that “little insults, slights, and ‘disses,’ can have a huge and unexpected long term impact.” Something that Trump and his followers should keep in mind when dealing with all types of migrants. There almost certainly will come a day when we will need the goodwill and help of many of them — what impressions are we leaving with our current national dialogue on immigration and what will be the long-tern impact on America and our history?
Finally, this story wouldn’t be complete without a “shout out” to Anna, Daniel, and the other families making up the “Beloit Proud” movement. A core of young professionals, many connected with Beloit College, have chosen to make Beloit their homes, rather than “fleeing” to Madison, Rockford, IL., or even Janesville. They send their children to Beloit Public Schools, are heavily involved in community activities cities, and try to “buy local” and use local services whenever possible. Many have chosen to live in neighborhoods within walking distance from Beloit College. And, it seems to be working. Just in Anna’s and Daniel’s immediate neighborhood some dynamic young families have chosen to make Beloit their home and fix up their properties “just because it seems like a great place to live and do business.” I also wrote about “Beloit Proud” and the Beloit College in a post earlier this summer about my short experience as a “Guest Professor” in Professor Jennifer Esperanza’s Cultural Anthropology course June. http://immigrationcourtside.com/2017/06/05/anth-375-beloit-college-professor-jennifer-esperanza-her-students-blaze-path-to-understanding-migration-in-the-liberal-arts-context-every-college-in-america-should-be-teaching-these-essential/
I doubt that I will ever meet Diane Hendricks. If I did, I’m sure we wouldn’t find much common political ground. But, we would agree that investing in Beloit and making it a great place to live — for everyone — is a great and noble idea and that she is setting an example for others to follow.
PWS
08-07-17

ANTH 375 @ BELOIT COLLEGE: Professor Jennifer Esperanza & Her Students Blaze Path To Understanding Migration In The Liberal Arts Context — Every College In America Should Be Teaching These Essential Skills!

Back in 1973, when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School and  joined the staff of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) at the U.S. Department of Justice, nary a law school in the U.S. taught a course in immigration law. The handful of law school courses on the subject were taught almost entirely by Adjunct Professors. Indeed, shortly after I joined the Board, they sent me to what was then the premier law school immigration course at Georgetown Law taught by none other than Charles Gordon, the legendary General Counsel of the “Legacy” INS.

Today, thanks to a great extent to the efforts of such noted “scholar/public servants” as Professor David Martin of the University of Virginia Law School, Professor Alex Aleinikoff, former Dean of Georgetown Law, and Professor Stephen Legomsky of Washington University Law School, some form of immigration law or immigration clinic is offered at most major U.S. Law Schools.

But, a serious void remains at the most critical level of education: undergraduate institutions. However, at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, Professor Jennifer Esperanza is blazing the way for the future. Her “ANTH 375: Migrants, Immigrants, and Refugees” Summer Session class is jumping head-on into creating constructive dialogue, understanding, and action on the most important issue facing America today: migration.

I had the pleasure of working with Professor Esperanza and her fourteen “super students” as a “Guest Professor” during three days in late May. The students hailed from different backgrounds and entered the class with varying levels of immigration experience and interest.

Some were there because of their own backgrounds or prior work with migrants; others were there . . . well, just because they were there. But, funny thing, by the end of my three days I couldn’t tell the difference. Everyone pitched in as a team, demonstrated sharp analytical skills, asked incisive questions, showed creativity and originality, and made spectacular group presentations on some very tough subjects. In other words, it was all the things I love: fairness, scholarship, timeliness, respect, and teamwork!

Among our exercises: we watched and discussed the documentary “Credible Fear;” broke the group into two teams which designed and presented their own refugee systems based on competing “Mother Hen” and “Dick’s Last Resort” principles; and read, analyzed, and discussed two cases I had been involved in: the BIA’s landmark precedent Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1996) recognizing for the first time “female genital mutilation” (“FGM”) as a basis for asylum in the United States, and another decision (which was published on the internet) from my time at the Arlington Immigration Court where I granted “particular social group” asylum to a family from El Salvador.

I teach as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, one of the top law schools in the country. To my pleasant surprise, I found that Esperanza’s Beloit students were able to discuss the issues in a manner very similar to the class dialogue produced by some really great second-year, third-year, and graduate law students. Amazing!

I’m reproducing the results of the “Create Your Own Refugee System” exercise below, along with a class picture and some other pictures of my stay at Beloit (where my son-in-law, Daniel Barolsky, is a Professor of Musicology).

I also note that Professor Esperanza’s system and “real-world-oriented” approach to undergraduate education produces results, as in jobs in the real world! As featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Beloit College Magazine, Esperanza’s students were making an immediate difference: Jessica Slattery ’12, as a paralegal for the New York Legal Assistance Group in the Bronx, NY;  Dan Weyl ’10, with the Heartland Alliance, an international human rights organization that provides resources for LGBT refugees resettling in the United States (as a footnote, following retirement I have been helping out the Heartland Alliance Washington, DC, office with various projects); Jane Choi ’14, working on the political team at the British High Commission in Cape Town, South Africa; Key Ishii ’12, working with African refugees in Israel; Angela Martellaro ’10, a licensed real estate agent at Chief Properties in Kansas City, MO, specializing in helping refugee families from Myanmar buy their first home; and Nikki Tourigny ’10, working for Hot Bread Kitchen, a wholesale nonprofit bakery in NYC that trains immigrant and minority women to work in the restaurant industry.  Impressive!

On a personal note, I graduated in 1970 from Lawrence University, just up the road from Beloit in Appleton, WI. Like Beloit, Lawrence is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.

I majored in History, minored in German, and spent a semester abroad in Germany. I found that a broad research and writing intensive, liberal arts eduction that promoted critical analysis and effective dialogue was the best possible preparation for all that followed: U.W. Law School, government attorney, private practice of immigration law, and several Senior Executive Service positions with the U.S. government, as well as Adjunct Professor positions. I spent the last 21 hears of my career as a U.S. Immigration Judge at the appellate and trial levels and served as Chairman of the BIA for six years. I can’t imagine a better preparation for the global perspective, analytical ability, and research and writing skills needed for judicial work than what I received at Lawrence. I just wish that someone like Professor Esperanza had been teaching her innovative approach to cultural anthropology when I was an undergrad!

Finally, I might add that Professor Esperanza and her husband Paul, who works in Administration at the College, are part of a a group of talented young professionals, which includes my daughter Anna, who teaches middle school English in the Beloit Public Schools, her husband Daniel, and their children, who have chosen to make their homes in Beloit, near the College. They enjoy and actively participate the in Beloit community and are big supporters of the “Beloit Proud” movement.

Here’s the pictorial version of my “tenure” at Beloit.

ANTH 375: Migrants, Immigrants, and Refugees” – Professor Jenn Esperanza — May 2017 — Beloit College, Beloit WI

Back Row:

Dan Arkes, Me, Joe Enes, “The Talking Statue,” Mark Hauptfleisch, Cynthia Escobedo, Yoon Ja Na, Rosa Ennison, Keila Perez, Gabe Perry

Front Row:

Jamie Manchen, Professor Jennifer Esperanza, Leanna Miller, Terra Allen, Abby Segal, Matt Tarpinian

Here are the results of the “Create Your Own Refugee System” Exercise. Click on the links for some really “great stuff:”

For “Dick’s Last Resort:”

The GreatHermetic Principles

For the “Mother Hens:”

ANTH 375- Mother Hen Refugee Program

And, here’s what the class looked like “in action,” as well as a picture of our dog Luna in front of the historic “Middle College Building” at Beloit.

 

PWS

06-04-17