Thursday, September 5, 2013

Harley & The Anniversary Wrap-Up - Why We Should Celebrate With Them

Every 5 years Harley brings in people, and
economic impact, from all over the world
I've seen and heard the complaints every five years from non-bikers and even non-Harley (dare I say anti-Harley) bikers alike. 'I'm getting out of town for the weekend.' 'They are so loud.' 'They are so unsafe (with a disclaimer of no helmet, no protective gear, their riding style, alcohol consumption, etc.)' Are the shouts of the unappreciative. Though I myself am a Harley-Davidson fan (and owner) I am not an apologist so I get it and agree with some points, but then my #MKEPRIDE kicks in along with my Buy Local heart and I must defend and celebrate not only the festivities but Harley itself.

Why do I like, even love Harley? I appreciate bikes in general and am a fan of other brands and types - especially if they are old or look that way - including Triumph, Norton, BMW and others. But my heart is given to Harley-Davidson. Reason #1 is that they are born and bred in Milwaukee.

But why should non-bikers or non-Harley-bikers in Milwaukee support Harley?  See Reason #1 above - they are a Milwaukee company.


The Museum sees visitors - and consumers - on Bike nights
but also pretty much any day or night
Sure, they have operations elsewhere including Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and yes some parts are manufactured even outside the US, but the last time I checked Harley still has four locations that employ people right here in the Greater Milwaukee. Their corporate HQ is still in Milwaukee and we have the Product Development Center on Capitol in Wauwatosa and the Powertrain Operations in Menomonee Falls, and most recently the Harely-Davidson Museum on Canal Street in Milwaukee. We could probably throw the dealerships in there as well. All of these places employ people from Milwaukee, keeping jobs and money in our city. They pay taxes here, they spend their money here, in short they support out local economy. Similar to a place like a cafe where the people that work there likely put some of their earnings right back to the company by buying the coffee there, the Harley product has a unique circular effect in that those that work there are likely to support the product. That means many have a Harley bike themselves, or at minimum wear its gear, and that means their earnings go right back into the local economy via their own product. Still skeptical about Harley's impact here in Milwaukee? Think about your friends and family - do you know anyone that is somehow employed by Harley? I myself can count many. An aunt works at a dealership, my best friend's step-dad worked there his whole career, a neighbor works for them, and I am acquainted with more people than I can count on one hand that work or worked there. Just in my own circle there are probably a dozen or more families supported by Harley-Davidson without even going to friends-of-friends. They also give back to Milwaukee - through their Foundation they support veterans, Big Briothers & Big Sisters, YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee and more through grants for Education, Health, and Environment, and for more than 27 years they have been a national supporter of programs to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They have also embraced the sustainability movement with their Renew the Ride program.

All the riders on all those bikes are spending money
in our fine city.
Now about that celebration. I get it, its an inconvenience for some as streets are shut down, traffic is backed up, noise levels rise exponentially - but then any festival can have the same impact if not on the same scale - and they are every year. Do you think the people who live or work around the State Fair grounds, Cathedral Square during Bastille Days, all the walks and runs on the lakefront, enjoy it when they can't get where they want to go? No. But do they enjoy and reap the benefits of the impact of those events? Yes. Think of it as having the Super Bowl (x10), or an Olympics, here- in Milwaukee - guaranteed every five years. The 110th is expected to have impacted the Milwaukee economy in the tens of millions of dollars. In less than a week. But the impact will likely stretch beyond that over the next five years. All those people that come in are exposed to Milwaukee when they might never have thought to come. And while here and enjoying themselves they may well just come to like Milwaukee and see or hear of things that they will never get the time to do while here for the celebration - and that means they may come back before the next one.

The celebrations held every five years is a great way to showcase Milwaukee as a city and all we have to offer, marketing the city could never even dream of if not for the Harley-Davidson calling it home. I think we can all not only tolerate, but celebrate the fact that we have such an opportunity presented to us. In fact, I think Harley should help amp up the Milwaukee Rally which is held the same time every year by local dealerships into an annual festival to compete with Daytona bike week, Sturgis, and Tomahawk.