Powered by bold conversations and the desire to improve the community, thousands of people came together at dozens of locations across the Greater Milwaukee area on October 10, as part of the “On the Table MKE” initiative.

Each privately organized group held discussions covering a wide range of subjects from gun violence, mental health, racial equity, LGBTQ issues, to environmental concerns that related to the shared Milwaukee condition.

One of the “On the Table MKE” meetings took place along Fond Du Lac Avenue in the BRIC building. Originally the home of the first African American Bank in Milwaukee, North Milwaukee State Bank, the site was repurposed as a location to support the local community of business professionals and entrepreneurs.

The “On the Block” discussion focused on economic development and inspiring entrepreneurship in underserved communities. Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation attended that “On the Table” talk, along with Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II of the 15th District.

“Entrepreneurship and economic development, particularly in under invested neighborhoods, is one of our key priorities,” said Gilligan. “I know that philanthropy has a really important role to play for investing resources in under invested neighborhoods.”

Organized by Athena Communications, the several dozen individuals in attendance held deep conversations about poverty, economic security and development, opportunities for people of color, and how to improve the entrepreneurial environment for the district. Following the discussions was a brainstorming session that sought to outline action steps based on the shared information.

The overall challenge of the discussion series remains how to solve institutional problems without the assistance of those stakeholders. And ways to nurture grassroots progress so that it can take hold, expand, and be replicated throughout the region.

“My philosophy has been, as long as you have a business plan, an idea and ability for how to develop it, the city will support you,” said Alderman Stamper. “All ideas are on the table. We want to provide the 15th District with every opportunity possible to make entrepreneurial development happen.”

The 15th District is currently saturated with some non-growth businesses, and Alderman Stamper is looking to develop the industries of manufacturing, urban agriculture, retail and restaurants, and even technology. His goal is to help stimulate good ideas and then help make them happen.