Former U.S. Small Business Administration director Karen Mills urged Milwaukee-area business leaders Tuesday to focus on growing innovation and entrepreneurship in southeastern Wisconsin as a way to improve the region’s economy. Check out the attached slideshow to see photos from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s 2017 Economic Forum.

“Things are very polarizing in the political community,” said Mills, who served as head of the SBA under President Barack Obama from 2009-2013. “You cannot rely on Washington to do it for you. You have the ability to make a difference in your community and make Milwaukee more competitive.”

A sold-out crowd of more than 650 Milwaukee-area business executives attended the popular event at The Pfister Hotel. Mills is now a senior fellow at the Harvard Business School, where she focuses on competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Mills outlined the Milwaukee-area’s rankings when it comes to innovation and startups, noting it had declined over the past year, and urged business executives to focus more on increasing the number of businesses in the service supply chain.

When asked about what landing Foxconn Technology Group and its $10 billion manufacturing complex would mean for southeastern Wisconsin, Mills warned to not let it be the area’s only focus.

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