Our Issues Milwaukee – August 21, 2016 (Part 1)

Good Morning and welcome to Our Issues Milwaukee. I’m your host Andrea Williams. Our focus this morning is on the largest entertainment
destination in the Midwest, Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Potawatomi has been in business since 1991
and their unique purpose is to not only entertain their guests, but also create opportunity
for the Forest County Potatawomi Tribe, their team members and the community. My first guest is Ryan Amundson, External
Communication Manager for Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. How are you Ryan? Good morning. I’m well, thank you. Always good to see you. Good to see you too. Potawatomi actually attracts more than six
million visitors each annually. That’s a lot of people to think about. A lot of people. But those numbers actually show the growth
in the establishment, and with that growth has come a greater commitment to the community. Yeah, I think the Forrest County Potawatomi
have…this community has been so good to the tribe and to the casino, and giving back
is extremely important to us. You know we just kicked off our big Heart
of Canal Street campaign this week, so we’re very pleased with that. It’s our biggest charitable initiative of
the year and we’re getting that rolling and we’ll be doing this into December. Yes. And we’re going to talk all about that because
it is that time of year to actually raise funds for your signature charity event, as
you just said, Heart of Canal Street. Tell us a little bit more about it and how
it got established? Sure. It’s our signature community program, and
what it is is we raise money through our bingo sessions. Each and every bingo session people can play
the Canal Street bingo game. It’s either $3 or $7, and half of the money
goes into the pot for the winner of that game, and the other half goes into our fundraising
pot, which goes to 31 very worthy charities that benefit children throughout Southeastern
Wisconsin. Yes, and since 1994, Heart of Canal Street
has raised nearly $16 million. That’s a lot of money. That’s…it’s hard to wrap your arms around
how much that is, but you know it’s gone to such a diverse base of charities throughout
the region. You know charities that put food on kids’
tables, charities that put roofs over their heads, charities that put clothes on them
to keep them warm, charities that put books in their hand, that you know help them with
their education, after school programs. Just a wide swath of charities that are benefit
from Heart of Canal Street. And that’s what makes it all so special, and
I always call it a win-win scenario, especially when you’re talking about gaming because you’ve
got your bingoers…is that a word, bingoers? I think you just made it up. Right? We’ll go with it. You’ve got your bingo players who actually
walk away with half the pot, and then the other half going to Heart of Canal Street,
and what’s really special is this goes on now through December. Yeah, this is a fun way to raise money for
charities. I mean you can win a boatload of cash while
you’re doing some really nice things for kids in our community. So yeah, it’s…our bingo players have been
so generous over the years. And to think about $16 million, last year
alone we raised over $1 million, and we’re able to give to a different batch of 31 charities. Each of them walked away with about $30,000,
so for many of them this is a budget changing experience for their year. You better believe that, and you did mention
that the 31 children’s charities from Southeastern Wisconsin, but there are 10 signature charities
that have 10 media sponsors. Let’s talk about those. Sure, yeah, we’ve got…every year we have
media sponsors who are so generous to us, give us promotional time, run ads for us to
get the word out so we can raise this $1 million….hopefully $1 million every year. And we give them the opportunity to choose
the charity of their choice each and every year. And again, we think they’ve done a wonderful
job choosing those charities this year. Everything from the Humane Society, Pearls
for Teen Girls, Northcott Neighborhood House, which you’ll be talking to mac in just a little
while. Charities that are doing unbelievable things
in our community and that are making our community better. Yeah, and they’ve been…many of them have
been doing it for many, many years and the fact that Potawatomi is willing to step in
and help them continue to do what they’re doing, and to really enhance some of their
programming and services really says a lot. Focusing on some of these charities, as you
mentioned, there’s Northcott Neighborhood House and Milwaukee Radio Group, which I happen
to work for that company as well, that includes Jammin’ 98.3, WKLH and the Hog and a couple
of other stations, we are actually sponsoring Northcott Neighborhood House, and then there
is the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. Their media partner is Lamar Outdoor. Then Milwaukee Public Museum, you had OnMilwaukee.com
to choose them. SHARP Literacy is sponsored by the Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel? Yeah. I hope you’re no quizzing me on this because
I couldn’t tell you who’s got who. And then there’s Pearls for Teen Girls. I know you deal with a lot of stuff so, yeah
the great thing is that all of these organizations that I just mentioned have been featured on
this show, so hopefully our viewers know of all the great things that they do to make
a difference in the lives of children and their families every day. So I’m proud to say that Potawatomi also does
something super major where the first $100,000 goes to your chosen signature. Yeah, last year we started…we not only changed
our name from Miracle on Canal Street to Heart of Canal Street last year. Many of your viewers will probably remember
that. But we also decided to implement our charity
of choice, and you know for 20 some odd years we’ve had our media partners choose charities,
we’ve had a random drawing of charities, and we thought, you know what? We’ve done this for so long, I think we should
choose a charity this year, and we did that last year. The Milwaukee Area Workforce investment Board
was the charity we chose and they’re implementing a pilot program this year…excuse me, I should
clarify, we chose them last year in 2015. They’re implementing a pilot program called
Youth Works MKE in which they’re going into the most distressed areas of town and giving
children opportunities for long-term mentor ship, job skills programs. We really want to take an issue that’s, that’s
plaguing Milwaukee and trying to help input a nice chunk of money toward that program
and we’re going to be doing that again this year. We are announcing that charity on the 16th
of August, so next week we’ll be making a big, exciting announcement that I’m sure will
please many, many people. Alrighty, so we’ll just kind of keep everybody
on hold and they need to listen for that particular charity. Now you receive a huge number of requests
from organizations that want to be considered as a charity. What’s the criteria for an organization to
qualify? You have to be a 501c3. You have to serve children. You have to be from Southeastern Wisconsin. There are a litany of things that we require
of our charities and those can all be found on paysbig.com/heart. And so when you get all of these charities
that kind of make it known they want to be considered, how do you go about narrowing
that down? Sure. There’s a committee that takes a look at all
of those qualifications, takes a look at all of the organizations that apply, and they
winnow out the ones that don’t quite make it. Then we throw them into a tumbler, and in
December…excuse me, November we’ll be shaking that tumbler up and choosing 20 additional
charities in addition to our charity of choice and our media sponsors. Yes, so it all comes to the 31 in the end. And so that’s another surprise for those organizations
in November to see who is randomly chosen to receive money from this fundraiser. But then on December 16th, that’s when you
announce the grand total. That’s the culmination of it all and that’s
a lot of fun. There’s a lot of hugs that night. There’s a lot of tears that night. I’m sure. Tears of joy of course. And last year we announced of course a little
over $1 million that we raised and that’s our goal again this year, to raise over $1
million. And we distribute those checks to those charities,
and it’s really a nice time of year to do that. It’s right around the holidays. Everybody’s in bright spirits and we hope
to make them even brighter with, with, with this particular program. It always times out just perfect. Yeah. It really does, and of course everybody can
go to paysbig.com/heart for more details on all of the Heart of Canal Street. It’s also important to discuss the other ways
Potawatomi is making a difference in the community. The property has grown, my goodness, with
three major expansions. And I remember when I first moved here, it
was like this little bitty bingo hall, and I took my grandma there when she came to visit
and if I were to bring her back to what it is today, she would probably not believe it’s
the same place. And so then of course that includes the addition
of the $150 million hotel. That is really good news for the city as a
whole because we’re talking about economic development and we’re also talking about jobs. Yeah, talking about the changes that property
has gone through, you mentioned the bingo hall. That was a 40,000 square foot bingo hall. We are now 1.1 million square feet with the
addition of the hotel two years go. You know we started with about 200 people
working at the bingo hall. We now employ about 2,800 people, and these
are full-time jobs. These are good jobs, well-paying jobs, you
know a variety of positions available. We’re always…we’re always hiring. We…we have a diverse base of employees which
we’re extremely proud of. Well over 50% of our…of our employees are
people of color and we’re very, very proud of that. Again, it goes back to the tribe and giving
back to the community and providing, providing sustenance and jobs for people here in Milwaukee. Yeah and you bring up the diversity, having
over 50% of your team including people of color, but also women as well. So it’s really important to know that companies
are aware. Absolutely. Because that’s really what it takes, being
aware and including that inclusion and diversity it everything. Well sure, and the Forrest County Potawatomi
were a marginalized society, and they were the poorest tribe in the state of Wisconsin,
so they know what it takes to pull people out of poverty and it’s very important for
them to help people of all walks of life. Yeah, and when you talk about Potawatomi,
for some people they think, I’m not a gambler, so why would I go there? But they need to know, in case they haven’t
heard, some of the best restaurants in town. And then you’ve got the Northern Lights Theater
of course, which is located inside Potawatomi where you have comedians, singers, you’ve
had some of the biggest name sin entertainment come through Potawatomi. That theater is awesome. I’ve sat ten feet away from BB King. I mean that’s like… I took a picture with BB King when he was
at Potawatomi. He’s like…and then you look back and we’ve
lost the King of the Blues, and those moments are everything. I know. Don Rickles is coming in this week for two
nights. We just have iconic performers gracing that
stage all the time. And yeah you mentioned the restaurants. We have fantastic restaurants. Dream Dance Steak, I mean I’ve had some of
my best dining experiences of my life at Dream Dance Steak and I’m lucky because I get to
entertain people there every once in a while. That is awesome. Lot of great amenities even for people who
don’t gamble. Even if it’s for a cocktail after work. We’ve got great amenities for folks to come
in and visit. Absolutely. And we need to go ahead and reiterate the
details of the Heart of Canal Street. Bingo games going on now through December. Half of the purchase’s price goes into the
Heart of Canal Street fund and half goes to the winner of that session’s Canal Street
game. So again you can log onto paysbig.com/heart,
or call 1-800-PAYS-BIG. Visit the website, learn all about it. Thank you Ryan for coming by. It’s always a pleasure. Always a pleasure. Thank you. And I have to say thank you too for allowing
me to come by and call that first bingo game for Canal Street, so it’s just… That was fun, wasn’t it? It’s just always a blast so thank you again. Good deal. Ryan Amundson is the External Communication
Manager for Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. For more information on anything that we’ve
discussed today, you can logon to www.paysbig.com/heart or 1-800-PAYS BIG. When we return to Our Issues Milwaukee, we’ll
turn our focus to a multi purpose community center that’s mission is to support family
stability as well as provide educational and recreational programs for youth, and they
also happen to be one of the signature charities for Potawatomi ‘s Heart of Canal Street. We’ll find out more about the Northcott
Neighborhood House right after this.

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