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Bucks ownership group buys Kissinger’s Meats building
July 3, 2015 11:03 AM
Deer District LLC, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks ownership group, recently purchased the Kissinger’s Meats & Poultry building at 505 W. Juneau Ave. in downtown Milwaukee for $2.5 million, according to state records.

The building lies on the site where a proposed new $500 million arena would be built. The site for the proposed arena is just north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center and is bounded by Juneau, North Fourth Street, West Highland Avenue and North Sixth Street.

The 5,000-square-foot Kissinger’s Meats & Poultry building, located on a 0.2-acre site at the southwest corner of West Juneau Avenue and North Fifth Street, was built 1926. It was sold to the Bucks ownership group by Walter and Franceen Heimerl of Bradenton, Fla.

To acquire the property, the Bucks ownership paid well above the building’s assessed value of $217,000, according to city records.

The deal is the latest sign that the Bucks ownership group is moving forward with preparations to build the arena, even as the status of the funding package remains uncertain.

The current and former owners of the Bucks have pledged to pay for half the cost of the proposed $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and maintenance and operational costs of the building. The state Legislature is reviewing a public financing proposal for the other half of the project, which would provide funds for the arena from the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District.

In addition to the arena, the Bucks owners are planning at least $400 million in mixed-use development around the area, including the entire Park East corridor west of the Milwaukee River.

Republicans in the state Legislature have agreed to remove the arena funding proposal from the state budget. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the state Senate could take up the arena proposal next week as a separate bill. The Joint Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday on the Bucks arena deal.

A construction industry source told BizTimes Milwaukee this week that the Bucks ownership group is moving ahead aggressively with preparations to build a new arena so that construction could begin as soon as possible if a public financing plan is approved. Recently, crews from GESTRA Engineering did soil boring tests at the proposed arena site.

Deer District LLC also recently purchased a 0.2-acre parking lot at 1129-35 N. Old World Third St. in downtown Milwaukee. The site is less than a block east of the proposed new arena. The Bucks ownership purchased the 34-space parking lot, located between Ugly’s and The Loaded Slate, from Milwaukee-based hotel development firm Jackson Street Holdings LLC for $750,000, according to state records. The property has an assessed value of $299,000, according to city records.

The Old World Third Street site is located within the mixed-use arena district that the Bucks owners are hoping to create. The property is just east of where the Bucks owners want to create an “entertainment live block” of bars, restaurants and stores around a covered outdoor public plaza.

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BizTracker: U.S. economy expanded with 223,000 new jobs in June
July 2, 2015 09:48 AM
The U.S. economy created 223,000 new jobs in June, adding to the mounting evidence pointing toward economic growth in the second half of the year.

The national unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, the lowest level since April 2008.

Meanwhile, 16 of 22 economic indicators tracked by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce improved. For more, read today's BizTimes BizTracker.

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Sara Investment Real Estate purchases West Allis office building for $14.5 million
July 2, 2015 11:37 AM
Madison-based Sara Investment Real Estate LLC announced that it has purchased the 132,401-square-foot Fair Park Business Center, located at 620 S. 76th St. in West Allis, across the street from State Fair Park.

Sara Investment Real Estate paid $14.5 million for the property, according to state records. The property was sold by West Allis-based Fair Park Business Center LLC.

The multi-tenant office building was formerly the service and training center for We Energies. It now houses a variety to tenants, including Children’s (Hospital) Service Society of Wisconsin.

“The Fair Park Business Center is a great addition to our Milwaukee-area holdings,” said Traci Dalsin, president of Sara Investment Real Estate. “Located minutes from I-94, the building provides a fantastic location for a quality mix of tenants, making it a strong investment opportunity.”

Sara Investment Real Estate has been active in recent years in acquiring commercial real estate assets in the Milwaukee area. An affiliate of the firm acquired most of The Tannery office complex in Milwaukee last year for $16.8 million and is building a 75,000-square-foot industrial building in Mukwonago for Gearbox Express. In 2013 Sara Investment Real Estate acquired the headquarters for Great Lakes Packaging Corp. in Germantown for $8 million, and bought Squires III Office Center building in Pewaukee for $4.35 million.

“We will continue to seek opportunities in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest that match our investors’ real estate investment goals,” said Ben Adank, vice president of development for Sara Investment Real Estate.


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Downtown parking lot sold for $3.9 million
July 2, 2015 11:41 AM
An affiliate of Las Vegas-based MVP REIT Inc. recently purchased a 0.95-acre surface parking lot property at 215 W. Wells St. in downtown Milwaukee from Los Angeles-based Progency Capital Partners LLC for $3.9 million, according to state records.

A representative for MVP REIT could immediately be reached to comment on the firm’s plans for the property.

The site is located on the south side of Wells Street just west of the Germania Building, which will be converted to apartments by Vangard Group.

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Bucks ownership buys Old World Third Street parking lot
July 2, 2015 11:43 AM
Deer District LLC, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Bucks, recently purchased a 0.2-acre parking lot at 1129-35 N. Old World Third St. in downtown Milwaukee. The site is less than a block east of the proposed new arena.

The Bucks ownership purchased the 34-space parking lot, located between Ugly’s and The Loaded Slate, from Milwaukee-based hotel development firm Jackson Street Holdings LLC for $750,000, according to state records.

The property has an assessed value of $299,000, according to city records.

The site is located within the mixed-use arena district that the Bucks owners are hoping to create. The property is just east of where the Bucks owners want to create an “entertainment live block” of bars, restaurants and stores around a covered outdoor public plaza.

The Bucks owners are buying the property as financing for the arena remains uncertain. The current and former owners of the Bucks have pledged to pay for half the cost of the proposed $500 million arena, plus any cost overruns and maintenance and operational costs of the building. The state Legislature is reviewing a public financing proposal for the other half of the project, which would come from the state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District.

In addition to the arena, the Bucks owners are planning at least $400 million in mixed-use development around the area, including the entire Park East corridor west of the Milwaukee River.

Republicans in the state Legislature have agreed to remove the arena funding proposal from the state budget. Senate Majority Leaders Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the state Senate could take up the arena proposal next week as a separate bill.

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Design proposals unveiled for Lakefront Gateway Plaza project
July 2, 2015 11:57 AM
The City of Milwaukee today released design plans submitted by the four teams competing for a contract to design the proposed Lakefront Gateway Plaza project on Milwaukee's lakefront.

The project would create a public plaza on a 1.5-acre site just west of Discovery World.

The exact cost of the project and funding sources have yet to be determined, but officials first want to pick a design plan to aspire to.

The designs will be available for public review this summer. Public comments will be sought. The public can view the proposals and vote on them at www.milwaukee.gov/lakefrontplaza.

The four design team finalists for the project are:

•    A team led by New York-based landscape design firm James Corner Field Operations, which will also include: LaDallman Architects, Robert Silman and Associates, Kapur & Associates, Mailu Knode, Dan Euser Water Achitecture, HLB Lighting and Applied Ecological Services.
•    A team led by the Solana Beach, Calif.-based Office of James Burnett, which will also include: Johnsen Schmaling Architects, Buro Happold Engineering, Focus Lighting, Shore Art Advisory, K. Singh & Associates and Fountain Source.
•    A team led by Los Angeles-based AECOM, which will also include: URS, Tillotson Design Associates, Cynthia Reeves and Delta Fountains.
•    A team led by Milwaukee-based Graef USA, which will also include, PFS Studio, Dan Euser Water Architects, Rinka Chung Architecture andNewaukee.

A judging committee will select the winning design this fall.

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Johnson Controls' Yanfeng Automotive Interiors launches today
July 2, 2015 10:19 AM
Glendale-based global diversified industrial company Johnson Controls Inc. announced that today is the formal launch of Yanfeng Automotive Interiors. It is a joint venture between Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Co. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Huayu Automotive Systems Co. Ltd. (HASCO), which is the component group of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Johnson Controls.

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors is the world's largest automotive interiors parts supplier with Johnson Controls, having a 30 percent share of the company that will be headquartered in Shanghai. The new company will have revenues of $8.5 billion and an order backlog of $10 billion.

"Combining two outstanding global automotive interiors businesses enhances our ability to serve customers throughout the world," said Alex Molinaroli, chief executive officer of Johnson Controls. "Yanfeng Automotive Interiors will have unmatched scale and reach in the industry with the talents of 28,000 dedicated employees globally."

The new company will have more than 90 manufacturing, development, engineering and customer service locations around the world. The product portfolio will include instrument panels and cockpit systems, door panels, floor consoles and overhead consoles.

Johnson Controls said the decision to spin off its interiors business into a joint venture is one in a series of strategic actions taken by the company to strengthen and rebalance its portfolio of operating businesses.

Johnson Controls has 170,000 employees serving customers in more than 150 countries. It makes products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles.


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Summerfest adds parking to compensate for bus strike
July 2, 2015 10:39 AM
Milwaukee County and Summerfest have freed up another 1,000 parking spots for Summerfest employees and attendees during the ongoing Milwaukee County Transit System shutdown.

The parking spaces are at Veterans Park, in a grassy patch between Center and South Marina on Lagoon Road, off Lincoln Memorial Drive. The lot is called K&L.

Parking in the lot will cost $10, except on July 3, when it will cost $20. U.S. Bank’s fireworks show will be held on the lakefront on July 3.

The parking lot is a short walk from the north gate of Henry Maier Festival Park, and Summerfest security will patrol the pathway between the two.

If MCTS services resume on July 4, which the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 has indicated it plans to do unconditionally, the lot would no longer be available.

Summerfest also suggested parking in the O’Donnell Park Garage at Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street, which has 1,250-1,300 parking spaces.

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Sargento plans $30 million expansion
July 2, 2015 11:47 AM
Plymouth-based cheese producer Sargento Foods plans to invest $30 million in the expansion of its plant in Kiel and its technical center in Elkhart Lake.

Sargento plans to add 80,000 square feet to its Kiel factory to include more production space, storage and employee facilities that include a health and wellness center, and enough locker space to grow to 720 employees over the next five years. There are currently 540 employees in Kiel.

In Elkhart Lake, Sargento plans to build a 59,000-square-foot addition, more than doubling its size and offering space for engineering, research and product development.

The projects are expected to create a total of 140 new jobs at the facilities and at the headquarters in Plymouth. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has approved $735,000 in state tax credits to help fund the projects, which it would be eligible for through 2018, contingent upon the number of jobs created.

Sargento is a third-generation family company that manufactures, packages and markets natural shredded, sliced and snack cheeses and other foods.

“My grandfather and father built Sargento from a small cheese gift shop into the $1.3 billion national company it is today, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our employees over the past 62 years,” said company CEO Louie Gentine. “We are committed to growth in this area that will benefit the entire Sargento family of employees and all of our other stakeholders—suppliers, customers and community.”

“WEDC is pleased to be able to assist an iconic family-owned company like Sargento Foods with this expansion project, and we salute the company for its continued commitment to growing in Wisconsin,” said Reed Hall, secretary and chief executive officer of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Wisconsin is the number one cheese-producing state in the country with an annual production of nearly 2.8 billion pounds, and this expansion will further solidify our strength in this key industry.”

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Marcus Corp. names Falvey VP of real estate
July 2, 2015 10:53 AM
Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp. today announced it has promoted Katie Falvey to vice president of real estate.

Falvey, who reports to Marcus Theatres president and CEO Rolando Rodriguez, will lead all real estate functions for the hospitality and entertainment company. She is responsible for driving organic growth initiatives, such as market analysis, site selection and transaction negotiation. Falvey will manage the assets of the company’s 1.5 million-square-foot portfolio of income-producing, non-operational properties.

She joined The Marcus Corp. in 1997 as director of real estate marketing and property management, and became director of real estate in 2005. Falvey has created the company’s national real estate, location and asset strategies, and led the initial pre-development of The Corners of Brookfield.

“As an 18-year veteran of the company, Katie has had a direct impact on the strength of the company’s real estate portfolio, and we’re fortunate to be able to further leverage her talents,” Rodriguez said. “We are confident her industry expertise and familiarity with our organization’s real estate strategies will continue to contribute to the overall success and growth of The Marcus Corporation.”

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Morning Headlines: Legislative leaders unveil budget deal, but Senate passage in question
July 2, 2015 10:57 AM
Hours after a deadline to have a new state budget in place, Wisconsin legislative leaders announced a deal that they said could break the budget logjam that has left the state Capitol in a weeks-long holding pattern.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Bubbler Weekly: Greater Milwaukee Foundation awards more than $5.4 million in first quarter
July 2, 2015 11:51 AM
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation divvied up more than $5.4 million among area nonprofits and causes during the first quarter of 2015.

Read more in today’s Bubbler Weekly.

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State budget and arena remain in limbo in Madison
July 1, 2015 10:29 AM
Republican state legislative leaders announced today plans to seek agreements next week on the state budget, transportation funding, the prevailing wage law and public financing for a new downtown Milwaukee arena, even though they admit they might not yet have the votes to approve the measures.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he still does not have enough votes to pass the full budget in his caucus. Fitzgerald also said he was still working with his members on prevailing wage and a public financing package for the Milwaukee arena, which the Senate will take up first.

The Joint Finance Committee will convene Thursday to take the final votes on the budget with the Assembly expected to take up the bill Tuesday or Wednesday along with the prevailing wage bill. Fitzgerald said he hoped to be in next week as well on the budget if it clears the Assembly, but he also made clear he was still working his caucus.

“No, I don’t have the votes right now as I stand here, but I don’t expect to have the votes,” Fitzgerald said.

Under the agreement leadership reached, the Assembly will bring to the floor next week a bill introduced in that chamber to fully repeal the prevailing wage. Assembly Republicans will then offer an amendment to the bill that reflects a package Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) has put together. It would repeal the prevailing wage statutes for local governments and federalize it for state work. State thresholds currently on the books would remain in effect.

The Assembly would then pass both the budget and the prevailing wage bill and send them to the Senate.

Leadership did not offer many details of the final packages the Joint Finance Committee will take up Thursdayat a hearing noticed to start at 10 a.m. However, they said the budget will not include the prevailing wage proposal or the Bucks arena.

The transportation package includes $500 million in bonding with another $350 million the committee can issue as the Department of Transportation submits requests for work. That would still be a significant reduction from the $1.3 billion in borrowing Gov. Scott Walker had proposed.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the reduction would be felt fairly evenly between out-state projects and Milwaukee's Zoo Interchange. Still, work on the core of the Zoo Interchange would not be impacted, he said. Work on the north leg would be delayed.

Vos also said the package will include a study looking at other revenue sources for transportation, including the possibility of tolling.

Democratic leaders held a press conference to denounce the Republicans' budget plans later this morning. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) criticized the plans to cut spending for K-12 education, the University of Wisconsin System and the state's infrastructure. "The one thing we're certain about is it's going to look far worse in Wisconsin," said Barca, who called the Republican plans "harmful" for the state.

Barca said he did not know how members of his caucus will vote on the arena plan because they have not been allowed to participate in the negotiating process.

For ongoing coverage, visit WisPolitics.com, a media partner of BizTimes.

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Bus riders find other ways to get around
July 1, 2015 10:22 AM
Some bus riders were left stranded this morning amid a shutdown of Milwaukee County Transit System service that began at 3 a.m.

The shutdown, which the county describes as a strike, was called after Milwaukee County and the transit workers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, could not reach an agreement on a new contract during all-day negotiations Tuesday. The union has called the situation a “work stoppage,” and said its workers will return to work at 3 a.m. on July 4 no matter what.

 “If they would have been willing to go to arbitration, we would have been willing to go ahead and basically keep service going,” said ATU Local 998 president James Macom. “They knew that they would lose.”

MCTS provides about 150,000 rides per day.

Milwaukee County on Tuesday evening set up a hotline for the public related to the strike. The number is 414-988-5966. Riders can also get information on RideMCTS.com as it becomes available.

“Union leaders have been saying this strike is simply symbolic. If that’s the case, they should explain the symbolism to the single mother who won't be able to make it to work, the senior citizen who relies on MCTS to get to the doctor or the family who planned to ride the bus the watch the fireworks at the lakefront,” said MCTS spokesman Brendan Conway.

According to a release from MCTS, the county made “significant” concessions to the union Tuesday, which included increasing the matching Flexible Spending Account for employees’ health care costs from $500 to $1,000; Putting a limit on the number of part-time drivers it would hire to reduce overtime; and giving some flexibility to mechanics on their personal time.

Macom said the county is twisting the numbers, and the pay raises it refers to are already in the workers’ contracts.

Enterprising car owners took to Craigslist to fill the gap, offering “taxi” services from different parts of the metropolitan Milwaukee area.

On Reddit’s Milwaukee section, a thread called “Emergency MCTS Strike Carpooling Thread” had 59 comments as of this morning. Drivers offered to pick up bus riders on their commutes and provided free codes for ridesharing service Lyft. Bus riders asked for rides to work and discussed how the strike has impacted their ability to get around. Some were staying with friends near work to avoid being stranded at home.

Ridesharing service Uber released the following statement:

"Uber was founded to connect people to reliable rides, wherever and whenever. The Uber Wisconsin team works every day to connect Milwaukee residents with a safe and affordable transportation option when they need one. In anticipation of potential increased rider demand over the coming days, we are encouraging our driver partners to be available to help people get to where they're going."

An account representing Milwaukee drivers for Lyft, another ridesharing service, tweeted “No @RideMCTS? Use a friend's referral code for a free ride or enter Lyft7x5 or LYFTHQ before your first ride.” Lyft representatives could not be reached for comment.

Some of Summerfest’s 2,000-plus workers were also left without a ride in the mess, and the Big Gig is concerned about the impact on the festival’s attendance, according to BizTimes media partner WISN 12 News. Summerfest runs through July 5, and MCTS provides tens of thousands of rides each day to the event.

Summerfest chief executive officer Don Smiley said last night at a press conference: “There is no plan B, if you will, to replace the gigantic, logistical operation that goes along with running buses around four or five different counties.”

Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy released the following statement about the strike:

“Transit is a critical component of metro Milwaukee’s infrastructure, providing 150,000 rides each day on Milwaukee County Transit System. Without this service, thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of workers and residents are suffering. People depend on this service to reach jobs, schools, appointments and for daily living – it is their lifeline. It is an economic imperative that this strike be resolved as quickly as possible.

“We believe Milwaukee County is focused on providing the best service for transit riders now and in the future. We applaud their efforts to provide a high quality transit system while modernizing and expanding services.

“We urge the Amalgamated Transit Union members to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and resume immediate service.”

Alderman Bob Bauman released the following statement:

“The overwhelming majority of Milwaukee County Transit System riders are city residents who rely on the bus to get to work, to school, and to the doctor. This fact makes it absolutely necessary for the mayor to get involved in helping end the bus driver work stoppage.

“Yes, the work stoppage is disproportionately impacting residents of Milwaukee, and I might point out that the people being impacted are those who can least afford to be impacted!

“This morning I had the opportunity to meet with some of the bus drivers, and I’ve been around long enough to know that there are two sides to every story. But I am calling on the mayor to step in and provide the leadership necessary to bring the work stoppage to an end as quickly as possible.

“If it were up to me, I would call both sides into my office, lock the door, and no one would leave until we ironed out an agreement.

“Obviously, the work stoppage is negatively impacting our economy, and the timing couldn’t be worse for Summerfest attendees and workers.

“But I am concerned for the little guy in this whole scenario – workers, seniors, and children who are just trying to live their lives on a daily basis. The ability to get to where they need to be must be restored, and as soon as possible.

“So Mr. Mayor, here’s your chance to show some leadership – so don’t miss the bus!

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander released the following statement:

 “The Milwaukee County Board has been very supportive of our bus system and driver concerns. Hearing that ATU leaders cut off service to the community and then placed blame for this discomfort on elected officials is irritating—it was the union that pulled that trigger.

“This is a major public safety concern and I can hardly believe that the ATU would choose to take the thousands of people drinking at Summerfest hostage during this strike, increasing the risk that those who can’t find a bus they are accustomed to relying on, may get behind the wheel.

“I encourage the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office to commit special attention to highway safety during this strike and I am grateful that taxicabs and rideshare services Uber and Lyft have committed to pick up the slack while the ATU punches off the clock to hold a temper tantrum.

“Further, the working poor, disabled and senior citizens totally dependent on public transit to get to work and make ends meet will bear the true punishment doled out by the ATU during this strike. Workers will face lost wages and potentially lost jobs when they can’t get to work. I am glad to hear that some churches and community organizations are stepping in to provide transportation where the ATU is leaving Milwaukee stranded.

“This service stoppage also creates a critical revenue loss that could have funded some of the pay increases the ATU is demanding from MCTS. The ATU’s demands for about $8 million more in wages over two years would essentially require the County to raise taxes to the fullest extent allowed by law and then to direct 100 percent of the increase to that extorted expense.
 
“We should all be focused on providing safe, efficient public transit to love and I am very disappointed that the ATU has chosen to hurt transit riders just to further their bargaining position, as if management has not been making a good faith effort to reach a position both sides can agree to.

“The County Board, the County Executive, and MCTS management all respect bus drivers and support our transit system, and I look forward to hearing when a deal has been reached so we can be assured the ATU will no longer be directing workers off the job.”

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No injuries in MillerCoors brewery explosion
July 1, 2015 11:40 AM
A fire occurred at the MillerCoors Milwaukee brewery early Tuesday evening after a grain blower exploded. No one was injured, and production was not affected, according to a company spokesman.

"At approximately 6:45 p.m. (Tuesday), a grain blower in our brew house exploded causing a fire on the roof of the building,” said Marty Maloney, media relations manager. “The fire and police departments were called to the scene and quickly put out the fire.  Fortunately, all our employees are accounted for, and there are no reported injuries or operational disruptions."

Milwaukee deputy fire chief Brian Smith said the cause is still under investigation, but a possible dust explosion in the grain handling system could be to blame.

Smith said the fire resulted in $105,000 worth of damage to the building and another $37,000 worth of content damage.

Chicago-based MillerCoors LLC brews much of its beer in Milwaukee.

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