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Georgia company to build box factory in Beloit
December 19, 2014 03:02 PM
Pratt Industries, America's leading 100 percent recycled paper-packaging company, announced today it will begin construction on a new $52 million corrugated box factory in Beloit next spring, a project expected to create 140 new jobs.
The proposed 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which will be built on a 56-acre site in Beloit, will produce about 600 tons of recycled boxes a day at capacity, the equivalent of saving more than 10,000 trees every 24 hours. It is expected to be fully operational by January 2016.

"This is a memorable day for our company," said Anthony Pratt, chairman of the Atlanta, Ga.-based company. "This plant will be our first ever in the great state of Wisconsin and is a perfect fit with our aggressive growth strategy to increase our manufacturing footprint and capabilities in the Midwest. 
“I’m pleased that Pratt Industries — after seriously considering sites in three other Midwest states — has decided to locate the new facility in Wisconsin,” said Wisconisn Gov. Scott Walker. “This great news comes one day after new figures show Wisconsin added 16,500 private-sector jobs in November, and companies like Pratt are playing a key role in our state’s continued economic success.”

“I'd like to thank Gov. Walker as well as officials at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and representatives of both Rock County and the City for Beloit for their can-do attitude and willingness to welcome and work with new businesses,” Pratt said.

To help secure the project, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has agreed to provide the company with up to $2.4 million in Jobs Tax Credits over the next four years and a $1.75 million low-interest loan for equipment. The actual amount of tax credits are contingent upon the actual number of jobs created.

“WEDC is pleased to be able to play a key role in attracting this industry leader to Wisconsin,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “The 140 family-supporting jobs that Pratt Industries is creating is a big win for Beloit and Rock County.”

The company is also receiving about $3.8 million in aggregate incentives from the City of Beloit and the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation (GBEDC). The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Alliant Energy/WP&L also extended economic incentives to help attract the project.

 “Due to the significant nature this project, the city put forth extra effort to provide an extremely aggressive incentive package to ensure the project would happen in Beloit,” said City Manager Larry Arft.

Andrew Janke, executive director of GBEDC, added: “The GBEDC’s willingness to provide a significant discretionary grant of $200,000 to the company showed its commitment to the project and its significance to the Greater Beloit community.”

“This announcement underscores the necessity of having an efficient and effective economic development team”, said James Otterstein, Rock County’s economic development manager. “Successfully facilitating projects of this scale requires technical, as well as complementary financial tools – which is exactly what Alliant Energy’s Economic Development Rider Rate provided.”
The new plant, to be built in the Beloit Gateway Business Park, will convert corrugated container board produced at Pratt’s recycled paper mills into sheets and convert those sheets into finished boxes for distribution throughout the Midwest and beyond.

Aside from using 100 percent recycled paper in its box-making process, the plant will use the latest in water reclamation technology and will eventually reduce  discharge into the local sewer system to zero. Further, all forklifts and grab trucks will operate on compressed natural gas instead of propane, further reducing harmful carbon emissions.

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M-WERC adds leaders to Energy Innovation Center, opens startup space
December 19, 2014 12:23 PM
As the Mid-West Energy Research Consortium continues to build out its 65,000 square feet of space in the Century City Tower, formerly the Eaton Corp. research building, the organization is also building out its leadership team with the addition of Greg Meier and Nick Wichert.

Meier and Wichert both head the Milwaukee-based Global Entrepreneurship Collective, which belongs to the Global Accelerator Network. The collective mans two accelerators, Revolution Labs and Victory Spark, as well as the first seed accelerator in Wisconsin, 94 Labs, and a host of startup ventures.

As part of the Energy Innovation Center, Meier and Wichert will guide the center’s incubator and accelerator programming.

Alan Perlstein, M-WERC executive director and chief executive officer, describes Meier and Wichert as “thought leaders” in the startup space.

Meier and Wichert, who both have storied careers in Milwaukee’s startup scene, are experienced in business model development, working with early stage companies to figure out who their customers are, what value they’re providing, how they will generate revenue and how to prepare for investment and production.

“We’re the very initial piece for very early stage companies coming into this building,” Wichert said.

Trying to revitalize the community of startups focused on energy, power and control was part of what interested Wichert in joining the center.

“A lot of people look at energy and they think solar and water, but on a grand scale I think what this facility is offering is a much bigger global look at some of the larger problems we face from an energy perspective, control system and power perspective, that I don’t think people are really looking at yet today,” Wichert said. “And that’s what’s really exciting – that people here are. So we’re going to come in and provide our value on building innovation centers, accelerators, how to build that community around it.”

Along with announcing the addition of its two new leaders on Thursday, M-WERC unveiled 8,000 square feet of working space for startup tenants and office space for business service providers on the center’s seventh floor. Members of the public invited to a holiday networking event held on the newly renovated floor on Thursday were welcome to tour the space.

The seventh floor, still a work in progress, holds room for nine business startups in what the Energy Innovation Center’s director, Jeff Anthony, describes as a “collaborative” and “open” setting. Once complete, the floor will be outfitted with a series of work stations to house individual startup organizations. Bordering the workspaces along outer edges of the floor are office spaces for business service providers, which will include marketing professionals, legal experts, engineers and mentors. Providers will be announced in January, according to Anthony.

Renovation of the seventh floor falls under phase one of construction, which is expected to be complete by fall with attention to the second and third floors of the building as well.

Phase two of construction is slated to run from next September through October 2016, when M-WERC aims to have the center up and running with full occupation.

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West Allis Michaels store building sold for $2.95 million
December 19, 2014 11:54 AM
An affiliate of New York-based commercial real estate firm Norman Bobrow & Company Inc. this week purchased the Michaels store building at 11135 W. National Ave. in West Allis for $2.95 million, according to state records.

The building was sold by Milwaukee-based D&K Management XI LLC. The agent for D&K is David Winograd.

The 24,236-square-foot Michaels store building was built about 10 years ago as a build-to-suit project for the arts and crafts retail store. The store is connected to the Home Depot store at the southwest corner of Highway 100 and National Avenue. The Home Depot store was not part of the sale.

Adam Connor of Marcus & Millichap was the listing broker for the Michaels store sale.

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Trocadero building sold for $1 million
December 19, 2014 11:56 AM
The Lowlands Group sold the Trocadero restaurant building, located at 1758 N. Water St. on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side, for $1 million, according to state records.

Earlier this week, the Lowlands Group announced that it sold the restaurant to a group led by J.J. Kovacovich, which includes owners of Three Lions Pub in Shorewood, the newly opened Red Lion Pub in Milwaukee and downtown bars McGillycuddy’s and Red Rock Saloon.

The three-story, 6,184-square-foot Trocadero building was built in 1890 and has an assessed value of $805,000, according to city records.

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Milwaukee County to study strategies for workforce reentry
December 19, 2014 11:47 AM
Milwaukee is one of two counties chosen to receive assistance from the National Reentry Resource Center to develop plans to improve the workforce reentry process for those with criminal records.

The NRRC is a project of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. It will offer technical assistance and resources to help Milwaukee and Philadelphia counties assess the needs of individuals reentering society and develop clear plans to provide them with sustainable support.

Milwaukee is a pilot community for a national study the NRRC is conducting on reentry best practices.

“This new initiative is an exciting opportunity for Wisconsin, as a national expert comes alongside the innovators in our state agencies to develop best practices and policies for reentry,” said Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. “Good reentry policies are a triple win: They enhance public safety by reducing recidivism, they support our economy by connecting willing workers to open jobs, and they support success for people as they return to our communities.”

The Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board will work with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to develop strategies and attract funding to the effort.

“Ask a person in prison or jail to name the most important thing they need to succeed in the community when they’re released. The response will almost always be the same: ‘I need a job,’” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and a member of the CSG Justice Center’s Board of Directors. “It’s these data-driven strategies that will get to the heart of the problem.”

“We are excited to be supporting this groundbreaking work in Philadelphia and Milwaukee counties,” said Denise O’Donnell, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance. “Considerable work remains to position the workforce development community, and their partners in the corrections and reentry fields, to translate this research and information into policy and practice. This is a great step toward achieving concrete results.”

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DHL adds Milwaukee flight
December 19, 2014 11:52 AM
DHL Express has added a new Milwaukee flight that departs from General Mitchell International Airport at 11:30 daily.

The Boeing 767-200 cargo flight will allow international shippers from Milwaukee to utilize later pick-up cutoff times, which are about 1.25 hours later on average.

DHL Express exports to more than 220 countries and territories. More than 70 Milwaukee zip codes will be included in the new shipping option, which will be based at the DHL Express service center at 205 E. Mahn Ct. in Oak Creek.

“Milwaukee is a growing commercial and industrial hub for the Great Lakes region and we are pleased to support global shippers in this community with the most competitive offerings, courtesy of the specialists in International,” said Karsten Aufgebauer, general manager for the Midwest area, DHL Express U.S.

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Northwestern Mutual distributes $225,000 through Days of Sharing
December 19, 2014 11:49 AM
Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Foundation has contributed $225,000 to area nonprofits through its Days of Sharing campaign.

Employees of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. nominate nonprofit organizations for the grants each year. More than 700 nominations were tallied this year, and the 25 winners were chosen at random for grants of between $1,000 and $10,000 each.

The 2014 winners were: ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis), Alexander Hamilton Jr. Wildcat Football Foundation Inc., ALS Association Wisconsin Chapter, Best Buddies, Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, Canine Cupids, City on a Hill, Cynthia’s Breast Cancer Giving Circle, Fondy Food Center, Gift of Adoption Fund, Hope House, Jewish Family Services, Junior Achievement, Katy’s Kloset-Team Up with Families, Milwaukee Public Museum, National Multiple Sclerosis Society-WI, PEARLS for Teen Girls, Project Concern St. Francis/Cudahy, Rides & Reins Therapeutic Riding Center, Schools That Can Milwaukee, St. Thomas More High School, String Academy of Wisconsin, Vision Forward, Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center and Wauwatosa East Band Boosters.

Employees also voted for pre-selected nonprofits to receive $125,000 in grants. They chose Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, Fisher House Wisconsin, Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin.

Since 2007, Northwestern Mutual has awarded more than $1.1 million in grants through Days of Sharing.

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Weekend preview
December 19, 2014 11:58 AM
Too busy working to plan your weekend? We've got you covered with the OnMilwaukee.com Weekend Preview.

Click here for activity suggestions on this holiday event-packed weekend. OnMilwaukee.com is a media partner of BizTimes Media.

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Popular tax breaks will be reinstated
December 19, 2014 11:59 AM
The House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed a Tax Extenders Bill, which retroactively extends tax breaks that had previously expired at the end of 2014.

Read more in today’s Milwaukee Biz Blog by Steve Bjork, a manager in the tax department at Komisar Brady & Co. LLP in Milwaukee.

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Morning Headlines: Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth
December 19, 2014 12:00 PM
Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth and lags behind the national average for the 12-month period that ended in June, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Nonprofit Weekly: Former Cardinal Stritch dean to lead Cream City Foundation
December 19, 2014 12:01 PM
Milwaukee-based Cream City Foundation Inc. has named Peter Holbrook, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer.

Read more in today’s Nonprofit Weekly.

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Northwestern Mutual to build “mixed use development” west of its HQ
December 18, 2014 04:11 PM
After the Milwaukee County Board earlier today voted to reject a proposed sale of the O’Donnell Park parking structure to Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., the company announced that it instead plans to build a “mixed use real estate development” immediately west of its headquarters campus in downtown Milwaukee.

The company said it has internally developed preliminary ideas on a structure that will include up to 1,000 parking spaces for its employees, but also incorporate residential and possible retail components.

The County Board voted 9-8 today to reject the proposed sale of the O’Donnell Park parking structure, located across the street from the Northwestern Mutual headquarters campus, to the company.

Northwestern Mutual wanted to purchase the parking structure for $12.7 million (the appraised value of $14 million less a $1.3 million credit for the cost of known repairs needed for the parking structure). The company wanted to purchase the structure to provide parking for its employees. The company is building a $450 million, 1.1-square-foot expansion to its corporate headquarters across the street and plans to add 1,900 employees there by 2030 and needs additional parking spaces as it expands employment.

The company also wanted to make improvements to the park on top of the parking structure. The company had pledged to preserve the park. The company’s planned improvements to the facility were expected to exceed $6 million.

But opponents of the sale said selling the park property would set a bad precedent for the county. Some said the proposed sale price was too low and that the lack of a deed restriction for the southern portion of the property meant that portion of the park lacks adequate protection from future development.

“A community’s soul is defined by its public spaces,” said Supervisor Pat Jursik. “We don’t have to sell O’Donnell Park to improve the lakefront.”

“Milwaukee County is going to have a fire sale of the Parks Department,” Supervisor Michael Mayo said. “Milwaukee County is going to have a clearance sale.”

Later today, after the County Board vote against the O'Donnell Park sale, the company announced that it now plans to do a mixed-use development west of its headquarters campus.

“Although we are disappointed by the County Board’s decision, we want to acknowledge the outpouring of support we have received from all corners of the community, both today and throughout the debate,” said Sandy Botcher, vice present at Northwestern Mutual and head of the company’s downtown campus expansion project. “With this missed opportunity, it is now incumbent on the County Board to find solutions to the long-overdue deferred maintenance issues at O’Donnell. The board needs to make good on this morning’s dialogue about better options for O’Donnell Park, including how to pay for the millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. For our part, our belief in Milwaukee is undiminished. We will continue to do all we can to make our community great. We will continue to partner with people who have vision and passion for the best interests of the whole community.”

To that end, Botcher said Northwestern Mutual will begin work with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council on plans for a mixed-use real estate development adjacent to the western side of its downtown Milwaukee campus.

The company owns almost all of the property on the block bounded by North Van Buren, North Jackson, East Mason and East Wells streets. It also owns the block that surrounds the 611 E. Wisconsin building on the southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

At this time, said Botcher, the company has no further specifics on scope, cost, location or design of the development.

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County Board approves purchase option for The Couture
December 18, 2014 03:45 PM
By a 12-4 vote today, the Milwaukee County Board voted to approve a purchase option agreement for the sale of the Downtown Transit Center to developer Rick Barrett, who wants to build The Couture, a 44-story apartment tower, on the site.

Under the deal, Barrett will pay $500,000 to purchase the Downtown Transit Center, located southwest of Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street near the lakefront. The purchase option has an 18-month term that Barrett could extend up to a year.

County officials want to sell the property, currently used for bus storage and bus transfers, for private development. In 2012, the county selected a proposal for the site from Barrett’s firm,  Barrett Visionary Development, which wants to build The Couture, a 44-story, 302-unit apartment tower, on the site. The proposed $122 million project also includes 50,000 square feet of retail space and 81,560 square feet of public space, including a rooftop park, a public transportation concourse, a streetcar stop, a walkway to the lakefront, a bike sharing station, public parking and a public plaza. City officials have proposed $17.5 million in tax incremental financing to pay for the public spaces in the project.

The project has been stalled by objections raised by parks advocacy group Preserve Our Parks. The group says most of the site was originally part of Lake Michigan (but was later filled in) and therefore the state constitution’s public trust doctrine forbids private development there. Despite legislation, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Scott Walker, that established the historic shoreline to the east of the site, Preserve Our Parks has threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the project. That threat of litigation has prevented the county from obtaining legal title to the site, which would be transferred to Barrett Visionary Development.

Milwaukee County officials are now planning to take legal action to settle the public trust doctrine issue once and for all.

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BizTracker: Unemployment rate drops to 5.2%
December 18, 2014 10:50 AM
Wisconsin’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent in November, down from 5.4 percent in October, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Read more in the BizTracker.

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U.S. Bank closes on $2 million in financing for West Allis hotel
December 18, 2014 10:52 AM
U.S. Bank and First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprise Inc. announced today that they have closed on nearly $2 million in financing for the 100-room Hampton Inn and Suites hotel project at 8201 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis near Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Wisconsin Dells-based Stand Rock Hospitality will oversee the development and operation of the hotel. Construction is expected to be complete by September 2015.

U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. (USBCDC), the community development subsidiary of U.S. Bank, invested $1.9 million in equity raised from federal New Markets Tax Credits in the $14.2 million project. The federal credits were allocated to First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprise Inc. (FIRE), a community development enterprise formed by the city of West Allis in 2007.

“The Wisconsin State Fair is a premier event that needed an adjacent hotel to accommodate guests and also to spark additional economic development,” said Bill Bertha, market president of U.S. Bank in Milwaukee. “We believe the hotel will improve the city’s chances of attracting additional meetings, which will spark development around the fairgrounds.”

The build-out will generate nearly 150 construction jobs, and the hotel will provide more than 100 permanent jobs. Horizon Construction Group is the general contractor and Plunkett Raysich Architects LLC is the architectural firm.

“West Allis’ comprehensive plan is focused on converting blighted properties such as this one into productive real estate and businesses,” said John F. Stibal, president of FIRE and director of development for the city of West Allis. “This hotel is a strong step forward to meeting our redevelopment goals.”

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