BizTracker: Midwest economic growth sluggish in July
August 31, 2015 10:48 AM
Economic growth slowed in the Midwest in July, according to the latest Midwest Economic Index.

Read more in the BizTimes BizTracker, which tracks local, state and national economic data.

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Grant to fund UWM research of nanoparticles’ environmental impact
August 31, 2015 12:21 PM
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has garnered a $1.3 million share of a $20 million grant that is funding national research of the toll nanoparticles from manmade products take on the environment.

The $20 million grant, awarded to the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, will expand the center’s science team from faculty members at six institutions to faculty of 12 institutions across the country.

The broader pool of expertise will allow the center to engage in more comprehensive research of how nanoparticles interact with living organisms at the molecular level, according to Rebecca Klaper, a professor at UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences and a co-principal investigator at the center.

Klaper has worked for the center since its founding three years ago and currently leads its research of nanoparticles’ effects on cells and organisms.

Nanoparticles are miniscule pieces factored into manmade products, such as sunscreen and sporting goods. The Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology spreads its research of products and their nanoparticles among several industries – analyzing products like battery materials, coatings, agricultural materials and components of electronics.

The center, which operates out of the labs of each member institution, assesses existing and new products to gauge the extent of their environmental impact. Beyond assessment of products, the center engages in product redesign, aiming to create materials that are “benign by design,” Klaper said, so that they do not have a negative impact on the environment.

“Our concrete goals are to make predictions about how nanomaterials will interact with a wide variety of organisms and then use that information to create materials that are benign by design,” she said.

The $20 million grant has been awarded to the center from the National Science Foundation, which provided startup funding for the center in 2012. Grant dollars will extend over five years with potential to extend for a full decade, pending projects pursued within the center and their progress, according to Klaper.

With a knowledge base of environmental contaminants, Klaper has been partnering with chemists from across the country looking deeper into nanoparticles. Klaper’s efforts have helped shed light on toxic effects specific kinds of nanoparticles can have on fish.

With new grant dollars, Klaper will now add to the number of fish and animals used in studies. Most of the center’s work in the last three years has focused on ways nanoparticles impact bacteria, which are single-celled organisms, and multi-celled organisms known as daphnia.

Klaper’s future projects will highlight the different impacts nanoparticles have on different cell types across organisms.

“Our role is studying the expansion of the original biological work into a broader question of how might the nanoparticles interact with more of the organisms that are out in the environment and how the environment affects what the nanoparticles look like to the organism,” she said of UWM’s involvement in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.

The $1.3 million allocated to UWM will flow both into Klaper’s lab as well as into the School of Freshwater Science’s Great Lakes Genomic Center, through which researchers will use genomic tools to observe how nanoparticles interact with freshwater organisms.

Along with UWM and UW-Madison, the center’s partnering institutions are: the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Tuskegee University, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Iowa, Augsburg College and Georgia Tech.

The center is directed by UW-Madison chemistry professor Robert Hamers.

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Downtown Waukesha apartment complex sold for $29 million
August 31, 2015 03:09 PM
Mountain Village, a 319-unit apartment complex near downtown Waukesha, has been sold by Styza Family LP to Illinois investor Axiom Properties for $29 million.

Representatives from Waukesha-based Bryce Styza Properties, which also owns the The Lodge in Waukesha and The Boardwalk in Burlington, declined to comment on the sale.

Mountain Village, 304 W. North St., is a 274,438-square-foot complex built between 1987 and 1992.

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West Allis alderman questions State Fair's cost to taxpayers
August 31, 2015 11:09 AM
A West Allis alderman is asking the city for a fiscal impact analysis of Wisconsin State Fair so he can better understand the total costs to taxpayers during the annual event.

Alderman Michael May submitted a letter to Mayor Dan Devine and his fellow council members Aug. 24 asking for support. The City Council will vote on his request Tuesday.

“Many people have come up to me and told me what a great thing (State Fair) is for the city’s tax base; I don’t think they understand it’s really a drain,” May said. “I’m not looking for an adversarial relationship; I just want to make sure we are protecting our taxpayers.”

May said contrary to popular belief, the state does not pay property tax to the city. He would like an analysis to show how much the fair impacts police, fire, engineering, public works and other costs associated with public safety, crowd control and parking management during its 10-day run in August.

This year’s fair drew more than 1 million people for a third consecutive year.

Rick Frenette, executive director of the Wisconsin State Fair, said May is uninformed.

The fair pays the city an annual fee based on the value of the buildings on the fairgrounds, Frenette said. In recent years, those payments have been $325,000 annually, plus an additional $30,000 annual grant to the city to cover the costs for extra signage and crowd control, Frenette said.
The fair has its own police on the grounds during the event.
The annual payment to West Allis is currently being revisited by fair officials. The fair purchased the Expo Center from the city of West Allis in 2011, so that building no longer goes into the formula of what is owed to the city, Frenette said.

“We pay our fees based on a formula put together by a state statue,” Frenette said.

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Glendale hotel up for auction
August 31, 2015 11:43 AM
The Suites at Northshore in Glendale will be sold in an online auction on from Sept. 28 to Sept. 30.

The 96-room hotel, at 7275 N. Port Washington Road., has a starting bid of $600,000. The property includes 15 buildings on 2.3 acres of land. The hotel was built in 1988.

The Suites of Northshore was sold in July to Boca Raton, Fla.-based BRE Imagination Hotel Owner LLC for $2.6 million, according to state records.

BRE Imagination Hotel Owner is affiliated with Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, a brand of Hilton Worldwide.

The hotel was sold by Leeward Strategic Properties Inc., an affiliate of Norwalk, Conn.-based GE Capital Real Estate.

The hotel was formerly operated under the Residence Inn by Marriott flag.
According to, the hotel is at 60 percent occupancy.

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West Allis wine shop doubling in size
August 31, 2015 10:16 AM
After three successful years, brothers Joseph and Frank LaSusa are expanding their West Allis wine tasting room to add more retail, a bar and outdoor seating.

Corvina Wine Co., 6038 W. Lincoln Ave., opened in November 2012 and occupies about 1,200 square feet. The LaSusa brothers recently received approval from the city of West Allis to build a 700-square-foot wine garden outside of the building and convert a 1,200-square-foot residential unit on the second floor of the building into more retail space and a tasting room.

The building has been in the LaSusa family since the 1930s. The family ran an Italian grocery store from the 1930s to 1970s. Frank and Joseph’s grandfather operated a print shop, Snappy Print, out of the building for many years after the grocery store closed.

Both brothers worked in pharmaceuticals before following their passion and pursuing a career in the wine business.

“Wine has always been part of our gatherings with friends and family,” said Frank LaSusa. “This expansion will allow our guests to enjoy their favorite wines with family and friends in an intimate winery room or outside in the wine garden.”

The LaSusas are currently meeting with contractors and hope to have the expansion complete by the end of 2015.

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Time for a people policy
August 31, 2015 11:16 AM
Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, feels Wisconsin should shift its economic development focus to talent attraction, rather than reducing taxation.

Read his opinion on the matter in today’s Milwaukee Biz Blog.

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Milwaukee Biz Poll: Is your business struggling to find qualified workers?
August 31, 2015 11:41 AM
Is your business struggling to find qualified workers to fill open positions?

Vote now and view the results of the new Milwaukee Biz Poll.

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Gitomer: Uncovering your own secret of selling... Why YOU buy!
August 31, 2015 10:22 AM
Think about the last few things you purchased.

They hold the secrets to increasing your sales.

Giving a seminar, I was in a stream-of-conscience talking about buying motives and why people buy. As usual I was focused on the customer side, the probable purchaser side, the buyer side of the equation. Then out of the blue I said, “Think of something that you just purchased. Why did you buy it?”

Read more in today’s Small Biz Strategies column by Jeffrey Gitomer.

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Morning Headlines: Creative Placemaking is energizing downtown spaces
August 31, 2015 11:19 AM
If you spent any time downtown during Mile of Music you surely noticed a transformed city center, with thousands of visitors, interactive programs for the whole family and an infectious energy. Building on this energy and carrying it throughout the year is the goal of the Creative Placemaking Team at Appleton Downtown Inc.

Read more in today’s Wisconsin Morning Headlines.

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Manufacturing Weekly: Manufacturing activity remained slow in August
August 31, 2015 11:49 AM
Milwaukee-area manufacturing activity showed little improvement in August, according to the latest Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing.

Read more in today’s Manufacturing Weekly.

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Johnson Controls spinning off automotive business could affect 197 employees
August 28, 2015 05:04 PM
As a result of Johnson Controls' recent decision to pursue spinning off its automotive business into a separate publicly traded company, 197 employees could be affected.

The Glendale-based global diversified industrial company expects to begin eliminating what are known as Project Unity positions on Sept. 30, according to the WARN notice filed with the state. The positions will be eliminated by Oct. 14, the notice said.

Johnson Controls spokesman Fraser Engerman said all 197 employees will not necessarily be laid off. He said those are the employees who could “potentially be impacted.”

“We are working (with) those employees who received a WARN notice to find other positions within the company,” he said. “We made the decision to pause our enterprise wide SAP project following our decision to spinoff our automotive business into a separate publicly traded company. The pause is part of a comprehensive cost savings program.”

The affected employees currently perform their work at a facility located at 801 S. 60th St. in West Allis. Engerman said that location will continue to house work from Johnson Controls’ IT department.

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Nationstar to provide up to $30 million to help distressed Milwaukee homeowners
August 28, 2015 12:11 PM
Dallas-based mortgage servicing firm Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. will provide up to $30 million in mortgage modifications to help financially-strapped Milwaukee residents keep their homes, under a partnership agreement announced today by city officials.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Michael Murphy announced the agreement today and said Nationstar and the city would work together on a five-part plan.

Under that plan, Nationstar will provide up to $30 million in mortgage modifications for Nationstar customers in Milwaukee over three years. That is a 57 percent increase in mortgage modifications that were projected for  Nationstar's Milwaukee portfolio.

Nationstar will also provide a $500,000 cash commitment over three years, which the city will use to support critical home repairs through the Strong Homes Loan program.
Nationstar will do three face-to-face foreclosure prevention events with Milwaukee borrowers per year for the next three years.

Nationstar will donate foreclosed properties that it manages in Milwaukee, when possible. The donations will include a cash stipend of up to $10,000 per property.

Nationstar CEO Jay Bray will include city officials in meetings and discussions with federal government-backed lenders such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac going forward, to outline and advocate for foreclosure solutions in Milwaukee.

In an attempt to address the foreclosure crisis in the city, Barrett and Murphy began discussions with mortgage servicers, including Nationstar, in January of this year. The city officials said they were concerned that another wave of foreclosures could hit the city and were seeking way to mitigate the number of foreclosures to help preserve homeownership and the city’s tax base.

Nationstar is owned by an investment group co-founded by Wes Edens, one of the primary owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. Nationstar and Edens have been criticized by community group Common Ground, which said that Nationstar manages some of the city’s worst kept foreclosed homes.

Common Ground protested plans to provide public money to pay for half of the cost of a new arena in downtown Milwaukee while a company owned by Edens owned abandoned and deteriorating foreclosed homes in the city.

The announcement of Nationstar's partnership with the city comes shortly before aldermen are about to review the city’s funding portion of the arena deal. Under that package, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, past and current owners of the Bucks will pay for half of the cost of the $500 million arena and the other half will come from a combination of state, city, county and Wisconsin Center District funds. The city’s share, which is subject to Common Council approval, is $47 million, including $35 million for a parking structure.

The city’s funds for the arena will be provided in the form of tax incremental financing. The Common Council’s Steering and Rules Committee will hold a public hearing on the deal during its meeting on Monday, Aug. 31.

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Hydro-Thermal opens second manufacturing facility
August 28, 2015 11:41 AM
Waukesha-based Hydro-Thermal Corp. recently opened a second facility down the street from its main 36,000-square-foot facility at 400 Pilot Court.

The new building, located at 407 Pilot Court, contains a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and 15 offices, according to president Jim Zaiser. In total, the new facility is approximately 16,000 square feet.

Hydro-Thermal’s second location will be used for assembling its Silverline smart cooking system. Officially launched earlier this year, the product is revolutionizing the food and beverage industry’s antiquated standard kettle cooking process, Zaiser said.

“It’s taken off, so we needed more manufacturing space,” he said.

The new building also boasts collaborative workspaces for developing new technologies and improving processes. The objective is to allow employees to move away from their regular duties and customer obligations in order to better generate new ideas.

Hydro-Thermal has 95 employees, and Zaiser said about 15 are expected to work in the new facility, which was formerly a drywall company. Hydro-Thermal spent $30,000 in upgrades and is now renting the space.

Marketing communications specialist Christine Edgerton said the manufacturer also did an expansion a few years ago, increasing its main building by about 10,000 square feet.

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Reed Street Yards development site sold to C.D. Smith Construction
August 28, 2015 11:33 AM
C.D. Smith Construction Inc. has purchased a 1.6-acre lot in Reed Street Yards where it will build the first property in what will become a global water technology business park.

The Fond du Lac-based construction company purchased the land from Wisconsin Limited Liability Company, an affiliate of General Capital Group LLP, for $1.4 million, according to state real estate records.

Rexnord Corp announced in June that it plans to move Zurn to the Reed Street Yards, a 17-acre property in the Walker’s Point neighborhood.

The relocation of Zurn, a manufacturer of engineered water solutions, will result in 120 full-time employees by March 2021.

The plan is for Zurn to be located in a three-story, 52,000-square-foot building that is expected to be completed in 2016. Thirty-five full-time employees would initially work in the building.

C.D. Smith Construction Inc. is expected to begin construction next month.

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