Local government meetings conducted during the dog days of summer generally aren’t very interesting. That was not the case at a Franklin Common Council meeting in August of 2014 as the mayor and aldermen got an earful. It came during the usually quiet and often predictable opening citizen’s comment period.
A member of Franklin’s Economic Development Commission, Craig Haskins said he was able to secure a report from Milwaukee County’s Economic Development Director Teig Whaley-Smith about retail leakage in Franklin. I considered the findings stunning and the quintessential wake-up call.
“Fifty percent of every dollar spent on food and beverage in Franklin is spent outside of Franklin,” said Haskins. “Ninety-two percent of every clothing purchase is spent outside of Franklin. This is by Franklin residents.
“Any home furnishings, between 43% and 53% (are spent outside of Franklin). These are some dollars Franklin is missing,” said Haskins.
Information Haskins said he received from both the Buxton Company that deals with business analytics and Milwaukee County indicates “Franklin residents spend about $500-million a tear on retail, food, and trade. Only about half of that is spent within the city of Franklin.”
Former Franklin Mayor Fred Klimetz advised the aldermen to be open-minded.
“I’m going to encourage everyone on the Council not to have tunnel vision and not to say we’re going to focus solely on retail and we’re not going to consider other options,” said Klimetz, who added that included an approach that only looked at a business park.
Another former mayor, Tom Taylor concurred with Klimetz.
“Don’t close the door,” said Taylor. “Look at everything. Yes, a business park is needed, perhaps three of them. But you also have to bring in retail. You have to do everything to try to hold down the price of taxes.”
Steve Olson, Franklin’s current mayor is an advocate for a business park. Then Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor who lost to Olson in 2014’s mayoral election had a cautionary note for his past colleagues on the Council.
“What I’m not hearing is we want another business park. Don’t let him (Olson) push you down a path you do not want to go.”
During his commentary, Tom Taylor reiterated his support for a minor league stadium pushed by The Rock earlier that year. The Franklin Common Council had quickly rejected The Rock proposal after emerging from a closed session in April 2014. Mike Zimmerman of The Rock said ever since then he had been waiting for an alternative from city leaders.
“One-hundred twenty days have gone by and I hear no strategy. No movement,” said Zimmerman. “At what point is this group going to say ‘this is our strategy, this is what we’re going to be doing in terms of retail’.”
That was more than four years ago and nothing’s changed in our city. Some developers have been very frank publicly about how difficult it is and has been to work and do business with Franklin officials.
And then last week a real stunner was reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. My automatic reaction was laughter.
Franklin trying to shed image and become more attractive to developers
But as I read on I realized the importance. At the same time I’m not sold at all. These are words. Action followed by results…if and when that happens I’ll be convinced.
Consider from the article:
Changes were implemented in the city’s inspection department — one as simple as a name change from “Building Inspection” to “Inspection Services” to highlight how the city wants to be helpful and to serve, not be an obstacle.
That’s just marketing wishful thinking. A shift in nomenclature is meaningless.
Still, it’s nice to see Franklin officials led by Mayor Steve Olson finally emerge from their cave of denial.
Unfortunately they’re 10-15 years too late.
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