Maybe. Not probably. But maybe, especially since the fumblin’ bumblin’ stumblin’ Milwaukee Common Council, despite the wishes of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has turned their backs on the company and their plans to leave Franklin and expand in Milwaukee’s inner city, desperate for job creation, except in this instance.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? When it was announced Franklin had come up short once again on an important economic development situation the city of Milwaukee was, apparently, more than happy to accept Franklin’s loss and welcome with open arms Strauss Bands packing up, dumping Franklin after numerous good years, and heading off to Milwaukee’s north side to relocate at Century City. For Franklin, what a kick to the knees. Franklin not attractive enough, to lose out to one of Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods?
Other than me, the media rarely pays attention to what’s going on in Franklin. Not so in the city of Milwaukee, run by Tom Barrett.
Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey, who represents the district where Century City is located and where Strauss would move to initially loved the idea because of the economic benefits that would come. But in very short order activist groups organized, protesting they anted no slaughterhouse in their area. For all of Strauss’ time in Franklin, that issue never surfaced.
In a couple of days, like a very weak politician, Rainey folded like a card table and changed his mind. He wanted no part of Strauss in his district. The expansion plans were dead. The reaction was swift, and brutal.
Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce Tim Sheehy said, “There’s no way to spin this other than that this is a serious blow to the prospects of marketing Century City as a location for capital investment and job growth, That was a roughly 2-year courtship (to attract the company to Milwaukee) to meet the self-expressed needs of Strauss to find a new location. I mean, Alderman Rainey made a decision without ever visiting the company. And so, there were all sorts of accusations made about the company, how it processes meats and the conditions of employment and yet nobody (on the Common Council) even bothered to even go visit the company.”
MMAC senior vice president Steve Baas took to twitter to express his disappointment in the failed project.
“The MKE Common Council running Strauss Brands out of town is an undeniable black eye for Milwaukee,” Baas tweeted. “Sends a horrible message to any business looking to locate in the city in general and Century City in particular.”
What about Franklin? In baseball terms, when it comes to economic development Franklin is barely a .150 hitter. Franklin’s mayor Steve Olson reportedly met with Strauss officials this week, but won’t comment on the talks. And he shouldn’t. These are complex discussions that should not be negotiated in all of places the press.
Franklin has had a longtime positive relationship with Strauss. But let’s be real. Strauss has demonstrated willingness to drop Franklin, but now says it hope to reconcile with Century City after saying it no longer wants to go there.
Here’s what’s killing Franklin. through no fault of its own, Franklin is NOT an Opportunity Zone. What’s an Opportunity Zone? Good question. That’s where President Trump comes in. Opportunity Zones were his idea.
Opportunity Zones are low income census tracts nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury into which investors can now put capital to work financing new projects and enterprises in exchange for certain federal capital gains tax advantages. The country now has over 8,700 Opportunity Zones in every state and territory.
Franklin has no Opportunity Zones. The city of Milwaukee did, and right where Strauss wanted to move in. While that didn’t work out another zone could, and Franklin would have about as much firepower as Pee Wee Herman in the ring against Mike Tyson.
When Franklin appeared to have lost Strauss it was swinging at a strike three. Weeks later we learn it was a foul ball. Redemption? I say no. Given Franklin’s penchant at messing up far more than it succeeds and the economic incentives available elsewhere, I see Strauss continuing its plans to leave, just a matter of where, though I hope I’m wrong.