Milw. Co. Supervisor Steve Taylor blasts Northwestern Mutual, M-7

One would think that after Northwestern Mutual’ s rather abrupt announcement that it plans to leave Franklin that official representatives of Franklin, including Steve Taylor who represents the district including Northwestern Mutual on the Milwaukee County Board, would work positively to find a proper new tenant for the site.

Apparently not, especially in an election year.

Seems Taylor is attempting to use the company’s planned exit to political advantage for his buddy, flawed alderman John Nelson who is running to replace incumbent Mayor Steve Olson. Taylor has stated Olson’s leadership has been atrocious.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel Taylor sang like a canary at the opportunity to not only rip Olson and Northwestern Mutual but also M7, a critically important partner with the city of Franklin. From M7’s website:

The Milwaukee 7, launched in September 2005, is the regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin: Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. Its mission is to attract, retain and grow diverse businesses and talent.

The Milwaukee 7 continues to build the region’s capacity and accelerate economic growth. To date, M7 has managed corporate expansion and attraction projects that account for more than 25,000 pledged jobs created or retained in the region – with an average wage of $60,000 (20% above the regional average) – and $3.7 billion in capital investment. Milwaukee 7 markets the region to companies looking to expand operations or relocate – from across the state line to around the globe. M7 provides the tools and the project management to guide companies from their first visit through the opening of their new plant or office.

In an article just published by the Journal Sentinel Taylor threw mud at M7, saying they helped poach (steal) Northwestern Mutual from Franklin.

Look, it’s well-documented that Taylor can’t stand Olson and is working hard to get him removed, even forming an alliance with Nelson’s campaign treasurer Kristen Wilhelm whom he belittled in the past more than once. But there are times when it’s imperative that the community comes first (Hey Supervisor Taylor, remember the fight for Ballpark Commons?). All hands on deck should be Franklin’s MO on making the most of this situation. That, unfortunately, doesn’t look promising.

Franklin officials are ‘disappointed’ with Northwestern Mutual’s move to Milwaukee, calling it a ‘poaching’ of a major employer

By Erik Hanley

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is leaving Franklin in favor of further expansion in Milwaukee’s downtown with a second glass tower.

While Franklin’s mayor and a city alderman discussed the pragmatism of the plan, Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Steve Taylor called the move a “poaching of a major employer.”

The $500 million redevelopment investment was announced Feb. 2 and will transition about 2,000 jobs currently at 1 Northwestern Mutual Way in Franklin to a renovated building set to resemble the company’s newest crystal skyscraper near the Milwaukee lakefront.

Franklin is one of many municipalities that are part of a regional economic development partnership referred to as M7. The initiative launched in 2005 with seven southeastern Wisconsin counties including Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha, to “attract, retain and grow diverse businesses and talent.”

Taylor said it struck him that neither Northwestern Mutual nor M7 seemed worried about how the move could affect Franklin.

“M7 supported and endorsed the poaching of a major employer,” Taylor said, “proving they will always choose the city of Milwaukee over any other municipality in Milwaukee County.”

Northwestern Mutual told Franklin officials about the move at the 11th hour, sources say

Northwestern Mutual, Taylor and Franklin Mayor Steve Olson said, waited to inform Franklin officials of the plan until the day before the company announced it while it had been sharing details with Milwaukee officials for months.

“This doesn’t give me much confidence that they are worried about how this exodus affects us,” Taylor said. “No way is this a positive for the city of Franklin and anyone who says this is (is) trying to spin it politically.”

Olson offered a more measured response, but acknowledged some uncertainty about the long-term future for the Franklin campus.

“I’m not going to second guess their decision to wait until 3 o’clock the night before to talk to us,” he said. “I’m certain they had their reasons and whatever those reasons are are their business.”

Employees at Northwestern Mutual's Franklin campus will eventually relocate to the company's downtown Milwaukee complex

In a news release, Olson said he is looking forward to working with Northwestern Mutual to find a new use for the campus, adding it “may be a quick transition.”

However, the timeline for such a move remains unclear as no interested parties have presented themselves. “There is nothing pending that I’m aware of,” Olson told the Journal Sentinel.

Ald. Shari Hanneman, whose district includes the Northwestern Mutual campus, was “certainly disappointed, but not entirely surprised” about the company’s move, especially given the recent shift toward remote work environments, she said.

“I understand Northwestern Mutual has to do what is best for its long-term success,” she said. “Much can change in the next three-five years, and we will have to be patient as they work through the process. I’m hopeful that in the length of time it will take for the company to fully transition out of the (Franklin) campus, a new occupant will emerge to take over the buildings and they will not remain vacant for long.”

Many people like to live near where they work, but Olson isn’t overly concerned Northwestern Mutual employees living in Franklin will follow their employer downtown.

“Frankly, if people were interested in that environment they’d live there now,” he said. “The issue I have is the welfare of the people who are now forced to go downtown as part of their employment. … There’s a lot of people that have commented to me that they’re not happy.”

What is the future of Northwestern Mutual’s Franklin campus?

The Franklin campus opened, in part, as a backup computer center for the company. Two six-story office buildings opened in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and rest on about 80 acres with 16 acres available for more development.

The suburban space is expected to be sold or leased once the transition is complete, which is expected to take a few years. Whether one tenant/owner or many will occupy the space remains to be seen.

Olson expressed some concern the layout of the campus could present challenges to multiple users because the two buildings are connected and share several functions.

“However, it only takes money and engineering to change that,” he added. “Given that they’re willing to put half a billion dollars into a 25-year-old building to make it work, this one (in Franklin) would be a relatively quick fix I would think.”

Another key concern is tax dollars.

Northwestern Mutual is Franklin’s largest taxpayer, Olson said, and he wants that value to stay with the building. To that end, he’s asked for a guarantee from the company of the property value going forward.

He said he’s still waiting to have that conversation.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 16, 2023

3 thoughts on “Milw. Co. Supervisor Steve Taylor blasts Northwestern Mutual, M-7

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs – February 2023 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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