5 minutes with… Jerry Franke

Former Wispark executive discusses his next project.


Last updated on May 14th, 2019 at 05:23 am

Credit: Lila Aryan Photography

Jerry Franke retired in June from Wispark LLC, the real estate development subsidiary of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group where he had spent 30 years, the last 18 of which he was president.

Under Franke’s leadership, Wispark developed LakeView Corporate Park in Pleasant Prairie, Drexel Town Square in Oak Creek and several other projects.

In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Corrinne Hess, Franke discussed his latest project: working with Racine County to develop enough housing for Foxconn Technology Group employees. 

Building for the future

“What we are seeing in Racine and the surrounding villages is there hasn’t been any market rate, multi-family housing built in any year starting with a ‘2.’  And that’s at a time when it has been the hottest sector in southeastern Wisconsin.

“So one of the things we are doing is the Racine County Executive (Jonathan Delagrave) and Jenny Trick (executive director of Racine County Economic Development Corp.) has put together a team looking at areas that can support development. We are also looking at the types of areas that have been developed in suburban Milwaukee and northern Illinois so we can take this to municipalities and show them why multi-family housing is important and try to debunk some of the myths, like more kids are in apartments, and let them see the value of this type of development. “

Taking it on the road

“We’re going to be going on the road this summer to try to convince the municipalities that they need to embrace these projects. Otherwise, (residents) will go to adjacent areas, such as Somers, Oak Creek, and Jonathan really wants the development to occur in Racine.

“We will work with some local realtors, but right now we are still putting some base maps together to show where development can occur with the least impact on the municipality. If we are not proactive, developers will come in with the least costly site, which often times ends up being the most costly site for the municipality to serve. We are trying to get a balance.”

Educated guesses

“Because of the highly speculative nature of the (Foxconn) plan right now, it has kind of got to work its way through this Foxconn bubble, as I call it.

“Foxconn announced a very aggressive schedule. It doesn’t really allow a lot of time to talk about the peripheral impacts. And that is something we are trying to get a handle on.” ν

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