Aldermen approve financing deal for Komatsu HQ complex project

Project expected to be complete by 2022

rendering of Komatsu Mining Corp’s headquarters planned in the harbor district. (Credit: Zimmerman Architectural Studios)

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:48 pm

Milwaukee aldermen have agreed to a financing package that will help move forward the proposed new Komatsu Mining Corp. headquarters and manufacturing facility, despite concerns that the project would not create a high enough job density at the site.

Rendering of Komatsu Mining Corp’s headquarters planned in the Harbor District.

The company plans to build its new $285 million headquarters and manufacturing plant at a site located south of West Greenfield Avenue and east of South First Street, along the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee’s Harbor District. The project includes 170,000 square feet of office space, 410,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a 20,000-square-foot museum and training facility. The complex will be built at the former Solvay Coke site, currently owned by We Energies. The office and museum is to be constructed on a site currently owned by the city.

As part of that project, the city proposed $25 million in assistance through a developer-financed tax increment financing district. Additionally, the city would spend $15 million to create a new riverwalk segment that would run about 4,300 linear feet.

Milwaukee Common Council members approved the financing proposal on Tuesday morning. Alderman Robert Bauman cast the only vote against the deal, citing the fact that the project would result in less job density at the site than is called for in the Harbor District Water and Land Use Plan.

The plan calls for 22 jobs per acre for industrial projects, while the Komatsu project would initially yield only 11 jobs per acre, Bauman said.

“11 jobs per acre is absolutely pathetic,” he said.

According to city records, the company is committing to employ nearly 950 people by its 12th year of operation at the new site, and could potentially expand office or manufacturing space and grow that number to 1,300 employees, which would meet the recommended ratio of 22 jobs per acre.

Alderman Nic Kovac said he sympathizes with Bauman’s argument, adding he was suspicious of claims Komatsu could eventually meet the minimum benchmark in terms of job density after a number of years.

“I think we could have partnered with this company in a more meaningful way,” Kovac said.

Even so, Kovac threw his support behind the spending proposal. Alderman Michael Murphy, meanwhile, said he supported the project in part because the riverwalk would be wider than was initially proposed. Some of Komatsu’s employees who would move to the new headquarters are currently stationed in his aldermanic district.

The state is also offering the company up to $59.5 million in tax credits based on the number of jobs created and retained, capital investment and supply chain purchases made in the state.

In a statement following passage of the financing package, Komatsu officials expressed their gratitude to the state and community stakeholders involved in the project.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the local representatives, city staff, community leaders, the Harbor District and surrounding neighborhoods to make this a winning development for Milwaukee and Komatsu,” said John Koetz, president of surface mining at Komatsu.

The company aims to have the project’s design team, general contractor and inclusion firms selected by the first quarter of 2019, with construction starting later that year. The project is expected to be complete by 2022.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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