Associated Bank CEO sees Milwaukee as dual headquarters

Flynn explains reasoning behind Milwaukee Center purchase

Phil Flynn
Phil Flynn

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:03 pm

Associated Bank has been growing its presence in the Milwaukee market significantly over the past five-plus years, to the point where it now has an almost equal number of employees in Milwaukee and in Green Bay, where it is headquartered.


The bank Thursday increased its commitment to Milwaukee when it announced plans to purchase a prominent 28-story downtown office tower, the Milwaukee Center.

Five of Associated’s 12 executive committee members are based in Milwaukee, said president and chief executive officer Philip Flynn. About 900 employees are based in the Milwaukee market, while about 1,100 are based in the Green Bay market.

Growing Milwaukee market share continues to be a priority. While there are no set plans for hiring numbers, the bank continues to add more employees here as talent presents itself, he said.

“We’re the largest bank in the state as it is,” Flynn said. “Although we are headquartered in Green Bay, we have a really significant regional presence in Milwaukee. Doing well and growing the business in Milwaukee is the most important thing we think about. So we continue to add resources and do things to make this more visible. We’re very active with the Brewers, with the Marcus Center, with other things in town.”

But Flynn said the bank won’t move its headquarters to Milwaukee.

Associated Bank will purchase the Milwaukee Center.
Associated Bank will purchase the Milwaukee Center.

“We do not have any plans to do that,” Flynn said. “The company has been headquartered in Green Bay for more than 150 years. To some extent, we really have two headquarters when you think about the number of our executive committee members who live in Milwaukee, our presence there. I have an apartment there, I’m there every week. We’re all back and forth between Green Bay and Milwaukee.”

With the Milwaukee Center purchase, all of the bank’s Milwaukee market employees who aren’t based at a branch will be moved into the same office space. About 320 employees will shift from a 97,000-square-foot space in the Plaza East building to the Milwaukee Center beginning in 2021 and continuing into 2022 as those leases expire, Flynn said.

When it’s all said and done, Associated will occupy between one-quarter and one-third of the 373,000-square-foot Milwaukee Center. The Milwaukee Center is 81.7 percent leased right now.

“As time goes on, some of the tenants in the Milwaukee Center will vacate and we’ll fill in that space,” he said.

Associated will also enter new territory, serving as a landlord for a large number of tenants.

“We’re not a real estate company, but we’re fine having bought this and having some tenants,” Flynn said. “This is by far the biggest building we own and it’ll be by far the building with the most tenants in it.”

Flynn said it’s too soon to say how the Milwaukee Center would be branded under Associated’s ownership, but it likely wouldn’t be possible to put an Associated Bank sign on the side of the pyramid-shaped glass roof. The Plaza East building currently has bank signage near the top.

Further details about the Milwaukee Center purchase, including the purchase price, will be disclosed when the sale is finalized. Flynn said that will likely be next week, as the seller would like to close before the end of March.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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