It looked like Strauss Brands’ proposal for a new meat processing facility in Franklin was going to meet the same fate as a similar pitch the company made in Milwaukee, until the Franklin Common Council reconsidered the company’s plans and narrowly approved the project.
The Franklin-based meat company’s request for a special use permit to build a new 152,000-square-foot meat processing facility on 30 acres southwest of West Loomis Road and the new Monarch Drive was initially shot down by the Franklin Common Council in a 4-2 vote, despite the fact that the facility would have more than 270 employees.
Last year, similar plans went up in smoke in the city of Milwaukee. The company planned to build a 175,000-square-foot facility in the city’s Century City Business Park. It would have brought 250 jobs to a low-income area of Milwaukee that badly needs them.
But protestors raised concerns about the facility, calling it a “slaughterhouse,” and that triggered several residents to also object. Alderman Khalif Rainey, whose district includes Century City, switched from supporting the project to opposing it. Once that happened, Strauss Brands dropped its plans in Milwaukee.
So, the company turned its attention to Franklin, where it has operated successfully for years in the Franklin Business Park.
But once again concerns were raised about the proposed facility, some objecting to slaughterhouses in general plus nearby residents who said they don’t want the facility in their backyard. Then the Franklin Common Council voted against the project.
The rejection of the Strauss Brands proposals in Milwaukee and Franklin was stunning. It’s extremely unusual for communities to turn down businesses with hundreds of jobs. Milwaukee in particular desperately needs more jobs, especially in low-income areas of the north side.
Many, including Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce president Tim Sheehy, criticized Milwaukee officials for letting the Strauss Brands proposal slip away.
Likewise, after the Franklin Common Council rejected the Strauss Brands plans, its business community also responded with outrage. Leaders from a group of businesses in the Franklin Business Park Consortium signed a letter to aldermen saying they were “extremely concerned” about the rejection of the Strauss Brands plans for a new facility in Franklin.
“Many of our member companies are considering expanding in Franklin, but we must admit that the treatment of Strauss is giving us pause and questioning our trust in the city,” the letter stated.
Then what happened? Unlike in Milwaukee, the Franklin Common Council decided to reconsider. Their second vote was a 3-3 tie, and Mayor Steve Olson cast the tiebreaking vote to approve the project.
So, Strauss Brands gets to move forward with its expansion and Franklin keeps a significant, growing business in its community.
But Milwaukee has missed a huge opportunity to attract jobs to a neighborhood that desperately needs them. The city can’t afford to miss opportunities like this and hopefully officials learn something from how this all played out.
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