Concrete plans – LaLondes buy Pelton Casteel plant

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Concrete plans
LaLonde Contractors moves into Pelton Casteel plant

By Charles Rathmann, of SBT

The rehabilitation and renewal of Milwaukee’s south side will continue when the vacant Pelton Casteel building soon becomes the new headquarters for LaLonde Contractors.
LaLonde Contractors, a Milwaukee road construction firm, took occupancy of the foundry site at 2929 S. Chase Ave. April 1.
The company will finance a total of $1.5 million for the purchase of the property and the cost of rehabilitating the site, which includes the 180,000-square-foot foundry building.
The firm will occupy about 30,000 square feet of space in the former foundry as its headquarters and will lease a significant amount of the remaining indoor and outdoor space to construction-related tenants.
LaLonde Contractors purchased the eight-acre site in June 2002 from Mallory Properties, the real estate entity owned by Milwaukee crane magnates Frank and Dominic Giuffre.
The Giuffres had purchased the property in July 2001.
Mike and Mark LaLonde, twin brothers and co-owner vice presidents of the road building firm, said they had been shopping for much smaller properties.
"We looked at sites in St. Francis, Oak Creek and West Allis," Mark said.
"We actually looked at the Pelton building and discounted it," Mike said.
In the end, the sheer potential of the property – and encouragement from the twins’ father, company president Jerome LaLonde – led them to the decision to buy the foundry.
Jerome, in semi-retirement in Florida, will serve as president of the firm until his death, according to the twins.
"He was behind buying Pelton after he thought it all out," Mark said of his father, who started the company 19 years ago at age 55. "Mike and I owe him a great deal of gratitude. We are not doing anything different than what he would have done."
"We wanted desperately to stay in the city of Milwaukee," Mike said. "The size and location were too good to pass up."
The rehabilitation of the Pelton Casteel site is among several projects gaining momentum on the city’s south side. Golden Marina Causeway LLC, a partnership that includes developer Thomas Short, recently purchased the long-abandoned Milwaukee Solvay Coke & Gas Co. site at 311 E. Greenfield Ave. and is making plans for an ambitious project that could ultimately include office towers, a marina and a hotel.
In addition, plans are being made for the redevelopment of the former Teweles Seed Co. site and the former National Warehouse Corp. site on the south side. Also, a planned high-speed ferry is expected to fuel further redevelopment when it begins operating in 2004.
Finding a location within the city limits was a priority for LaLonde Contractors, which, according to Mark, has historically done about 70% of the City of Milwaukee’s street construction work. About half of LaLonde Contractors’ employees are also city residents, according to the twins.
Access to the freeway – with an onramp just a few blocks south at Holt Avenue – also was a factor in the decision.
LaLonde Contractors, which had gross sales of about $11 million in 2002, has grown its revenues by about 30% since the twins took a majority interest in the company early last year, according to Mark.
"That growth is attributable to a lot of the personnel we had here," Mike said. "We promote from within and empower people. Of course, further growth completely depends on the market."
With aggressive growth, LaLonde Contractors would have quickly outgrown its 10,000 square feet of leased space at 1701 W. Mount Vernon Ave. in the Menomonee River Valley.
The changing nature of the Menomonee Valley, with increased emphasis on property appearances, also caused the twins to be concerned – given the amount of equipment the company stores outdoors.
The LaLondes will base the company’s 50 employees and store about 100 pieces of construction equipment at the site.
In addition to indoor space, about four acres of outdoor space will be available to lease.
Mark, who is handling leasing arrangements himself, said lease deals are pending with a general contractor, a contracting supply outfit and a minority-owned ready-mixed concrete producer.
Some indoor space might also be devoted to an aggregate crushing operation, Mark said.
"My goal is for us to ultimately have more than 100 people working in this building every day for various construction-related companies," Mark said, stressing that wages associated with Wisconsin Department of Transportation road-building projects are mandated by law.
Jobs with LaLonde Contractors pay $20 to $30 per hour, plus benefits, according to Mark.
However, for more than two years, the Pelton Casteel plant generated no jobs. It sat empty and unguarded since the foundry company closed its doors in early 2001, idling the remnants of what had at one time been a workforce of about 250.

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May 2, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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