Direct Supply plans to expand tech center on MSOE campus

Company negotiating to occupy entire German-English Academy Building

The German-English Language building on the Milwaukee School of Engineering Campus at 1020 N. Broadway.

Direct Supply Inc., an emerging giant in the senior living industry based on Milwaukee’s northwest side, is in negotiations to expand its technology center at the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus in downtown Milwaukee.

The German-English Language building on the Milwaukee School of Engineering Campus at 1020 N. Broadway.
The German-English Academy building on the Milwaukee School of Engineering Campus at 1020 N. Broadway.

The technology center, which opened in 2012 as a way to connect MSOE computer engineering and business students with internships and experience working for Direct Supply, has served as a talent pipeline for the company as it has expanded its e-commerce and technology solutions services over the past four years.

Originally located in 9,000 square feet of space on the top floor of the four-story German-English Academy building at 1020 N. Broadway, the center has since expanded into an additional 9,000 square feet of space on the building’s third floor and Direct Supply is now negotiating a lease with MSOE to take over the first two floors of the building as well.

The expansion would add roughly 30,000 gross square feet to the center.

“As of today, all of MSOE is moved out of the building,” MSOE spokesperson JoEllen Burdue said on Monday. “The negotiations aren’t complete for the lease, but (Direct Supply’s) intention is to take over the entire building. They’re planning to do some remodeling work, but a timeline hasn’t been finalized yet.”

When the center first opened four years ago, 57 MSOE alumni were working for Direct Supply and 15 MSOE students were interning with the company. Those numbers have since swelled.

The technology center’s original 9,000 square feet on the fourth floor was opened to accommodate up to 60 Direct Supply computer engineers and technology interns, according to a statement released in 2012. In August, the company said it had 100 employees at its technology center at MSOE.

“We continue to have a great relationship with them for employees and interns,” Burdue said.

A Direct Supply representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Direct Supply founder, president and chief executive officer, Bob Hillis, is a member of the MSOE Board of Regents.

The 31-year-old company is undergoing a period of rapid expansion as members of the Baby Boomer generation reach retirement age and demand grows for new equipment, products and technologies at senior living facilities.

In March, Direct Supply announced plans to expand at its 10-building headquarters campus along North Industrial Road on the city’s northwest side. Plans call for a five-story, 280,000 square-foot building to be constructed in place of an existing single-story building.

In August, the state certified Direct Supply under the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Enterprise Zone Program to generate $22.5 million in tax credits to help finance the expansion and the company’s vow to create 800 new jobs over the next seven years that would pay an average of $30 or more per hour.

Direct Supply currently has roughly 1,100 employees at its headquarters campus on North Industrial Road in addition to its employees on MSOE’s campus.

The company has not disclosed the cost of the expansion project, but in August, Bob Klein, chief administrative officer at the company, said a spring groundbreaking is “under consideration.”

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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