Downtown Milwaukee gets big boost from Bank One’s transfer of 750 jobs

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Downtown Milwaukee gets big boost from Bank One’s transfer of 750 jobs

Bank One Corp. will move 750 jobs from Menomonee Falls to its downtown Milwaukee headquarters building at 111 E. Wisconsin Ave., where it will make a $14 million investment by early 2004.
The move will more than double the number of workers at the company’s 22-story downtown Milwaukee site, according to Bank One spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean.
The Milwaukee building will become Bank One Wisconsin’s retail lending center, which processes consumer loan applications.
The Wisconsin Department of Commerce will provide a $400,000 customized labor training grant to assist the company and retain the jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle said.
The City of Milwaukee will provide a $300,000 relocation grant to bring the jobs downtown, Mayor John Norquist told Small Business Times.
The primary motivation for Bank One to move the jobs downtown is that the company owns the Milwaukee building, while it had been leasing the 100,000-square-foot office space in Menomonee Falls since 1999, Bean said.
"That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this. It makes economic sense for us," Bean said. "For us, it really is our real estate situation."
"Milwaukee will continue as a major center for the bank’s retail operations, and moving from leased space will reduce our facilities costs, benefiting Bank One shareholders," Paul Greig, Bank One president and chief executive officer in Wisconsin, said in a prepared statement. "The 750 employees at the loan center are vital to our retail lending. The knowledgeable, friendly staffers know what it takes to serve customers well."
Bank One expects to complete the work on eight floors and relocate the employees into renovated workspace in the downtown Milwaukee building by late March 2004, Bean said. The bank’s lease in Menomonee Falls expires in April 2004.
Keeping the jobs in southeastern Wisconsin was a triumph for the region, even if it means the jobs will be moving from Waukesha County to downtown Milwaukee, according to Waukesha County Executive Director Dan Finley.
"Regional leadership came together quickly and effectively with MMAC (Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce) to respond to the competition for jobs with other regions around the country. Keeping 750 jobs in southeast Wisconsin is a worthwhile return for this partnership," said Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley.
"That’s the same quote you’ll see from me when an employer leaves the city (of Milwaukee)," Norquist said. "I’m happy for Waukesha when they do well. I appreciate Dan Finley’s broadminded view on this."
Norquist said the $300,000 grant from the city was a small price to pay for procuring 750 jobs downtown.
"It sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but considering the magnitude, I think it’s reasonable," Norquist said, adding that without the incentives, the jobs may have been moved out of the region. "I think that was something that was unspoken. I had that impression from talking to my people involved with it. It’s a big bank system, and they can relocate these things to a lot of different places."
In Wisconsin, Bank One operates a network of 74 branches and 144 automatic teller machines.
Chicago-based Bank One Corp. is the nation’s sixth-largest bank holding company, with assets of nearly $300 billion. Bank One currently has more than 52 million credit cards issued, nearly 7 million retail households and more than 20,000 middle-market customers. It also manages $171 billion of clients’ investment assets.
"Milwaukee area officials worked hard with us to keep Bank One jobs in southeast Wisconsin," Grieg said. "Local leaders were quick to step up, so we didn’t need to look hard at options outside Wisconsin for this center, which serves customers across the country. We’re grateful for their dedication and assistance in keeping the jobs in the state."
"We worked hard to respond to Bank One’s needs in presenting the best, most economical location to retain these jobs. This is a big win for metro Milwaukee, and proof that this region can be competitive," MMAC president Tim Sheehy said in a prepared statement.
The renovations to the downtown Milwaukee Bank One building are expected to begin in October. The building was constructed in 1963 as the first "post World War II" skyscraper in the city, Norquist said.
The Bank One building’s huge parking structure, which some people, including members of the mayor’s staff, have criticized in the past as a waste of prime riverfront space, was actually another reason the company opted to move the jobs downtown, Norquist said.
"Someday when urbanism reaches its point of perfection in Milwaukee, something will be done with that, but it does serve a purpose now," Norquist said.
Construction will begin this fall on a bridge near the parking structure to connect the downtown segment of the city’s Riverwalk to the segment extending north from the Third Ward, Norquist said.
Bank One’s decision to move the jobs downtown comes on the heels of an April announcement that Roundy’s Inc. would move its corporate headquarters from Pewaukee to the 875 East building under construction in downtown Milwaukee at 875 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Meanwhile, the city has made its best offer to Waukesha-based GE Medical, which is shopping around the region for a permanent location for about 300 high-tech jobs, according to sources.
Other locations being considered by GE Medical include the Pabst Farms development in Oconomowoc and the Heritage Reserve development in Menomonee Falls.
Given the movement of the Roundy’s jobs and the Bank One jobs to downtown, landing the GE Medical jobs would be a perfect trifecta for the city, Norquist said.
"Well, GE Med needs to balance the issues on their own calculation," Norquist said. "I know they value being downtown, and they have to balance that against price issues. I think downtown has a good chance for that, but wherever it ends up in the region, it’s going to be good for the whole region. I’d prefer Milwaukee, but it still will be a good thing for Milwaukee and the region over time (if the company opts for the suburbs). We respect their process in that."

Aug. 8, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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