Grafton, Saukville welcome industry while Mequon shuns it

Geoffrey Martin lives in Mequon, but he put his business elsewhere. Martin, executive vice-president of Pope Scientific, likes living in Mequon, but he’s relocating his growing business from Menomonee Falls to the Saukville Industrial Park. Martin’s new 44,000-square-foot facility should be complete by August.
“We looked in Menomonee Falls, Germantown, Grafton and the Cedarburg areas, but we avoided Mequon because the land there is too pricey,” Martin said. “I live in Mequon and would have liked to have my business close by, but I didn’t want to deal with the city government there.”
Easy freeway access and affordable land prices led Martin to locate his firm, which manufactures distillation equipment for the chemical industry, to Saukville.
“Saukville was the place to go,” Martin said. “They want the industry and were willing to work with us. Ninety-nine percent of my employees will go with me, so labor won’t be an issue. It was a real pleasure working with Saukville. They did everything but shine your shoes. They were so open to working with us.”
That’s good news to Chris Lear, Saukville’s village administrator. Saukville owns and promotes its industrial park and wants to see businesses there succeed.
“We’ve got five new buildings going up in the industrial park this year,” Lear said. “That’s in addition to the growth planned at Charter Steel, our biggest employer, which has added a $100 million addition to its physical structure. We will do whatever we can to help our industries grow and grow our industrial park at the same time.”
Ann Murray, president of the Grafton Chamber of Commerce, said the village of Grafton is the industrial hub of the Ozaukee County.
“The first phase of the Grafton Industrial Park is complete and the second phase has at least three firms there now and more are coming,” Murray said.” In the past, it was easier to get industry here, but with the difficulty in getting good employees, it’s become more challenging.”
Besides attracting industry, Grafton hopes to bring in new business to its downtown area. A master plan to redevelop the downtown is in the works.
“Finally we’re seeing some much-needed changes,” Murray said. “Some buildings are for sale downtown and we would like to see business owners get the help they need to make their businesses successful. We will have small business loans available to them. As a chamber, we do a good job of recruiting new businesses and helping them to feel comfortable in the community.”
While Saukville and Grafton bend over backwards to help businesses locate there, Mequon takes a different approach.
“Most communities say ‘What can we do for development,’ but in Mequon we say ‘What can development do for us,'” said Brad Stenke, the city’s community development director. “We can be more selective about the development we have here. We are mainly interested in providing regional services for the people who live in our community.”
While Mequon has 300 acres set aside for industrial development and an additional 100 acres for commercial/office development, it’s in no hurry to develop it.
“If someone wants to locate here they have to come to the table with the type of development we feel is in our best interest,” Stenke said. “But once you are here, our feeling is that we want you to prosper and we will work with you to see that you are profitable.”
May 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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