Leader Paper Products might move out of Walker’s Point

Considering location near airport

Leader Paper Products has been in Walker's Point since 1920.

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:00 pm

A 115-year-old family-run manufacturing business has outgrown its location in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood and is considering moving to a warehouse near General Mitchell International Airport.

Leader Paper Products has been in Walker's Point since 1920.
Leader Paper Products has been in Walker’s Point since 1920.

Leader Paper Products, Inc., 901 S. 5th St., Milwaukee, is considering a move to a 202,875-square-foot warehouse at 5111 S. 9th St., Milwaukee. There is currently 79,000 square feet available in the space. RR Donnelley and an affiliate of CVS are also tenants.

“What has happened is we are maxed out and we’re landlocked,” said Scott Wilke, president and CEO of Leader Paper Products, Inc. “We’ve been looking for three years and this is a property we continue to look at.”

Wilke said there are many moving parts to the situation including financing, and whether Leader Paper Products would be able to make do with 79,000 square feet, or would need a larger space at the 9th Street location. If so, Wilke said the company might expand the 9th Street location, or wait until the other tenants’ leases are up.

No decision has been made about the company’s future facility plans, Wilke said.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority will consider designating the property on 9th Street blighted on Nov. 17, so Leader Paper Products can apply for financial assistance if it moves forward with its purchase.

Leader Paper Products, Inc. was incorporated as Leader Card Works in 1901 at 311-315 Broadway in the Third Ward as a large envelope manufacturer. In 1904, the company relocated to Waukegan, Illinois, where it was headquartered until 1920.

In 1920, Leader Card Works purchased a building at 376-378 1st Ave, which is currently 6th Street. Expansions were added to the facility in 1926, 1930 and in 1949 when the address was changed to its current 901 S. 5th St.

In the late 1950s, the company acquired adjacent land and built a second building at 925-929 S. 5th St., which is the location of its envelope die-cutting department and offices. In 1980, Leader acquired additional land in Walker’s Point and expanded again. In 2000, the company added another 10,000 square feet of office space and a 42,000-square-foot warehouse.

Leader Paper Products currently has about 110 employees and owns about 150,000 square feet in the 900 block of S. 5th Street between Mineral and Walker streets in Walker’s Point. The street is currently undergoing a major reconstruction project that will narrow the road and make it more pedestrian friendly. City officials are hoping Fifth Street will be able to attract more restaurants and retail.

Wilke, who has worked Leader Paper Products since he was 16, said the transformation Walker’s Point has gone through has been great for the city.

“We’re happy here, right now, but we’re in the paper business, which is a mature industry and a volatile industry,” Wilke said. “Regardless of how we wind up, I’m sure at some point, we could possibly find a happy tenant (for its Walker’s Point facility).”

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