Speed, labor force drove Strauss Brands’ Century City decision

Future unclear for company's Franklin properties

Strauss Brands Century City
Strauss Brands' current facility in Franklin

Last updated on September 8th, 2019 at 03:55 pm

The ability to begin construction this year and the proximity to where many of its employees live led Strauss Brands to pick Milwaukee’s Century City business park over a location in Franklin for its new headquarters and processing facility, Jerry Bussen, chief financial officer of Strauss Brands said today.

“We just feel it’s a good location for our workforce,” he said. “We sort of mapped out our workforce and found that most of them commute in from that area and lots of them are carpooling, so that definitely was a determining factor and we just want to make a positive impact in Century City. We feel that once we go in there, we hope that others will follow suit.”

Bussen said the company had talked with Milwaukee officials about locating in the city since 2016 and reengaged in those discussions two months ago.

Milwaukee and company officials on Wednesday announced plans for Strauss to build a 175,000-square-foot facility at the Century City site along Hopkins Avenue, just south of Capitol Drive. The city will sell the 20 acres for the project to the company for $1. Another five acres for a future 100,000-square-foot expansion would also be sold for $1.

The city will also provide the company with up to $4.5 million if Strauss hits certain employment targets. Strauss would need 250 employees at the site after one year to earn $2 million, 400 employees after five years to earn $3 million total and 500 employees by the end of year 10 to earn the full $4.5 million, according to a draft project plan provided by the city.

Bussen said the incentives helped but were not a determining factor in Strauss’ decision.

Two perceived shortcomings that some have of the Century City business park – its distance from the interstate and neighborhood safety – were also not concerns for Strauss, Bussen said.

“We’re not worried about safety at all,” he said. “(And) it’s actually closer to the highway than our current facility and significantly closer than if we’d built a new facility in Franklin. We’re not a distribution company. We don’t have hundreds of trucks coming in and out every day.”

Strauss had been planning to build a multi-million dollar facility along West Loomis Road in Franklin and even bought 30 acres from an affiliate of Bear Development for $2.1 million in March.

Bussen said the company’s current facility at 9775 S. 60th St. in Franklin does not have room to accommodate the growing company.

“We’re just out of space, we’re very space-constrained,” he said, noting the facility was built 50 years ago.

The future for the facility and the Loomis Road parcel is now up in the air.

“Not sure what’s going to happen there,” Bussen said. “We’re a growing business so at this point we really don’t know what the future holds.”

He said the company never really considered splitting its corporate and production operations, potentially leaving the former in the suburbs.

“We think it is more efficient to have all of our management personnel and our plant personnel at one location,” Bussen said.

He added that the one-day delay in announcing the Century City project was the result of Strauss officials having prior commitments they could not break.

“We’re very busy right now,” Bussen said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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