Usinger’s starts work on new plant
By David Niles, of SBT
Work is under way for construction of a 50,000-square-foot sausage-making plant for Usinger’s Famous Sausage just south of downtown Milwaukee.
Fred Usinger Co. is having the building erected in two phases adjacent to its distribution center at 303 E. Florida St. in Milwaukee’s Florida Yards business park.
The project, on six acres of land, will essentially fill the business park, although a small parcel remains, said Alderman Angel Sanchez, who represents the area.
Redevelopment of the site, which originally was swampland and later served as a railroad yard for many years, was prompted by the Usingers’ desires to expand beyond their downtown site, but stay within the city.
The company built its 22,000-square-foot distribution center in the business park in 1993.
City officials described the creation of the business park as "challenging" due to soil conditions and the land’s use as a railroad yard, but noted the work helped the Usinger family keep their operations within the city limits and eventually offer space for another nearby business , V. Marchese Co., to relocate.
Just behind the parcel that will hold the new Usinger’s building, work is being completed on the V. Marchese produce company’s new 42,000-square-foot warehouse, office and distribution facility.
The Usinger family purchased the six acres for their new building from the city Redevelopment Authority.
The Florida Yards and its surrounding neighborhoods have seen $300 million in development and redevelopment in recent years, said Sanchez. The Usinger investment will add to that – and will add to the flavor of the neighborhood, he said, quipping that "it’s OK to wrap a bratwust in a tortilla," referring to the area’s Latino influence.
Phase I of the new Usinger plant, about 35,000 square feet of space, will be completed next June at an approximate cost of $9 million.
Environmental Structures Inc. of Hartland is the design/build contractor for the project.
Usinger’s retail store, offices and some manufacturing will remain at the company’s present facility – a six-story building at 1030 N. Old World Third St., although all production will eventually be moved to the Florida Yards site, said Deb Usinger, director of retail operations for the sausage maker.
"While I am bittersweet about moving production from Old World Third street, we have a responsibility to our great-grandfather’s dream for this company," she said.
The new site will alleviate the challenges that truck drivers now face maneuvering in and out of the Old World Third Street site. But, more so, it will offer increased operating efficiencies and room for business expansion, said Fritz Usinger, company president.
"This building will give us the latest in sanitary control, a smoother workflow and greater efficiency in the overall operation," he said. "And it will have the space to add new equipment as the business grows."
And it will allow the company to renew its commitment to the city, he said. "We have been a part of the city of Milwaukee since our founding 123 years ago," Usinger said. "The Florida Street site allows us to continue this tradition and take advantage of existing services such as water, gas, electric, sewer and the transit system for our employees who wish to use it. We feel it is important to keep jobs in the city and make use of an existing manufacturing site in order to help preserve Wisconsin’s green spaces."
Mayor John Norquist praised the family’s commitment to the city — and to the quality of its products. "Usinger’s may be the only American company effectively competing with European sausage makers," the mayor said at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new plant.
Sept. 19, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee