Kohl’s, The Moral of the Story
For over a year the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, and various regional entities worked together in attempt to bring Kohl’s corporate headquarters to downtown Milwaukee. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful. Some have been quick to judge saying the moral of the story is, the city is a failure, and Mayor Tom Barrett can’t get the job done. Now, it is true the city didn’t win, this time, but is the moral of the story, failure?
For some, the standard being put forward would rate Ryan Braun, Brandon Jennings, and Aaron Rodgers as failures, because they don’t win or succeed 100% of the time. The sports fan knows that in baseball All Stars fail nearly 70% of the time, in basketball All-Stars don’t even shoot 60% from the field and nobody hits 100% of their free-throws, and in football even Aaron Rodgers only connects with his receivers 68% of the time.
What’s worth noting here isn’t failure, it is that Milwaukee is no longer sitting on the sidelines.
The game plan followed throughout this effort involved huge financial incentives, tax breaks, and other accommodations for Kohl’s. The city was prepared to create a $100 million TIF district to develop two large parking garages for Kohl’s. And if $100 million worth of parking wasn’t enough to satisfy Kohl’s mobility requirements, Milwaukee County was going to offer thousands of free bus passes. The City of Milwaukee working with partner entities had also put together $170 million in tax credits, and Milwaukee County was going to give Kohl’s the land for free to reduce the cost of development. Finally, to sweeten the deal Milwaukee County was to provide numerous advertising opportunities for Kohl’s to cement their brand throughout Milwaukee. It clearly wasn’t for the lack of effort, or value, that Kohl’s choose to pass.
Kohl’s, the City, and the County discussed the deal for months, going through over 20 iterations of the design, with the City and County exhausting nearly every financial incentive they had available to make the deal work. Well Kohl’s has yet to commit to a new location, it’s clear that a lack of effort didn’t prevent Milwaukee from landing Kohl’s.
The moral of the story isn’t that this was a failure. The moral of the story is that for the first time in a long time, if you want to bring big business to the city, the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County together will leave it all out on the floor.