Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

NM Tower Hired 800 City Residents

Tower project also gives $127 million in contracts to disadvantaged small businesses.

By - Jan 9th, 2018 11:54 am
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Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons

Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons

Milwaukee’s gleaming new skyscraper by the lake did far more than improve the city’s skyline. Construction of the 1.1 million-square-foot Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons created nearly 800 jobs for previously unemployed or under-employed city residents and $127 million in contracts for more than 70 disadvantaged small businesses.

The tower opened to great fanfare last August, nearly three years to the day after construction started. Our profile of the project was one of Urban Milwaukee’s most popular articles of 2017, the tower was lauded by UM architecture critic Tom Bamberger lauded the tower’s design and the New York Times covered the project as part of a profile on the city.

Those figures come from the final hiring report from Northwestern Mutual and the city’s Office of Small Business Development. Because the project received a $54 million developer-financed tax-incremental financing district, Northwestern Mutual was required to have 40 percent of project work hours completed by unemployed or underemployed city residents. Also, the project was required to have 25 percent of the project’s costs completed by certified Small Business Enterprises.

Northwestern Mutual exceeded both of those requirements. The company achieved a 43.5 percent rate on the Residents Preference Program requirements and a 31.4 percent rate on SBE hiring.

Workers received training through employment agency WRTP/BIG STEPPrism Technical Management & Marketing Services administered the project’s RPP compliance.

The insurance giant engaged in a number of creative measures to exceed the targets at the same time other Milwaukee developers have fallen short of the requirements. The most notable move was creating a glass curtain wall assembly plant in Century City in partnership with Oregon-based Benson Industries and local firm Duwe Metal Products. The $70-million, 83,000 square-foot operation used over 150 employees to manufacture 386,000 square-feet of glass panels.

Of the 1,829,532 hours worked on the project, 795,882 hours were completed by the project’s 795 RPP participants. Out-of-state workers completed 165,819 of the project’s work hours.

A partnership of Gilbane and CG Schmidt led the general contracting on the massive project. At a Common Council hearing on the project, CG Schmidt president Rick Schmidt said his organization was proud of the success: “It took an incredible effort on behalf of a number of organizations,” he said.

“I enjoyed reading the report. Job well done is all I can say,” offered Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. Stamper noted that the council is continuing to look at ways to improve hiring of city residents, particularly minorities.

Stamper chairs a new committee to study the RPP program. Council president Ashanti Hamilton says the committee’s first hearing will likely be held in January.

At least 24 RPP workers came from every aldermanic district, with additional city residents working on the project who aren’t RPP participants. The average RPP-certified employee completed 1,000 hours on the project according to Prism’s Lafayette Crump. Workers were paid applicable prevailing wages.

The report notes that of those employees, 28 now work in the construction industry, 23 are employed in a different sector, 11 obtained apprenticeships and 20 re-engaged WRTP/BIG STEP for further training.

The report profiles individuals who received training to work on the Northwestern Mutual project and ultimately moved on to the Bucks arena project. Other workers have moved on to the streetcar project, the Bader Philanthropies redevelopment project and Northwestern Mutual’s 7Seventy7 apartment tower.

City-certified Small Business Enterprises received $127.1 million of $404.7 million in applicable project costs. The two biggest contracts awarded were $8.7 million to Duwe Metal Products for the glass panel assembly and $8.36 million to KMI Construction LLC for masonry work.

Mayor Tom Barrett, Hamilton and Northwestern Mutual held a press conference today to celebrate the company’s accomplishment. At the press conference, Barrett stressed that it was important to him and Northwestern Mutual CEO John Schlifske that “Milwaukeeans build the future of Milwaukee.”

Hamilton added “most people who looked at the numbers said that this would be impossible.” He praised Northwestern Mutual’s commitment to the city. “It’s important for us to say thank you to them, there are many residents that now have careers that are working throughout the region,” said Hamilton.

Northwestern Mutual vice president Eric Christophersen said: “candidly, Northwestern Mutual is in the business of keeping promises.” He noted that reaching the targets wasn’t easy, but the company’s development made it a focus.

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Categories: Real Estate

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