Jeramey Jannene

Federal Grant Would Pay For Century City Small Business Hub

Northwest Side CDC would build accelerator for small businesses on former A.O. Smith parking lot.

By - Apr 19th, 2024 04:52 pm
3424 N. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

3424 N. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A coalition vying for a $50 million federal grant that would help bring advanced manufacturing jobs to the 30th Street Corridor is planning to develop a new building in the Century City business park.

“When we receive the $50 million, our goal is to build a facility for smaller businesses,” said Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) Executive Director Willie Smith to the board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) on Thursday.

NWSCDC is the lead applicant behind the “Grow Milwaukee Recompete Coalition Plan,” which is a finalist for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Distressed Area Recompete pilot program.

The group was announced in late 2023 as one of 22 finalists from a field of 560 applicants. President Joe Biden traveled to Milwaukee the same day to promote small business growth.

“The purpose of the grant is really workforce,” said Smith on Thursday.

The new building, which would be developed on what was formerly an A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive surface parking lot at 3424 N. 27th St., would house growing businesses. A 50,000-square-foot “advanced manufacturing training and innovation center” would be constructed on the 4.12-acre lot. The north side of the site would be reserved for a future bus rapid transit station.

“It’s really about finding the facility and helping them to grow their operation,” said Smith, stressing that the building was not targeted at start-up businesses.

The EDA previously said it plans to make grants with an average value between $20 and $50 million to four to eight finalists.  Smith said the organization expects to receive a large award if it does not win and intends to pursue the building even if it does not receive the full $50 million.

“It has been all hands on deck for the last couple of months,” he told the board. The coalition received $500,000 from the EDA to prepare a final application.

RACM unanimously granted the coalition a 12-month exclusive right to negotiate to purchase the site. Demonstrating control of the site is viewed as a means of bolstering the application.

Smith said the proposed building, for which a conceptual rendering was produced, is one of two the coalition hopes to develop.

“There is actually another building other than this one that we are talking about as well,” he said.

NWSCDC has its offices in Century City Tower, 4201 N. 27th St. The organization has now worked against macroeconomic forces for several decades to improve the area. The tower was built by Cutler-Hammer (later Eaton) and one of several buildings in the area left behind as legacy manufacturers have left.

A nine-page application says the Milwaukee effort would focus on preparing industrial land for development, business expansion and paid pre-apprenticeship programs.

Partners include the City of Milwaukee, WRTP/BIG STEP, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, the Milwaukee Bucks, Froedtert Health, Rockwell Automation, Jonco Industries, MobiliSE and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

The national program aims to create jobs where prime-age employment (for those 25 to 54 years old) “significantly trails the national average.” In Milwaukee, the study area has a 62.1% prime-age employment rate and trails the national average by 16.3%.

The 30th Street Corridor, known today for the Century City business park, was previously home to several major manufacturers that employed thousands of workers. Employers that have left the area or folded include A.O. Smith, Eaton, Briggs & Stratton, Perlick Corporation and Leonardo DRS. Master Lock announced it was leaving in 2023.

Several projects are occurring near the site of the proposed building. Just northwest, a large expansion is underway on Melvina Park. Across the street to the west, Talgo continues to operate a rail assembly and rehabilitation facility and, further north in the business park, Craft Beverage Warehouse is pursuing a new modern industrial building.


Sample Map

Existing members must be signed in to see the interactive map. Sign in.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Related Legislation: File 2320126

Categories: Real Estate

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us