The City of Milwaukee’s efforts to transform the former site of the A.O. Smith plant—now known as Century City—into an industrial park similar to the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center, is finally paying off. During his State of the City address Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett revealed ground will soon be broken for the construction of a 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility that has the potential of doubling in size in future stages.
General Capitol and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation are behind the construction of the building on land that is now ready for investment and “a new century of manufacturing and jobs,” Barrett said. During his address, held at Journey House, a community based organization located at 2110 W. Scott St., Barrett said a number of companies have approached the city about locating their business inside the new facility.
The mayor praised Aldermen Willie Wade and Ashanti Hamilton for their commitment and help in making what will happen at the Century City site a reality. Across the street from Century City, the Sewerage District and city have joined to plan and design a flood mitigation project to reduce flooding and create a green corridor near DRS Technologies. “The work will transform the 30th Street Industrial Corridor into a major modern employment center and economic hub. The construction news was one of several issues the mayor touched on that has great benefits for the city’s Black community. The mayor talked about continuing already existing initiatives he has put in place focusing on job creation for adults and teens, reversing the plague of foreclosed homes and revitalizing neighborhoods, which the mayor said is linked to a strong Milwaukee economy.
Barrett also touched on initiatives that will focus on helping people coming out of the criminal justice system, reducing premature births, enrollment into the ACA health insurance marketplace, and the continued reduction in crime, with an emphasis in reducing the number of gun-related homicides.
In his address, Barrett talked about the early success of his Strong Neighborhoods Plan, which addresses the impact foreclosures have on Milwaukee neighborhoods. “It (the plan) recognizes that even in the hardest hit neighborhoods, there is strength.” The mayor pointed to the recently completed renovation of a foreclosed property on the city’s northwest side that was purchased by the city that was done by the Ezekiel Hope program. “When Don Utech, chairman of Ezekiel and Jim Gaillard, vice-president of finance, finished their renovation in January, they were under budget, had contracted with five minority businesses and provided lead abatement training for 14 contractors,” the mayor proudly said. On a larger scale, the mayor said the city is working with organizations like ACTS Housing, which, he said, has a unique model that connects committed buyers with the dream of owning a home.
The organization has also stepped up to reduce the impact of foreclosures. The mayor said in the last two years, ACTS has helped more than 60 families buy and fix up foreclosed homes. The mayor proudly touted the reduction in the African American infant mortality rate. Since setting a goal of a 15% rate drop by 2017, the city has recorded a 14.3% drop in the infant mortality rate. “While we are pleased with the progress, we can’t celebrate when the African American infant mortality rate remains stubbornly high.” But the mayor also noted the need to deal with the infant deaths due to complications of prematurity. “Reducing premature births requires us to build community partnerships, offer health education, and provide direct services to those women who need it most,” Barrett said. Despite Gov. Scott Walker’s refusal to take federal Medicaid expansion dollars that would have saved Wisconsin $340 million through 2021, Barrett said the city is moving forward on its own to assist individuals and enroll them in the health insurance marketplace. The Milwaukee Health Department is enrolling people at 66 sites citywide. The deadline to purchase insurance through the health insurance marketplace is March 31.
Barrett strongly encouraged private employers to hiring individuals who are coming out of the criminal justice system. He said 88 temporary workers those who came out of the system and were hired by the city’s Department of Public Works proved they were hard-working, motivated employees who need a chance. The mayor also lauded his “Earn & Learn” summer jobs program for area teens, which opens the door to work experiences that help them develop into responsible working adults.
“I want to offer 3,000 teens jobs this summer,” Barrett said. Other notable accomplishments pointed out by the mayor were: • The Milwaukee Police Department report a 26% reduction in crime since 2007 thanks to focused deployment of personnel and technology. • the Fatherhood Initiative has served 8,000 men reconnect and be involved with their children. • The “I Have A Dream Milwaukee” program, started in 2008 at Clarke Street School that now served 52 “Dreamers.”