A sequence of events stifled new economic opportunity on the city’s north side.
On Oct. 8, the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously approved the creation of a tax incremental financing (TIF) district and sale of land for Strauss Brands proposal to build a meat processing plant in Century City.
On Oct. 15, at a Common Council meeting, opponents of Strauss Brands meat packing plant moving to Century City gathered outside the Common Council chambers to protest.
Seventy-two hours later amid protest from animal rights groups and opposition from community members, Ald. Khalif Rainey who represents the 7th aldermanic district, withdrew support for the project and Strauss Brands dropped its plans to build at Century City Business Park.
What a difference 72 hours can make.
Strauss Brands is a specialty meat packer. Its products include lamb, veal and grass-fed beef. The company planned to build a $60 million meat processing plant in the Century City area, and would initially create 250 jobs and up to 500 jobs by 2031 in return, a $4.5 million city subsidy.
Now that opportunity is gone.
Not being considered by those in opposition are all the auxiliary jobs that would be needed to support the facility.
With the city’s TIF requirements, Strauss Brands would need to have 40 percent of the project construction work hours performed by unemployed or underemployed city residents and 25 percent of the contracts by value go to certified Small Business Enterprises.
More lost opportunity.
The operations would have begun in 2021 and would bring much needed full time, living wage jobs to the Milwaukee African American community. A community where 32 percent of African Americans are living in poverty.
The area that now houses the Century City Business Park was once an economic force for Milwaukee residents with AO Smith/ Tower Automotive offering good paying, family supporting jobs. After the closing of Tower Automotive poverty increased, crime increased, and violence increased.
A recent report based on an analysis of FBI crime data, identifies Milwaukee as the sixth most dangerous big city in the United States. The biggest differences between the safest and most dangerous cities on the list were found to be median household income and poverty rates.
Protesters claimed the facility would have a negative impact on the area, with pollution and odors. All the time Strauss has been in Franklin, there weren’t any known controversy or complaints, in fact Franklin is still working to keep Strauss in their city.
The decision to protest Strauss Brands was made without prior knowledge of the company. The lack of evidence on accusations directed toward Strauss Brands from the protesters illustrated that they most likely did not tour the Franklin facility nor did any research on the company and how it does business or their plans to design the new plant for odor control.
One Milwaukee resident actually did visit the Franklin facility and was surprised that there was no stench coming from the plant.
Around 60 percent of the specialty meat processor’s 170 production workers at the Franklin location commute from Milwaukee’s north side.
Even though animal rights groups Slaughter- Free Milwaukee and Direct Action Everywhere claim residents were not aware of Strauss Brands being a meat packing company and residents weren’t given sufficient ability to weigh in on the proposal, there were three meetings open to the public.
Strauss still intends to build an approximately 210,000 square-foot facility. The facility is being designed to process 500 live animals daily into packaged meat products from west to east, a deliberate design decision to keep the animals away from the nearby homes but that location most likely won’t be at Century City.
The stench of poverty mingling with an environment of crime, and violence perpetuates a cycle of depression and hopelessness in our community. Would the presumed stench of a meat packing business that would garner 250 plus family sustaining jobs be a door that should be shut? Are Milwaukeeans so traumatized that they don’t recognize opportunity or have too many in our community become comfortable with the stench of poverty.