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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.



When it comes to economic development, Franklin has two approaches:

1) Very slow

2) Very little

On January 28, 2013, FranklinNOW reported:

“A Meijer official today informed Mayor Tom Taylor that the company is no longer pursuing a 190,000-square-foot store at the southwest corner of Highway 100 and Loomis Road.

“Taylor told NOW Newspapers that Mike Flickinger, director of real estate for Meijer, called to inform him of the decision. He noted that the decision centered on the company's difficulty in getting approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build on or near the site's wetlands.

“The Wisconsin Department of Transportation also had some difficulty with the entrance and exit traffic flow plan of the site, though that concern reportedly had been cleared in recent months.”

Apparently Franklin cares more about wetlands, traffic congestion and driveways than it does about jobs and the economic well-being of individuals. The city tried to deflect blame elsewhere, but Franklin was complicit in the Meijer fail.

Here are excerpts from some blogs I wrote on this subject during 2012:

Franklin has a bizarre, unexplainable approach to economic development. Most communities welcome the concept. Franklin desperately tries to find roadblocks, reasons to block progress.
August 22

The pattern I’ve seen in Franklin since I moved here in 1992 is that the powers that be, when it comes to true economic development and job creation and bold moves, lack the stomach to pull the trigger, leading one to question their real commitment to critical economic growth.
August 22

When it comes to luring businesses and economic development, Franklin has a dreary obstructionist history of being the tortoise rather than the hare. Without exception, city of Franklin officials have been in complete and utter denial about this dismal track record, making all kinds of excuses for our sorry inability to attract job creators on a consistent and reasonably timed basis.
November 21

I have bemoaned on my blog Franklin’s past that I fear will prevent Meijer’s from setting up shop here, eventually sending them to play ball elsewhere.
November 21

This is a full-blown fiasco with finger-pointing and no one, I mean no one at the city of Franklin level accepting blame or responsibility. Meanwhile bye bye economic development. Bye bye jobs.
November 21

Meijer will take their ball out of Franklin and play somewhere else, more easily and quickly. That's a real possibility. If that happens, you can forget all the finger pointing. Enough blame to go around, and everyone loses. And again, given the way we do things in Franklin, no surprise.
November 21

We hurt ourselves whenever a high profile business decision has to be made. Sadly, the people in charge don’t see it, understand it, or care.
August 22

In early February 2013, a rather glum Franklin mayor Tom Taylor standing in the snow on an all-but vacant lot, marked by a single, boarded-up rundown building was pictured on the cover of the Milwaukee Business Journal. It’s a sad, revealing photo, a final exclamation point on the 9-month Meijer saga that turned out just to be a tease for the many who supported the project.

Sean Ryan opened his Business Journal article:

“Meijer Inc. is the third company in eight years to give up on a Franklin site that offers the rewards of a prime location, but also challenges that have made it a difficult and time-consuming pursuit for the development industry.

“The decision by Meijer raises the question: If major national retailers can’t make a go of developing this attractive location, who can?”

Eight years. One site. Three failed economic development efforts.

One could read the two above paragraphs and see the above photo and assume Ryan’s article online to subscribers) is filled with doom and gloom. Not so. The headline reads, “Land of Opportunity.” It could very well have read “Land of Lost Opportunity” and be totally accurate. We are fed the epitome of positive spin.

For a while it appeared with Meijer that Franklin would succeed in spite of itself, its endless hurdles and obstacles and over-regulatory approach to a business climate that isn’t just negative. It’s clueless.

We know what happened.

The property manager for the owner of the land that has turned out to be a three-time loser tried to convince that there’s a silver lining.  According to his spin, because of Meijer’s decision not to come here:

1) The “site is more valuable.”

2) The city’s approval of Meijer’s plan is “evidence that it can succeed.”

And my personal favorite:

3) ”We are better off more than we have ever been."

Spoken like a true spokesman for someone trying to sell a blighted piece of land for $6 million.

Want more positive spin? Mayor Taylor told the Business Journal there’s still hope Meijer will change its mind and come back. Such a position is breathtaking. And we still might get Kohl’s headquarters and we still might get Northwestern Mutual Life to expand here and not downtown Milwaukee.

Another official interviewed by the Business Journal said it would be wrong to assume the wetlands issue was the only issue that led to Meijer dumping Franklin. It wasn’t the only issue. There were the usual moaning and whining suspects about lights on at night, and “those” people shopping here, and where the hell to put a driveway. But wetlands was a BIG issue.

The Business Journal points out that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rejected the Meijer proposal about what to do about wetlands on the site. Four days later, Meijer called Franklin to say thanks, but no thanks. You connect the dots. Bye bye jobs. Bye bye Franklin moving forward.

Franklin has a habit of refusing to take responsibility for the way it does business about business. Maybe the state was the villain this time. Maybe the DNR didn’t cooperate. Ditto the state Department of Transportation. But the city was in this dance as well, and it takes two to tango.

The Business Journal writes, “
Mayor Tom Taylor and developers confident right project will come.” I hope they’re right. Franklin’s miserable track record on that site leads me to believe otherwise.

Contrast our miserable Flintstones-like mentality with the hustling, bustling whirlwind of activity that’s occurring in neighboring Oak Creek. If this was a prize fight, Oak Creek would be Mike Tyson and Franklin would be Pee Wee Herman. In the 53132 zip code, we laugh off and rationalize one failure after another with lame reassurances that while we lost jobs and more consumer choices, at least we saved a wetland. Our city lacks any interest or sense of urgency or passion about boosting our local economy.

Across the border, Oak Creek is cleaning our clock while we just sit back, relax, yawn and refer the few that might by some fluke be interested in opening a business to a glossy brochure with fingers crossed and prayers that those few don’t talk to anyone at Meijer’s.

The Small Business Times focused on Oak Creek in early February 2013:

“…like many post-World War II communities, Oak Creek lacks an important aspect common in older cities and villages: a downtown, a place that is the unique identity, historic heart and gathering place for a community.

“But now a partnership of city officials and an all-star development team is working to literally change the identity of Oak Creek and create a new mixed-use downtown for the city that also will be a unique destination on the south side of Milwaukee County.

"In sum, Oak Creek is on the cusp of an historic and catalytic, game-changing reinvention.

“City officials have committed to build a new city hall and library in the development, called Drexel Town Square. The city has committed to providing up to $19.9 million in tax incremental financing for the project, mostly for infrastructure and public amenities. The city also is lending $2 million to Wispark, which will be paid back under an agreement to share the proceeds from land sales in the project with the city.

“Drexel Town Square will be a unique development that few, if any, other communities in the United States have tried.”

Just a few days ago, the Milwaukee Business Journal reported:

Meijer pays $7M for Drexel Town Square store site in Oak Creek

“Meijer Inc. paid $7 million for 17.5 acres of the Drexel Town Square property in Oak Creek, according to state records, where the retailer will build a large store that will anchor the development.

“Drexel Town Square, a 121-acre project at West Drexel and South Howell avenues, is a partnership between the city of Oak Creek and Wispark LLC, the development arm of Milwaukee-based We Energies. It is a redevelopment of the former Delphi manufacturing plant that will include retail, apartments, a hotel and a new city hall and library.”

Improving our business climate must be a top priority for Franklin’s next mayor.

There was a major business success in Franklin this year.

The Small Business Times wrote a nice profile of the operators who took on the challenge of transforming what they called a "nightmare," an "eyesore,"  a "dump."

Franklin needs a lot more Rocks.


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