Category Archives: Local Business

More Bad News For Caterpillar: Up To 10,000 Job Cuts Coming

Caterpillar plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next three years, the company reported today, as it also announced reorganization of its mining division.

Check out coverage from the Wall Street Journal, ReutersUSA Today and CNBC. Here is the press release.

From the Wall Street Journal piece …

The Peoria, Ill.-based company said the job cuts would occur through a reduction in its salaried and management staff and, longer term, through contemplated plant consolidations and closures. Caterpillar is aiming to reduce annual costs by roughly $1.5 billion a year. …

The planned job cuts include reductions of between 4,000 and 5,000 salaried and management staff through 2016 but mostly this year. The potential plant consolidations and closings could affect more than 20 of its operations and slightly more than 10% of its factory floor space.

Caterpillar said that since 2013, it has closed or announced plans to close or consolidate more than 20 facilities, impacting 8 million square feet of manufacturing space. In addition, the company already has reduced its total workforce by more than 31,000 since mid-2012. …

Caterpillar also said it would revamp its mining business, as well as the company’s dealer and customer-facing divisions as part of the efforts to lower costs.

Details of the mining reorganization are contained in a company press release. From it …

As previously announced, Chris Curfman, vice president with responsibility for Caterpillar’s Mining Sales & Support Division is retiring, effective December 31, 2015. His division will be integrated into the existing Global Mining machine business divisions. Bringing product, operations, sales and marketing organizations together in both the surface and underground mining applications aligns well with our customers and will also enable a more effective cost structure in a challenging mining environment. The surface mining sales and support teams will join the Hauling & Extraction Division, which will be renamed the Surface Mining & Technology Division, led by Caterpillar Vice President Tom Bluth. The underground mining sales and support teams will join the Material Handling and Underground Division, led by Caterpillar Vice President Denise Johnson.   

So, what does it all mean for South Milwaukee? It remains to be seen.

I’ll keep you posted, especially if I hear more about potential impacts to our city.


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Filed under Caterpillar, Local Business, South Milwaukee

The Food Trucks Are Coming Back!

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Update: The hours are now noon to 3 p.m. It’s reflected below.

It’s Food Truck Carnival time again in downtown South Milwaukee!

We’re bringing back the gathering of food trucks on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the site of the South Milwaukee Downtown Market on 11th Avenue between Milwaukee and Madison.

Great food from some of the area’s top trucks will be served from noon to 3 p.m. that day. Live music is also planned.

I’m excited to see this event return, and we learned a lot from the first one in May.

  • First, we’ll have more trucks this time — 10 committed so far, with hopefully a few more to come. Stay tuned for a list.
  • We’re also spacing the trucks out more, down the entire stretch of 11th Avenue, so lines should be more defined. (However, I can’t say if lines will be shorter; these trucks are very popular).
  • We’re also asking the trucks to bring more food, so they don’t run out as quickly.

I can’t wait for this. The last event drew thousands of people downtown, and I’m hoping for a big crowd this time, as we look to bring more and more of these community- and business-building events to our city center.


Filed under Downtown, Local Business, South Milwaukee

Sunrise Plaza Update: New Owner For Shopping Center, As Ace Hardware Consolidates To Its South Milwaukee Location

Big news for Sunrise Plaza …

First, the center has been acquired by Secured Debt Investments of Coral Gables, Fla., at sheriff’s sale, paving the way for reinvestment in the property and potentially new tenants.

According to its website …

SDI is an investment management firm focusing on underperforming commercial real estate assets throughout the United States. …

We concentrate our acquisitions in distressed, under-performing commercial real estate loans and properties. Our infrastructure provides us with proprietary market knowledge, deal flow and relationships needed to execute our strategy. We implement a disciplined pricing methodology, containing clear exit strategies through a value-add based proposition.

Our highly skilled team of underwriters and acquisition specialists work hand in hand with our local service providers to evaluate and analyze each acquisition, giving us the local presence and knowledge needed to capitalize on opportunities throughout the country.

In other words, it sounds like a key goal of the new ownership is to fix up the center, lease it, and sell it.

Seigel-Gallagher is managing the property, and they tell me their plan is to improve some of the long-neglected vacant spaces at the center, with a focus on the 8,600 square-foot (divisible) retail space at the south end and 3,750 square-foot medical office space. Improvements to the exterior of the property are also planned, including repainting, landscaping, new lighting and updating the main building sign. They’ll also seek to secure long-term relationships with key tenants like Ace Hardware and the Sunrise Restaurant.

As this happens, Ace, the center’s biggest tenant, is making big changes of its own to secure its long-term future in South Milwaukee. You may have read about it in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Dave Micale, the store’s owner, announced last week he was closing his Oak Creek location after 10 years and consolidating operations here. They will be adding inventory from the Oak Creek store to South Milwaukee over the next month, with its remaining staff also making the move.

Dave tells me the Oak Creek closure was a business decision based on a variety of factors, and that he is committed to continuing to serve South Milwaukee for the long term.

I’m so glad to hear that. Ace is a valued retailer in our fair city. They do business the right way, living up to their motto as “the helpful hardware place.” I love shopping local there and want them around for many years to come.

We need stores like this in South Milwaukee.

All in all, I view the Sunrise Plaza developments as a positive for South Milwaukee. After years of little investment in the center, a new owner is committed to making necessary improvements and increasing its value. And Ace is committing to maintaining its long and strong commitment to South Milwaukee, despite the closure of its Oak Creek store.

Of course, we’ll have to see where the future takes this. But I’m hopeful. It’s progress for Sunrise Plaza. Finally.


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Fitness First: Health Fair, Walk Planned For September 10 At The Market

2015 Health Fair


Walk flyer

The South Milwaukee Downtown Market Health Fair and Wellness Adventure returns next week — with a run/walk adding to the event.

The fair, presented by South Shore Family Chiropractic, is set for Thursday, Sept. 10, and will feature more than 20 vendors. The event runs from 3 to 7 p.m., the same hours as the market. The mapped 3K run/walk, presented by the South Milwaukee Health Department, is from 3 to 6 p.m., starting and finishing at the market.

Please mark your calendars … and take steps to becoming healthier in the year ahead. (Me included.)

Check out Health Fair flyer here. Here is a flyer for the run/walk.

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Filed under Health, Local Business, South Milwaukee, South Milwaukee Farmers' Market

Redeveloping Highway 32

Some positive developments on our busiest street, north to south …

  • Burger King. I just heard from folks involved in this project, and here is the update on the location planned for the Walmart outlot: Groundbreaking is expected early this fall, with an opening this winter. I know a lot of people have been asking about this project, as the land remains undeveloped almost a year after the development was approved. It’s really nice to see them moving ahead with this. I can already taste my first Whopper.
  • Nomi Coffee. The new coffee house on at 513 N. Chicago Ave. is now serving food, with the kitchen open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The menu includes toasted ravioli, a turkey BLT, build-your-own grilled cheese, or a “Nomi Sandwich.” They’ve also repaved their parking lot in the last week.
  • Citgo. The new gas station at the corner of 10th and Manitoba opened last week, too.

So, really good momentum. And more to come!


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Fit For The Future: Johnson Health Tech In Growth Mode

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Caterpillar. Eaton. Appleton Electric. Johnson Health Tech.

South Milwaukee is home to more than our fair share of global companies — and the quietest on that list is also our fastest growing.

Johnson Health Tech, 2201 12th Ave., manufacturers equipment that ends up in commercial and other larger gyms — from local high schools to fitness centers — across the globe.

Business has been booming after the company acquired Magnum Fitness in 2012.

The facility has grown from about 60 employees to around 90 today, and they’re hiring another 10-15 welders, machinists, and other roles, as they ramp up production to meet overseas demand.

They are also growing their manufacturing footprint, adding 50,000 square feet in leased warehouse and distribution space along 12th and Marquette Avenues, including four loading docks. They will now lease around 250,000 square feet in the complex that used to be home to Appleton Electric and Line Material (parts of the building date to 1929).

Haven’t heard much about it?  You’re not alone. I didn’t know much about the work happening there until last week, when I took a tour of the facility with Nathan Pyles, Johnson Health Tech’s Cottage Grove operations president, and Scott Brewer, general manager of the South Milwaukee facility.

I left impressed … and happy to see a local company in growth mode.

In fact, one of their biggest struggles is finding enough skilled tradespeople to fill the open jobs. So we’re working to connect them with Milwaukee Area Technical college officials and others to help.

The future is bright, and the Johnson Health Tech acquisition has certainly opened new doors.

Johnson Health Tech — which sells exercise equipment under brands like Matrix, Vision, Horizon and Tempo — is Asia’s largest and the world’s third-largest fitness equipment manufacturer. Its North American operations are based in Cottage Grove, near Madison.

The South Milwaukee plant is one of three manufacturing sites in the company, and the only one in the United States. The products made there are bound for everywhere from high school workout rooms to health clubs to corporate gyms.

For example, several units on the floor last week were branded and bound for Waunakee High School. South Milwaukee High School’s gym also features equipment made at the plant.

“Made in South Milwaukee.” It has a nice ring to it.

I wish them well, and thank them for growing in our fair city. It’s exciting to see.

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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Another Step Toward Cleaner Indoor Air

You will no longer be able to smoke e-cigarettes and similar devices in indoor public spaces in South Milwaukee, according to an ordinance change backed by the South Milwaukee City Council by a 5-3 vote on Tuesday.

The revised ordinance essentially extends the restrictions placed on traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, meaning the latter can no longer be used in “any enclosed space of a public place or place of employment,” among other places.

I support the ban, and I think the ordinance purpose statement sums it up well …

The Common council recognized that smoking of cigarettes and tobacco products is hazardous to an individual’s health and may affect the health of nonsmokers/smokers when they are involuntarily in the presence of smoking. Reliable scientific studies assessed by credible health officials have found that secondhand tobacco smoke is a significant health hazard for children, elderly people, and individuals with cardiovascular disease or impaired respiratory function. Air pollution caused by smoking is an offensive annoyance and irritant. Smoking results in serious and significant physical discomfort to nonsmokers. The purported health benefits from electronic smoking devices (commonly known as e-cigarettes, e-pipes and several other trade and brand names) have not been scientifically proven, and use of these devices has not been proven safe, either for their users or for bystanders. Research indicates electronic smoking devices may lead youth to try other tobacco products. In addition, research indicates that youth who use electronic smoking devices are more likely to use tobacco products, including cigarettes, than those youth who do not use electronic smoking devices. Adopting this ordinance will promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the people of the City of South Milwaukee, and especially the health interests of nonsmokers, who constitute a majority of the population of the City.

Governments can and should play a role in promoting public health, and creating regulations to do so. This is a good example of the city being proactive in doing that, even as the state determines its position on the issue.

Of course, there is reasonable disagreement on this. But, for me, as one advocate said at Tuesday’s city council meeting, allowing even e-cigarette smoking is “an invasion of clean indoor air.” It’s our job to protect against that invasion, stand up for public health and send a message that all smoking is bad. We are doing that with this ordinance change.


Filed under Health, Local Business, South Milwaukee