On Today's Tragedy

My heart hurts tonight for the families, friends and co-workers of the victims of today’s shooting at Molson Coors.

Many know I worked at Miller Brewing Co. and MillerCoors for nearly 13 years. And while I left the company in December, I have many friends and co-workers who remain. My heart hurts for them, too.

I can’t begin to imagine what today was like on the campus, down the hill from my former office. And I can’t imagine what tomorrow holds for my former colleagues, as they try to make sense of this, as they mourn, and as they eventually unite to overcome this most tragic of days.

I pray for our first responders, those who run toward danger in situations like this, and did today. I pray for Molson Coors executives, as they lead the company through this, and grieve with them tonight. I pray for our city.

I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m depressed. I’m scared.

I’m also relieved it wasn’t me.

One thing I’m not is shocked. We can’t be shocked anymore when things like this happen. This is the world, the country, we live in.

This is America, where tragedies like this are now commonplace. And that fact makes feel another emotion tonight: sadness.

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Headlines! Bucyrus Club Edition

Check out these South Shore headlines, starting with coverage of Thursday’s Bucyrus Club announcement in the following publications …

And check out the Facebook Live stream of the announcement.

Here are some other headlines …

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Bucyrus Foundation to Invest $2 Million in Two Downtown South Milwaukee Projects

A 1935 image of the Bucyrus Club, from the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum. See the full article from the 1935 Bucyrus “SCOOP” magazine here.

The City of South Milwaukee is partnering with the Bucyrus Foundation, Skyline Catering and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum to create a one-of-a-kind venue in the heart of our downtown … one that honors the legacy of a company that defined this city for almost 120 years, while also invests in a successful family business that will be a destination for thousands of residents and visitors to this city each year. 

The announcement is being made this afternoon, and I can’t be more excited about it, and what it will mean for our city.

You can read the press release below. Here are my remarks …

Good afternoon, my name is Erik Brooks, and I am the mayor in the City of South Milwaukee. 

Thank you for being a part of this historic day in our city, as we announce a major downtown redevelopment years in the making. 

The City of South Milwaukee is partnering with the Bucyrus Foundation, Skyline Catering and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum to create a one-of-a-kind venue in the heart of our downtown … one that honors the legacy of a company that defined this city for almost 120 years, while also invests in a successful family business that will be a destination for thousands of residents and visitors to this city each year. 

In the next few minutes, you will hear a lot more details about the project from the partners behind me.

But I want to start with recognizing the other elected officials in attendance. Thank you for being here. 

A big thank you and congratulations to the South Milwaukee Common Council, who formally approved this project last night. 

Also thank you to the city team that has driven this effort for many months, led by City Administrator Tami Mayzik and Economic Development Director Stephanie Hacker. This deal would have never happened without their passion, dedication and hard work to seeing it through. 

We can’t do something like this alone, and we are stronger, together. That is why I also want to thank our partners with us today … Tim Sullivan and the Bucyrus Foundation … Bob Jelinek and the volunteers from the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum … and Ernie and Kathy Wunsch from Skyline Catering, and their team. You will hear from them in a second.

I can’t be more excited about today’s announcement. 

I think the press release says it all. This is my quote … 

“This is a transformational project for our downtown, and our city. It will bring our proud past to life, telling the story of Bucyrus, its workers and their impact on the city and the world in a really unique way. We are incredibly proud of our heritage in South Milwaukee, and we need to do a better job telling that story. This does that, and more, for generations to come.”

Indeed, that last part is such a key aspect of this project … the fact that it will ensure my kids, and their kids, and their kids, will be able to know the story of Bucyrus, the story of South Milwaukee. 

The shovels that made the Panama Canal were made here … in the very building we are talking about today, in fact. Not enough people know that. They will now. 

Bucyrus defined our city for generations. We were a company town, and proud of it. 

Today, we are still proud of our blue-collar roots … even as we reinvent ourselves as a city. This effort is a huge step forward in those revitalization efforts, a defining moment for us.

And there is a lot happening on that front, as we reshape the look and feel of our downtown, and step up our work to make it a destination once again. 

Part of that work was to tell the story of another South Milwaukee institution. Hopefully you’ve seen Da Crusher statue, installed last spring … with Crusherfest II coming this June on the site of the soon-to-be improved public space. 

And as this development comes on line later this year, we are also making a more than $1.5 million investment in Milwaukee Avenue streetscaping, work that will be completed this summer. Street repairs, new sidewalks, new lighting, new trees, planters and decorative features … and a bike lane connecting the Oak Leaf trail through downtown, and in front of the eventual Bucyrus Club. 

This will transform the look and feel of our Main Street.

There are other projects in the works, too, with more information to come on those. The Bucyrus Club and new park will only build on that momentum, and we think spur even more development downtown. This will be a catalyst.

As we do this, small, local businesses will continue to define our city … which is why I’m especially excited to see people like Ernie Wunsch and Skyline Catering get behind our work and choose to make a big bet on South Milwaukee. I am gratified we as a city can invest in making that happen. 

So, again, Tim, Bob, Ernie, thank you. Thank you for stepping up to help us celebrate our proud past, while simultaneously working to deliver our promising future.

You are making it happen here, in South Milwaukee.

With projects like this becoming reality, I can’t be more excited about where we are headed in this city. 

Our best days truly are ahead of us. 

With that, I’d like to introduce Tim Sullivan, the former president of Bucyrus who now heads the Bucyrus Foundation. 

It’s been especially exciting for me to see Tim get re-engaged in South Milwaukee, and to see him make revitalization of this city a personal mission … with hopefully even more to come.

Tim, thank you for being such a great partner in this.


Press Release

Bucyrus Foundation to Invest $2 Million in Two Downtown South Milwaukee Projects

New Home Coming for Skyline Catering and South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, and New Gathering Space

The Bucyrus Foundation is making a historic investment in its legacy in the city the company called home for nearly 120 years.

Foundation and other project leaders planned to announce on Thursday a $2 million gift to the City of South Milwaukee to enable two projects to help transform the city’s downtown: $1.5 million toward the renovation of the now city-owned property at 1919 12th Ave., and $500,000 toward the development of a city-owned public space at 11th and Madison Avenues, currently home to the South Milwaukee Downtown Market and other community events.

The building will be named the Bucyrus Club, as it was during eight-plus decades under the company’s ownership of the property. It will feature a premier banquet facility operated by Skyline Catering Inc., and the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum LLC. The public space will also pay homage to the Bucyrus name.

“The Bucyrus Foundation is proud to make this contribution honoring South Milwaukee’s proud past and promising future, and the legacy and heritage of Bucyrus. We were honored to call South Milwaukee home for more than 100 years. This gift will ensure generations to come know the story of Bucyrus and the equipment thousands of South Milwaukee residents built, to build the world,” said Tim Sullivan, Bucyrus Foundation Chairman.

Sullivan continued: “This is also an investment in the future of South Milwaukee. I personally am excited to see how these projects will bring new life to the downtown area and serve as catalysts for even more investment in the city. I am hopeful the Bucyrus Foundation will continue to partner in this work, with additional investments in the redevelopment of South Milwaukee for years to come.”

The South Milwaukee Common Council approved purchasing the building for $560,000 at its meeting on Wednesday night. The city signed closing documents Thursday morning.

Under the deal, the city will use a combination of foundation funds and other sources — including tax incremental district revenue and anticipated economic development grants — to fund a more than $3 million renovation of the space. Skyline Catering will also fund improvements, and provide rent to the city. Construction is expected to begin this spring, with a partial opening planned for Dec. 18, 2020 — the 100-year anniversary of Bucyrus opening its first employee club there.

“This is a transformational project for our downtown, and our city,” South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said. “It will bring our proud past to life, telling the story of Bucyrus, its workers and their impact on the city and the world in a really unique way. We are incredibly proud of our heritage in
South Milwaukee, and we need to do a better job telling that story. This does that, and more, for generations to come.

“We could not do this alone. That is why I am so thankful for partners like the Bucyrus Foundation, South Milwaukee Industrial Museum and Skyline Catering. Without them, this project would never become reality.”

The project will deliver a combination banquet space and museum to downtown South Milwaukee, as Skyline Catering, owned by South Milwaukee residents Ernie & Kathy Wunsch, aims to bring a variety
of events, ranging from small community groups and wedding receptions to corporate events of more than 400 to the Bucyrus Club. The club will eventually be open to the public for Friday fish fries and special events as well.

“A huge and humbled thank you must go to the city and the Bucyrus Foundation for their forward thinking, heritage preservation and complete support of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum and Skyline to jumpstart what we think will be a thriving downtown South Milwaukee,” the Wunsches said. “Skyline Catering and its entire team are thrilled to bring its brand of food, service and event planning to South Milwaukee and in the process, to create upwards of 50 new food and beverage jobs.

“We want to create a place that will generate buzz, a place that will be the catalyst for other downtown South Milwaukee business owners to take a chance, a place that can bring the heritage of South Milwaukee back, and, most of all, a place of our own that we can call home.”

The Bucyrus Club will also be the new home to the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum, and will feature rare artifacts, models, images and other items from the collection formerly located on the Bucyrus campus. The museum has been searching for a permanent home for several years, as it displays its collection in various exhibitions across the area, currently at the Milwaukee County Historical Society and recently at the Milwaukee School of Engineering Grohmann Museum, South Milwaukee Library and South Milwaukee City Hall.

“We are extremely grateful to the Bucyrus Foundation and the City of South Milwaukee for their ongoing support in helping us to re-establish a permanent home for the historical artifacts and archives in the Bucyrus collection,” said Bob Jelinek, co-founder and Chairman of the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum. “We look forward to showcasing the partnerships that existed during the early development of the city and company in our displays, as well as celebrating the rich industrial history of other prominent and historic companies that called South Milwaukee home.”

Furthermore, Bucyrus Foundation funds will go a long way to developing a one-of-a-kind public space with a manufacturing heritage spin. Planning for the public space at 11th and Madison — a block away from the proposed Bucyrus Club — is expected to begin in the coming weeks and will include stakeholders like the South Milwaukee Downtown Market, South Milwaukee Lions, and other community partners.

Earlier this month, the city council voted to engage Saiki Design, a Madison-based landscape architecture firm, in the planning effort. Construction of the public space is expected in 2021. Project details will be shaped following a robust public comment process, although the public space is expected to include permanent facilities to support special events and daily users, as well as historical features evoking the manufacturing history of the city.

“Creation of this destination public space is an important part of this deal, and we thank the Bucyrus Foundation for their generous investment,” Brooks said. “I can’t wait to work with all of our partners — and the community as a whole — to breathe new life into this part of our city center.”

About 1919 12th Avenue
One of the city’s most historic properties, 1919 12th Avenue was home to South Milwaukee’s first manufacturer (Schutz Bros. Furniture Company). Parts of the building date back to 1892. After a brief period of ownership by the Racine Fire Engine and Motor Company, Bucyrus purchased the building in 1910 for use as its west machine shop and steam engine assembly shop. All of the steam engines for the iconic Panama Canal shovels and railroad cranes built by Bucyrus and used in building the Canal were manufactured in this building.

In 1920, Bucyrus reconfigured the building as an employee club, including dining space, a bar, bowling alleys and a second-floor gymnasium, stage, and handball court. The club cafeteria also served several hundred meals a day to employees, and hosted countless company parties, management meetings, civic and awards banquets, and was the home for the BE Quarter Century Club for about 75 years. In 1994, the building became the South Milwaukee Community Center, operated by the South Milwaukee Lions Club until new ownership changed the use to Papa Luigi’s II in 2006. Following water damage about six years ago, a few occupants have utilized the building including its most recent, Emergency Fire and Water Restoration. The city anticipates working with the occupant to secure new space.

About the 11th and Madison Property

This approximately 0.75-acre property is a combination of several parcels the city acquired prior to 2009, as part of its Tax Incremental Financing District. No. 1. For more than a decade, part of the space has been used by the South Milwaukee Downtown Market and other events, including Crusherfest in 2019, for seating, a stage and portable restrooms.

About Bucyrus

Established in 1880, The Bucyrus Foundry and Manufacturing Company of Bucyrus, Ohio found themselves landlocked by 1890 and could not expand beyond their existing 1.5-acre location. A delegation of South Milwaukee founders visited Bucyrus, and after protracted negotiations, a contract was signed on October 3, 1891: Bucyrus would move from Ohio to Wisconsin. The South Milwaukee Company would pay Bucyrus $50,000 in cash and provide deeds to land valued at $45,000.

The company officially began operations in South Milwaukee in April of 1893, and would incorporate in Wisconsin as the Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge Company on August 16, 1893. It continued to serve as the dominant employer in South Milwaukee for more than 118 years. Early South Milwaukee machine production focused on railroad and dredge equipment. Its railroad cranes, pile drivers, and steam shovels helped to build the world’s infrastructure. Most notably, 77 steam shovels were provided for the construction of the Panama Canal between 1902 and 1911. During that period, 60% of the company’s shipments were steam shovels, with 30% in dredges. Railroad wrecking cranes and pile drivers made up the balance.

The company changed names a few years later to become just The Bucyrus Company. In 1927 Bucyrus purchased the Erie Steam Shovel Company and changed the name to Bucyrus-Erie. By the early 1950’s, “BE” machines would be performing work on every continent as the company became
the world’s largest construction and mining machine manufacturer.

Bucyrus-Erie again changed its name in 1997 to Bucyrus International, Inc. to reflect the worldwide business reputation that the company enjoyed. Bucyrus eventually purchased three of its largest competitors, Marion Power Shovel, DBT America, and Terex to make South Milwaukee the headquarters of the largest mining machinery supplier in the world. At one point, Bucyrus employed more than 2,400 people in South Milwaukee alone, and had more than 3,700 employees operating in 17 plants and subsidiary service operations worldwide.

In July of 2011, the company was purchased by Caterpillar. The products were rebranded and the Bucyrus name would no longer be used. Caterpillar would continue to operate on part of the property, however, production at the main plant ceased in 2016 after 123 years of continuous operation.

About the Bucyrus Foundation

The Bucyrus Foundation was formed in the 1970s. In 2002, the company transferred its foundation to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. In recent years, the foundation has supported several South Milwaukee initiatives, including a downtown revitalization grant program, funding of the city’s
economic development director position and a community grant program.

About Skyline Catering

Skyline Catering, Inc. is a family-owned catering business that services corporate and private clients with an award-winning reputation of knowing and listening to their client’s needs, customizing all levels of catered events and providing on-time, impeccable service and cuisine. We have maintained a healthy five-star rating with Google, Yelp, Facebook and Trip Advisor since opening in 1997. Our portfolio of repetitive clients has exponentially grown over the past 10 years to well over 700. We service Southeast Wisconsin’s tri-county area daily with seven delivery trucks and an average of 10-15 events per day.

Owner and CEO: Ernie Wunsch has 40 plus years in the food and beverage industry managing fine dining, casual dining, private clubs, major hotel’s food & beverage departments and finally Skyline Catering for the past 22 years. Ernie is a 1979 graduate of South Milwaukee High School and has returned to his roots after extensive countrywide travel regarding his career in the food and beverage industry. Ernie, with his wife and co-owner, Kathy, have settled in South Milwaukee with their three children who have attended or still attend South Milwaukee schools and work at Skyline Catering. Ernie and his family are very involved with their community, share its vision and are passionate about investing in its development.

COO: Robin Frederick has been in the food and beverage industry for over 30 years. Robin managed a very successful and well-known tavern for 17 years before joining forces with Skyline catering. She quickly learned every aspect of the catering business and brought the element of enhanced presentation, staff development and motivation with her. She swiftly embraced the role of COO and is very excited about the future growth of Skyline Catering. Skyline’s staff fluctuates mildly, but is pretty consistent at 15-20 full time, 10-15 part time and 10-20 “on call” employees. On-call staff are brought into action for larger events as needed. Ernie is forecasting the need for 20-25 new employee hires for the future development.

Skyline also operates a breakfast/lunch deli in the City of Cudahy. It is a venture that Ernie wanted to give a try 10 years ago. The biggest worry is that it was in an out-of-the-way location attached to Skyline Catering; however, great food and great service has made us the busiest “non-fast” food eating establishment, over the lunch hour, in the City of Cudahy. We have been recognized professionally as business of the year from the City of Cudahy as well as a special community recognition from the 128th Air Refueling Wing. Future intentions include the possibility of a South Milwaukee Skyline Deli.

Skyline has always been an off-site caterer where we bring the event to you. We have a list of over 20 preferred venues throughout Southeast Wisconsin. Our next vision for growth has been to have a base and beautiful facility where our clients can come to us. Our plans involve corporate, private, wedding, civic, community and non-profit events. We also have some great marketing ideas to go hand-in-hand with the Heritage Museum.

About the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum (SMIM)

SMIM’s mission as a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational museum is to provide the general public with access to artifacts, written records, photographic images and publications that explore the history, innovations, and technology development of the machines which were designed, manufactured and erected by Bucyrus International, Inc., its predecessor companies, and its merged companies, in South Milwaukee. SMIM has been managed by an all-volunteer board and advisor group since its inception in March of 2017.

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Think Summer! Traveling Beer Garden Returning to Grant Park in 2020

More details on the county website.

Exciting news from Milwaukee County today …

Mark your calendars for June 24, opening day!

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"Once it's Lost, it's Lost": An Update on Steps to Preserve Our Written History for Generations to Come

The fundraising effort to digitize more than 100 years of city newspaper continues, and I’m happy to report there is a good progress.

The South Milwaukee Historical Society tells me 16 donors have already stepped up to contribute between $10 and $1,000 each, for a total of $5,000. That is in addition to $2,000 committed by the society — with Jay Benkowski, of Benkowski Builders, agreeing to match all new donations dollar for dollar. The goal is $15,000.

Donate today! Send checks to: South Milwaukee Historical Society, 717 Milwaukee Ave., South Milwaukee, WI 53172.

And check out coverage from NOW and Fox 6, and my previous post on this effort. From the Fox 6 story …

Decades of history now sit with no way to access it. Cheaper than buying a new machine is digitizing all of the files — which is also a more user-friendly option. “If you digitize it in a certain way, it’s searchable, so you wouldn’t need to take this film and go through every single frame to see if that’s the one where your family history is on,” Manning said.

But the library can’t afford the project on its own. The South Milwaukee Historical Society is leading the effort to raise $15,000 for the digitization.

“It’s very important because, in some cases, this is the only record of this information,” said Manning. “Once it’s lost, it’s lost.”

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Spring 2020 Primary: Larson, Kelly Big Winners in South Milwaukee

South Milwaukee results are in for the spring 2020 primary, and turnout was again solid, at more than 23%.

Big winners locally were Chris Larson for Milwaukee County Executive, Daniel Kelly for Wisconsin Supreme Court and Paul Dedinsky for Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge.

Check out the full local results here.

And mark your calendars for the general election on April 7!

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It's Election Day: Vote!

Today is Election Day! Please do your constitutional duty and vote.

There are contested spring 2020 primary races for State Supreme Court, Milwaukee County executive, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge.

Here is a sample ballot. And and here are additional voting details …

  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • First District voters vote at Divine Mercy School, 695 College Ave.
  • Second District voters vote at the Divine Mercy Gathering Room, 800 Marquette Ave.
  • Third District voters vote at City Hall, 2424 15th Ave.
  • Fourth District voters vote at the Grobschmidt Senior Center, 2424 15th Ave.
  • Not sure what district you live in? Here is a map.
  • Please remember to bring photo ID.
  • For information on voter registration, polling locations, and to request an absentee ballot for future elections, visit MyVote.

Check out more details on the city’s elections web page … and look for more information on local results from South Milwaukee Blog later tonight or Wednesday morning.

And while you’re out, please thank a pollworker. These dedicated citizens bring democracy to life through their too-often thankless work.

See you at the polls!

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