Honoring a Legacy: Bucyrus Foundation Announces Historic $10 Million Investment in South Milwaukee

I am so excited to join in making this announcement this morning. Here is the press release, with much, much more to come as we bring this investment to life in the next decade.

Honoring a Legacy: Bucyrus Foundation Announces Historic $10 Million Investment in South Milwaukee

SOUTH MILWAUKEE — The Bucyrus Foundation is making a generational, legacy-ensuring investment in the city it called home for almost 120 years. 

The foundation on Thursday, Sept. 9, announced a $10 million contribution to many of the institutions that make South Milwaukee uniquely South Milwaukee. The gift will come as a series of $1 annual million donations over the next decade, and be administered through the City of South Milwaukee and South Milwaukee School District, which will receive $2 million of the overall contribution.

Funds will build on the foundation’s $2 million grant in 2020 toward the launch of the Bucyrus Club and Event Center/Bucyrus Museum and development of Bucyrus Commons, a downtown public gathering space. 

The new $10 million contributions will fund the following … 

Downtown South Milwaukee redevelopment, potentially laying a foundation for the creation of an entity focused on investments in property acquisition and rehabilitation, business attraction and retention, public improvements, marketing, events and other initiatives aimed at revitalizing South Milwaukee’s city center;  

The South Milwaukee School District, with a focus on investments in athletics and STEM and manufacturing career education; 

Public spaces and greenspaces, including initiatives to help fund city- and Milwaukee County-owned parks and other natural areas like Bucyrus Commons, the South Milwaukee War Memorial, Grant Park, the Oak Creek Watershed and other areas in the city; and 

A grant program for South Milwaukee nonprofit organizations, including South Milwaukee Human Concerns, a significant recipient of Bucyrus support prior to the sale of the company in 2011. 

“Since we announced our gift for the Bucyrus Club and downtown public space in 2020, we have been looking for ‘what’s next.’ And we wanted ‘what’s next’ to be a lasting investment in the city we embraced for a century, and that embraced us. This is it,” Bucyrus Foundation Chairman and former Bucyrus President Tim Sullivan said. “We couldn’t be more excited to step up in this way to help the residents, business owners, and students of South Milwaukee. South Milwaukee’s success was always our success, and we are proud to honor that legacy with this donation.”

The Bucyrus Foundation has approved the contribution. 

Said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks: “This is a historic day in our city. These funds will have lasting impact across South Milwaukee and will further strengthen the legacy of this storied company in our city. We could not deliver South Milwaukee’s promising future without partners like Tim and the Bucyrus Foundation, and we can not thank them enough for their generosity. We are excited to start strategically investing these funds.”

Said South Milwaukee School Superintendent Jeff Weiss: “We are honored the foundation chose our local schools as one of the key recipients of this contribution. Tim and the foundation understand the importance of education to the future of South Milwaukee, the state and the country, and we share that commitment. We look forward to working with them to invest these funds and lift up our students, staff and community.”

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 11,000 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.

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 a number of South Milwaukee initiatives, including a $1.5 million contribution in 2020 toward construction of the Bucyrus Club & Event Center and Bucyrus Museum, which opened in downtown South Milwaukee in July. The foundation is also contributing $500,000 toward the Bucyrus Commons project, a public event space in downtown South Milwaukee. Additionally, the foundation has recently supported a downtown South Milwaukee revitalization grant program, funding of the city’s economic development director position and a community grant program.

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