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Direct Supply plans $85 million expansion

Direct Supply Inc. President Bob Hillis (podium) thanks Gov. Jim Doyle (left of Hillis) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (right of Hillis) for their assistance in the company’s $85 million expansion plan on the city’s northwest side. The expansion will add over 1,000 jobs at the healthcare technology supply company over the next 10 years.

Daily Reporter photo/Joe Grundle

Direct Supply Inc. announced
a 15 year, $85 million expansion of its corporate headquarters on Milwaukee’s
northwest side at a Friday press conference.

The expansion project, which
is expected to add more than 1,000 jobs to the company, will receive funding from both the state of Wisconsin and city of Milwaukee.

“Our goal
is to create 1,000 high-paying professional jobs, make our neighborhood stronger
and safer, and further the city’s overall development plan for the northwest
side of Milwaukee,” said Kevin Peters, executive vice president of operations
for Direct Supply.

According to Peters, construction could begin as early
as this fall on the first of seven connector buildings to be built over the next
15 years.

Gov. Jim Doyle announced the Department of Commerce will give
$6 million in Enterprise Development Zone tax credits to the expansion project,
which amounts to $6,000 for every full-time job Direct Supply creates.

“Direct
Supply is an example of a thriving, growing Wisconsin company that is successfully
standing and expanding in today’s competitive global economy,” Doyle
said. “I am deeply appreciative of how Direct Supply has invested in the
Milwaukee area, and so today, I am very pleased to announce that Wisconsin is
investing in Direct Supply.”

City incentives

Subject to approvals
by Milwaukee’s redevelopment authority and Common Council, the city is offering
Direct Supply developer-funded tax incremental financing that will pay up to $15
million of development costs from additional taxes created by the expansion.

“This
is exactly the type of program we want to have for the city of Milwaukee,”
said Mayor Tom Barrett. “We’re talking about family-supporting jobs
in a growing part of our economy. We want this company to stay here.”

Direct
Supply, located north of West Mill Road and east of North 76th Street, is the
nation’s largest supplier of equipment for nursing homes, assisted living
centers and retirement communities. The 10- to 15-year expansion plan will link
the company’s nine now-separate warehouses with multi-story connectors, adding
500,000 square feet of office space that will accommodate up to 2,500 new employees.

The
1,000 full-time jobs will pay between $17 and $25 per hour.

“Direct
Supply’s vision is exactly mine,” said Doyle. “I want Wisconsin
to compete at the high end for those jobs that require highly-educated, well-trained
people doing difficult tasks.

Direct Supply started in 1985 with just five
employees in one warehouse and has expanded 27 times since. It currently occupies
nine warehouses in the Lakeland Business Park on North Industrial Road and employs
more than 650 people.

Staying home

“We could not have developed
this plan without the spectacular support of Gov. Jim Doyle,” said Bob Hillis,
president and founder of Direct Supply. “From the very beginning, he said
Direct Supply was going to remain a Wisconsin company.

“At the same
time, we showed up at Mayor Tom Barrett’s office and asked him to help us
develop a plan that would allow us to grow here over the next 15 to 20 years.
His vision and his guidance helped us to come up with a way that we think we can
systematically expand just the way we have over the last 20 years.”

KJ
Greentree LLC of Chicago owns the Direct Supply property and will manage the expansion
development, which includes the purchase and rehabilitation of several neighboring
industrial and vacant sites for parking and potential construction of additional
facilities.

It is hoped that Direct Supply’s expansion project will
be a boon to the stagnant business environment in that area of the city.

“Direct
Supply is a great partner in our work to increase the safety and vitality of the
neighborhood,” said Ninth District Alderman Robert Puente. “We are thrilled
to welcome additional jobs to the area and believe the company’s plans to
expand will further strengthen its impact on the local economy.”

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