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Milwaukee seeks federal money to lure Astronautics

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (File Photo by Dustin Safranek)

The city of Milwaukee is hoping to keep Astronautics Corp. of America in town, offering part of the Pabst Brewery complex for its new headquarters. (File Photo by Dustin Safranek)

By Sean Ryan

Milwaukee officials next week will ask Congress for $750,000 to persuade Astronautics Corp. of America to build a new headquarters in the city.

“Astronautics is, I would say, one of the most important companies in the city of Milwaukee that not a lot of people have heard of,” said Alderman Robert Bauman, who will be part of the city delegation visiting Washington, D.C.

Astronautics, established in 1959 in Milwaukee, produces electrical equipment and systems for boats and aircraft. The company’s current headquarters is in northwestern Milwaukee. Astronautics also has two manufacturing plants in Milwaukee and a building in Madison.

The company is searching for a location to build a new headquarters, and, Bauman said, there’s a fear the company will move out of Milwaukee and possibly to New Jersey. Astronautics’ parent company, Kearfott Corp., is headquartered in Little Falls, N.J., and has a manufacturing plant there.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has not discussed the possibility of a move to the state or a headquarters project with Astronautics, said Glenn Phillips, the authority’s public affairs officer.

Milwaukee will ask U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and U.S. Rep., Gwen Moore, D-Wis., for $750,000 to help Astronautics build in Milwaukee. The gift would pay for the renovation and redesign of a former shipping building, called Building 42, in the Pabst Brewery complex that would be used as the company’s headquarters.

Brewery Project LLC and the city of Milwaukee are encouraging Astronautics Corp. of America to move its new headquarters into this 175,000-square-foot former Pabst Brewery building on the southwest corner of North 8th Street and West Juneau Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Brewery Project LLC.)

Brewery Project LLC and the city of Milwaukee are encouraging Astronautics Corp. of America to move its new headquarters into this 175,000-square-foot former Pabst Brewery building on the southwest corner of North 8th Street and West Juneau Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Brewery Project LLC)

Brewery Project LLC, which owns the building, has offered to sell it to Astronautics, said Mike Mervis, vice president of Brewery Project.

“That’d be great,” Mervis said of the federal gift. “I don’t know what else to say. We were not aware of this.

“We’re actively engaged in trying to put together a proposal for Astronautics to try to get them to move to our Building 42, and that would be a great assistance.”

The federal money would be part of an incentives package Milwaukee is assembling for the company, said Jeff Fleming, spokesman for the Milwaukee Department of City Development.

“The city is still interested in working with Astronautics,” he said, “and this was one possible way of adding an element to the package. It’s not a sure bet one way or another, but it is conceivably part of the mix.”

Fleming said he could not provide more details about the city’s efforts to woo Astronautics.

Tony Hozeny, spokesman for the state Department of Commerce, said the agency does not comment on whether it is negotiating development deals with companies.

The department offers incentives to companies, such as Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, to create or retain jobs in the state.

Holly Russek, registered agent for Astronautics, said she cannot comment on any aspect of the company’s deliberations.

Moving Astronautics to the Pabst property could help spur other development on the western edge of the Park East corridor, said Pete Beitzel, vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Milwaukee has to keep the company, he said.

“I think they’re important,” Beitzel said, “because they hire a lot of inner-city people for jobs, and they combine that with some of the high-tech stuff.”

Bauman said if attempts to get the federal money fail, the city could offer tax-incremental financing through the TIF district it created for the Pabst Brewery.

TIF districts let cities borrow money to support development in an area and use taxes generated by the area’s increased property value to pay off the debt. When the debt is paid off, the district reverts to traditional property tax collections.

“This would be, obviously,” Bauman said, “in the city’s interest to make sure they stay in Milwaukee.”


  1. The development of “Building 42”, the former Warehouse & Distribution Center for Pabst, would be a tremendous step in reusing a huge, well-built building. It also turns a current, somewhat depressed, area into a thriving new complex. The over 700 employees I have heard mentioned will also create retail opportunities and certainly help us at Best Place, the former Pabst Corporate Office & Guest Center.

    We currently have Live/Work/Learn/Park&Play with Goman & Co’s 95 Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments, Trainor/Dermond’s “Inland” office Building, Chmura/Bando’a Cardinal Stritch University downtown Campus, Zilber’s $16 million parking deck for 880 cars and 9,000 square feet of first-floor retail and our Best Place at the historic Pabst Brewery with an already-opened Gift Shop and Blue Ribbon Banquet Hall and a Tavern/Pub just weeks away from opening!

    There are definitely things “Brewing” at the old Pabst Complex by 8th & Juneau. Best of luck obtaining those funds and succeeding in this endeavor. Hats off to Alderman Bauman, Senator Kohl and Reresentative Gwen Moore for leading this so confidently and capably.

  2. Why is it “hat’s off” to Herb Kohl and his business hating friends all the way up to Barry O, the neophyte President and one man wrecking ball?? They claim that they want jobs and a strong economy? How can we respect short-sighted, failed politicians for life, and morons like Herb, Russ Feingold, Mayor Tom and criminal organizations like the MMSD who dump millions of gallons of raw sewerage in the Lake, the Milwaukee School Board who press for continually higher property taxes to fund their corrupt teacher union thugs , and the Milwaukee common council who tax, tax, tax……. everytime they can, and penalize business in this region, just to further their political careeers? Why don’t they understand, that stealing federal money from other states, just so we can get “ours” is childish, shortsighted, short term, suicidal and a major reason for the big problems with our country right now? If all the states steal federal dollars, aren’t we all hurting ourselves? We need to tell our politicians to reduce taxes and restrictions on businesses so they can make a profit, hire new employees and choose to stay in Milwaukee so we don’t have to bribe them with short term federal dollars. Ronald Reagan prooved that reducing the top marginal tax rate in this country actually and factually increased record-breaking revenues into the treasury during the 80’s. His politcies were the reason for the huge economic expansion seen in this country well into the GW Bush era. Even the centrist, George spent too much. If we can keep the lefties from spending too much, our country would be much better off. Time for term limits so we can get the slease factor out of government and teach these politicians to get real jobs. Message to mayor Tom: Time to get a real job. We don’t need another destructive, simple minded lefty as Governor again. The naive who keep electing small minded lefties should be ashamed of themselves. Hope and Change slogans, “hate the rich” talk and the division of the classes is the typical cry of the un-informed and the man-child Obama supporter. Wake up voters so we can keep business here, create new jobs, and create new construction opportunities ! Henry

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