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Common Council approves lease for $31M export facility in Port Milwaukee

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//September 1, 2021//

Common Council approves lease for $31M export facility in Port Milwaukee

By: Nate Beck, [email protected]//September 1, 2021//

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A ship named the Manitowoc, floats in November 2013 in Lake Michigan just outside the Port Milwaukee. Milwaukee officials approved a lease agreement to pave the way for work to start on a $31 million export center in Port Milwaukee, marking the largest single investment in the history of the port. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

Milwaukee officials approved a lease agreement to pave the way for work to start on a $31 million export center in Port Milwaukee, marking the largest single investment in the history of the port.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved a lease agreement on Wednesday to allow Clinton-based DeLong Company to build an agricultural export center on Jones Island to store grain for shipping. Milwaukee’s Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the lease earlier this month.

Port officials announced the company’s project in early 2020, but noted that it could take more than a year to work out the terms of the deal. The lease agreement comes after city officials completed a financing agreement for the project last fall.

The so-called Agricultural Maritime Export Facility would be the first and only “bulk agricultural transload” center on the Great Lakes to supply soybeans and dry distillers grain, an animal feed supplement derived from ethanol production. Supplies would be sent primarily by truck and rail to ships at port. Initially, the project is expected to generate about $40 million in shipments of distillers grain.

A $15.9 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration is paying for about half of the project’s cost. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is also contributing a $4.9 million harbor assistance grant to the project.  And the city of Milwaukee is adding another $4.3 million to help build rail infrastructure at the site and demolish vacant buildings, including a former boiler plant.

DeLong, for its part, will contribute $6.3 million to the project’s construction. The project is expected to create about 50,000 work hours for the construction of the plant, according to the port.

Because the project is receiving support from a federal grant, its construction is subject to a Buy American provision, which requires materials used for the work come from American suppliers.

The export facility is one of a series of projects to come to Port Milwaukee in recent years. Last fall, Michels Corp. announced plans to start a maritime division, called Michels Marine, on a 17-acre property in the port called the Grand Trunk site. The company hasn’t yet said what it plans to build on the property. Michels is now working on the eight-story R1ver mixed-use complex nearby, at South First and East Beecher streets.

Meanwhile, in July, port officials announced that the landscape contractor Marek Landscaping would move its offices to a site in the port, bringing about $3 million in economic activity with it.

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