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Pabst Farms Looking to Woo Business

Waukesha Freeman
By: Tara Duggan
May 16, 2003

OCONOMOWOC Peter Bell and Bill Niemann have set aside about 200 acres at Pabst Farms to fill with businesses, and they don't expect to have any problems doing so.

"We as land developers see this as a wonderful opportunity to integrate a mixed-use development into Oconomowoc and the town of Summit," said Bell, part owner.

Boasting a nearby corporate airport, easy freeway access and a highly educated work force, the developers said they believe Pabst Farms will become a destination spot for businesses throughout the country.

Pabst Farms is 1,500 acres on both sides of Interstate 94 at Highway 67 being developed into a master planned community that will consist of retail, commercial and residential areas and a village center.

Bell and Niemann have been working with Oconomowoc Mayor Gary Kohlenberg and the Oconomowoc Common Council to attract businesses into the development's technology/research park and the business park.

Earlier this week, Ace Precision Machining Corp. announced it will be the first tenant in the business park and will begin building its 81,021-square-foot machine shop and office building this summer.

"We knew Pabst Farms would be a high-profile park and that's what we were looking for," Ace Precision co-owner Kathy Erdmann told the Freeman earlier this week. The company occupies a building in Menomonee Falls and has outgrown it.

Kohlenberg said he is pleased with the decision and added that Ace is exactly the type of business with which Oconomowoc hopes to fill Pabst Farms.

"This sets the bar very high," he said. "This is the kind of company we want to attract. They are a great first component."

Kohlenberg added that the city has tried to do everything it can to attract quality businesses, including adding entertainment options and revitalizing the downtown area, without compromising the quality of life for residents.

"The developers have been very cooperative with the strict guidelines we gave them," said Alderman Dave Nold, president of the Oconomowoc Common Council. "We have a higher standard than most areas, but we wanted to make sure we did this right."

Nold said some of the architectural, landscaping and building requirements in Pabst Farms are stricter than existing city ordinances.

He added that recruiting companies that will provide well-paying, high-end jobs that are going to last is a priority for the council.

Competition from the east

The recent announcement by a large Waukesha County employer of its decision to relocate the company to downtown Milwaukee has brought up the issue of competition for businesses between the two areas.

Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist said at a press conference last week announcing Roundy's move that downtown Milwaukee is growing faster than many imagine and employees will experience "the good life downtown."

Pabst Farms planners see companies looking for something downtown Milwaukee can't offer that they can: room to grow.

"We can offer future expandability. It's the total package," Bell said. "Few other developments have excess land, but we will be able to accommodate growth."

Bell also said Pabst Farms is more accessible than downtown Milwaukee from many areas, including his home in a northern Chicago suburb.

"I can get to Pabst Farms from my house in an hour and five minutes, and that's less time than it takes me to get downtown (Milwaukee)."

Being close to Crites Field in Waukesha will allow companies with private jets to land close to Pabst Farms, Niemann said.

He said one of the most important things a company looks for when scouting sites is a strong employee base.

Being able to access possible employees from Milwaukee and Madison gives Pabst Farms an advantage, Bell said, especially with reputable programs at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Madison Area Technical College, as well as Waukesha County Technical College, Carroll College, UW-Waukesha, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering and UW-Milwaukee.

He added that being located between the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa has made the location attractive to medical research companies.

GE Medical Systems Information Technology Services is in talks with Pabst Farms and Oconomowoc about building in the development, but no time line for a decision has been set, according to Niemann.

"We're on their short list," he said. "The mayor and city council and other staff members are working with us to make sure the environment is conducive to them choosing Pabst Farms."

Patrick Jarvis, spokesman for GEMS Information Technology Services, said the company has been looking for a place for a building for quite some time and is continuing to do so.

"We have been looking for a couple of years for a space to meet our needs," he said. "We have looked at literally dozens of sites and are keeping our options open."

The company is leasing space in Menomonee Falls until it finds the right spot to build, Jarvis said.
Waukesha County itself is an easy sell, Niemann said. The county is one of the fastest growing, both in population and business growth.

Nold pointed out that Oconomowoc and Pabst Farms can offer companies one of the lowest tax rates in the state, a very low crime rate and reasonable, reliable utilities.

"We own the utilities, and we have very few problems with them," he said.

Still a ways to go

Niemann said although much of the planning is done, there is a lot to go. The developers have been traveling the country touring the most highly regarded master planned communities.

"We are taking absolutely the best from the best planned communities and integrating it into Pabst Farms," he said.

Consultants have been retained to recruit retail stores and make Pabst Farms a shopping center unlike anything in Wisconsin, Niemann said.

"We want to attract the local shoppers that are leaving and going to places like Chicago," he said.
The retail development will also include restaurants and entertainment options.

The developers are hoping to start taking reservations for residential lots this summer and are applying to be selected as a site for the 2004 Metropolitan Builders Association's Parade of Homes.

A new school and YMCA are being built in Pabst Farms, with both expected to open this fall


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