Farms Looking to Woo Business
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
"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,"
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.