Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. If true, this one’s at least a chapter.
A rather glum Franklin mayor Tom Taylor standing in the snow on an all-but vacant lot, marked by a single, boarded-up rundown building is on the cover of the most recent edition of the Milwaukee Business Journal. It’s a sad, revealing photo, a final exclamation point on the 9-month Meijer saga that turned out just to be a tease for the many who supported the project.
Sean Ryan opens his Business Journal article:
“Meijer Inc. is the third company in eight years to give up on a Franklin site that offers the rewards of a prime location, but also challenges that have made it a difficult and time-consuming pursuit for the development industry.
“The decision by Meijer raises the question: If major national retailers can’t make a go of developing this attractive location, who can?”
Keep that in mind as you read the remainder of this blog.
Eight years. One site. Three failed economic development efforts.
One would read the two above paragraphs and see the above photo and assume Ryan’s article (only available online to subscribers) is filled with doom and gloom. Not so. The headline reads, “Land of Opportunity.” It could very well have been “Land of Lost Opportunity” and be totally accurate. We are fed the epitome of positive spin.
For a while it appeared with Meijer that Franklin would succeed in spite of itself, its endless hurdles and obstacles and over-regulatory approach to a business climate that isn’t just negative. It’s clueless.
A Meijer development would move Franklin’s collective head out of the sand, out of the 1950’s and squarely into the 21st century. We all know what happened.
Now those of us who are frustrated by this major loss are supposed to smile and feel really good. That is, if you read the Business Journal article. Let me sum it up this way. When it comes to blame for what didn’t transpire, Franklin gets none. So smile. It’s going to get better.
Sorry. My cynical bone doesn’t operate that way.
Since the involved parties couldn’t bring in Dick Van Dyke to sing, “Put on a Happy Face,” enter the property manager for the owner of the land that has turned out to be a three-time loser. According to his spin, because of Meijer’s decision not to come here:
1) The “site is more valuable.”
2) The city’s approval of Meijer’s plan is “evidence that it can succeed.”
And my personal favorite:
3) ”We are better off more than we have ever been."
Spoken like a true spokesman for someone trying to sell a blighted piece of land for $6 million.
Excuse me. I was born at night but I wasn’t born last night.
Want more positive spin? Mayor Taylor told the Business Journal there’s still hope Meijer will change its mind and come back. Such a position is breathtaking. And we still might get Kohl’s headquarters and we still might get Northwestern Mutual Life to expand here and not downtown Milwaukee and the Tooth Fairy might leave my little girl a million dollars.
Another official interviewed by the Business Journal says it would be wrong to assume the wetlands issue was the only issue that led to Meijer dumping Franklin. It wasn’t the only issue. There were the usual moaning and whining suspects about lights on at night, and “those” people shopping here, and where the hell to put a driveway. But wetlands was a BIG issue.
The Business Journal points out that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rejected the Meijer proposal about what to do about wetlands on the site. Four days later, Meijer called Franklin to say thanks, but no thanks. You connect the dots. Bye bye jobs. Bye bye Franklin moving forward.
Franklin has a habit of refusing to take responsibility for the way it does business about business. Maybe the state was the villain this time. Maybe the DNR didn’t cooperate. Ditto the state Department of Transportation. But the city was in this dance as well, and it takes two to tango.
The Business Journal writes, “Mayor Tom Taylor and developers confident right project will come.” I hope they’re right. Franklin’s miserable track record on that site leads me to believe otherwise.