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Development Officials Nix Idea Of Hemp Farm In Milwaukee's Century City Business Park

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City of Milwaukee
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The Century City Business Park on Milwaukee's north side is looking for tenants

Milwaukee city leaders continue to look for enterprises to locate in the struggling Century City Business Park on the north side. That’s after Strauss Brands of Franklin dropped its plans last October to locate a slaughterhouse on the site. Neighbors objected, saying they feared deplorable conditions at the plant. Strauss said the operation would have eventually created 500 jobs.

Another idea that’s popped up for Century City is an industrial hemp farm. But it looks like the site isn’t ideal, according to the Department of City Development.

The city says about 75 acres are available for new development at Century City. Currently, the park houses Good City Brewing, train manufacturer Talgo and Pak-Technologies.

Last year, the Milwaukee Common Council asked the Department of City Development to study the feasibility of growing hemp on about 30 acres of land at Century City. Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant that farmers produce for industrial products such as rope and paper.

On Tuesday, the Department of City Development presented its findings to a Council committee. Project Manager Benjamin Timm says the department looked at two parcels on the site for possible hemp growing and took many factors into consideration.

“Those factors included zoning, land use, employment opportunities, paying back the TIF, environmental conditions, equipment, sustainability,” Timm says.

But Timm says the department determined that Century City isn’t the right place for a hemp growing operation. He says the purchase of the land from the city would be expensive, along with startup costs such as permits, insurance, irrigation and plowing and harvesting equipment. Security would be an additional consideration. Timm says the site would have to be fenced and monitored with cameras and security guards.

Plus, he says the department found out in talking with farmers in surrounding counties that hemp operations don’t produce a lot of jobs. Timm says only one to two full-time workers would be needed, for the most part.

“One of our primary goals at Century City is job creation. We have a requirement as part of our redevelopment plan to maximize employment on the site by bringing 15 jobs per acre. So, if you are talking about 30 acres of growing hemp and you only have one to two full time jobs, maybe on a seasonal basis a few more, that doesn’t meet the requirement,” Timm says.

The committee listened to the Department of City Development’s feedback but didn’t take further action on the matter. North side Alderman Russell Stamper expressed disappointment and says he isn’t giving up on locating a hemp operation at Century City.

“We need some action over there and it’s the industry right now and I still think it’s a possibility so, I don’t think it’s over. We’re going to push forward with a couple more questions and a couple more ideas to see if we can bring that industry to the central city,” Stamper says.

Stamper says if not a hemp operation, he'd like to see a business incubator such as Sherman Phoenix. The food hall and enterprise hub opened more than a year ago in the Sherman Park neighborhood on the north side, and business owners there say they’re seeing success.

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