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Strauss Brands In Century City: Unpacking The Controversy

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Marti Mikkelson
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Opponents of the proposed slaughterhouse gathered outside the Milwaukee Common Council chambers on Oct. 15.

When Strauss Brands first announced its plan to open a meat packing facility in Milwaukee, there was little fanfare. But as the community learned more about the proposed slaughterhouse, opposition began to mount.

Now, the company has decided to drop its plans for the facility in Century City Business Park and its future remains unclear.

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Credit City of Milwaukee, Department of City Development

The meat packing plant would have brought 250 jobs to Century City Business Park in the north side of the city, which Strauss says would have brought the company closer to its current workforce. According to Tom Daykin, a business reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the opposition originally came from animal-rights activists who didn't seem to live in the area near the Century City Business Park. 

"What the open records request that I filed, revealed, is that there's an initial wave of opposition that came from activists who were, I think, primarily motivated about their concerns of what they perceive as animal cruelty," he explains. 

"The outcry against it developed because people thought it would smell bad, it would involve pollution of the surrounding area, etcetera."

Then, after a series of conversations aired on WNOV, community pressure started to build. 

"The outcry against it developed because people thought it would smell bad, it would involve pollution of the surrounding area, etc.," says Daykin. "Strauss explained what they would do and part of it would include having an odor mitigation system. This plant would be fully enclosed, you wouldn’t see livestock running around on the outside. It would have been refrigerated on the kill-floor to reduce the odors."

In light of the public outcry, the alderman of the area, Khalif Rainey, withdrew his support for the facility and Strauss Brands dropped its plans. Meanwhile, Daykin says the Century City Business Park is back to square one and doesn't seem to have other possible tenants for the space where Strauss Brands would have been. 

"[Century City is] looking for prospects and it hasn't been easy. And part of the reason it hasn't been easy is because, frankly, it's a tough sell to a lot of companies."

"They're looking for prospects and it hasn't been easy. And part of the reason it hasn't been easy is because, frankly, it's a tough sell to a lot of companies to say, 'Go locate at West Capitol Drive and Hopkins Street.' It's a neighborhood that has a fair amount of poverty, it's a neighborhood that has a fair amount of crime," Daykin explains.

There are, of course, businesses that operate safely in the area. But convincing businesses to relocate to the area has been problematic. And Daykin says its location to the highway, only adds to the difficulties facing the Century City Business Park. He says it's likely that Strauss Brands will move to a different facility in Franklin, where it's currently based. 

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect. Before then, she was a director and producer for Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm Chicago Public Radio.