Posted September 27, 2018

Milwaukee lands Komatsu facilities

Milwaukee's growing Harbor District is landing a major development with hundreds of jobs: offices and manufacturing operations for mining equipment maker Komatsu Mining Corp.

Komatsu wants to relocate some or all of its operations now based at 4400 W. National Ave., West Milwaukee, to a site that overlooks the harbor at the end of East Greenfield Avenue, according to sources familiar with those plans. This was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Tom Daykin.

Details are soon to be announced about a major manufacturing expansion, according to statement issued by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

That project will involve "significant capital investment and jobs expansion for a long-time Milwaukee manufacturer," with Gov. Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett scheduled to attend, the statement said.

The announcement will occur at a site that combines a 13-acre, city-owned property formerly used for coal storage with the 47-acre former Milwaukee Solvay Coke Co. property site, 311 E. Greenfield Ave.

The former Solvay site lies primarily south of East Greenfield Avenue, along the Kinnickinnic River and roughly two blocks east of South First Street.

We Energies acquired the Solvay property last year. The company plans to have it ready for development by 2019 after completing an environmental cleanup.

For more than a year, Komatsu executives have been considering the site for the company's Milwaukee-area operations.

Komatsu, which bought Joy Global Inc. in 2017, could relocate other operations from outside Wisconsin to the former Solvay site.

Also, the company expects to grow at that site through additional sales.

Better site for shipping 
The advantages of locating at the Harbor District site involve shipping logistics.

Currently, when Komatsu ships out large pieces of mining equipment, those products must travel a circuitous route between the West Milwaukee factory complex and the harbor before being loaded onto Great Lakes freighters.

Those shipments require large trucks to slowly carry the equipment in the early morning hours, using certain designated roads that can handle wide loads.

By operating at the harbor, the equipment can be more efficiently loaded onto freighters without having to undergo those costly, time-consuming trips, sources told the Journal Sentinel. 

The Solvay site does face a challenge involving access.

That's now limited by a low railroad overpass above East Greenfield Avenue, making it impossible for large trucks to reach any future light industrial buildings.

However, the portion of the street below the overpass could be lowered to make truck access possible.

Second major project
The Komatsu development would help draw other new uses to the Solvay site, which could include additional light industrial buildings, other commercial space and a waterfront park.

The Harbor District is about 1,000 acres bordered roughly by South First Street, the lakefront, the Milwaukee River and Bay Street/Becher Street.

Other phases could include additional office buildings, as well as a hotel and an apartment building with street-level restaurant space.