West Allis OKs money for Chr. Hansen’s next expansion, and hopes to entice future growth

West Allis approved $1.4 million for Chr. Hansen’s North American headquarters expansion, and put another $11.9 million on the table to encourage the Danish food maker to consider future growth in the city. 

In the near term, Chr. Hansen is working on a 20,000-square-foot addition onto its West Allis plant. The plant near South 92nd and West Lapham streets is the global company’s North American headquarters. Chr. Hansen makes bacterial strains used in culturing cheese and yogurt, to make or color meat and wine, and products to improve the health of farm animals.

That expansion, slated to start next year, would receive $1.4 million in tax incremental financing incentives under a plan unanimously approved Tuesday by the West Allis Common Council. Chr. Hansen in October valued that investment at $25 million and said it could create up to 30 jobs.

But the Danish manufacturer has assembled much more land around its existing West Allis plant, and could use it for a larger expansion in the future. The global business is moving ahead with large investments in Europe. An expansion of its research and development facilities north of Copenhagen will create spaces for 250 additional scientists, for example.

To encourage Chr. Hansen leadership to expand further in West Allis, city officials approved up to $11.9 million in future TIF support if it starts construction before 2025.

“We want to make sure the door is open and their board in Denmark is receptive to seeing the city of West Allis and southeast Wisconsin is a place to invest,” said Patrick Schloss, West Allis community development manager.

The initial $1.4 million for the 2020 project would be paid to Chr. Hansen over several years in the form of rebates on its property tax payments.

That expansion is expected to create $5 million in new property value. Beyond the incentive to Chr. Hansen, taxes on that building space will support small business and housing programs in a half-mile radius around the Chr. Hansen plant. 

The West Allis TIF plan approved this week has $200,000 that could be spent on facade renovation grants for small businesses, home repairs, parks improvements or efforts to attract new businesses to empty building spaces, Schloss said. 

Sean Ryan, Milwaukee Business Journal

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