Canadian cheese maker Saputo selects Franklin for $60 million facility

Canadian cheese maker Saputo Inc. chose Franklin for an estimated $60 million office and distribution facility that could have up to 650 jobs.

That’s according to information the company has shared with city of Franklin officials, said Mayor Steve Olson. The project marks a regional business attraction win for southeast Wisconsin, and boosts the city’s ongoing effort to develop a new business park near Oakwood Road and South 27th Street where Saputo’s facility would be built.

Saputo confirmed plans for the facility but not the details, saying it is part of the company’s Saputo Dairy USA network.

“The new facility will play an integral part of Saputo’s strategy to optimize its cheese network across North America, laying the groundwork for future growth,” said an emailed response to questions from Saputo’s communications department.

Saputo sells under brands including Frigo, Treasure Cave, Montchevre and Black Creek Wisconsin cheddars. It is based in Montreal, but according to its fiscal year 2021 report attributed 43% of its total revenue to U.S. operations, where it has 26 plants and 6,700 employees.

Saputo’s Franklin plant would be developed in partnership with Chicago developer HSA Commercial Real Estate at South 27th Street and Oakwood Road. HSA Commercial recently acquired 52 acres there for $7.2 million, according to a news release by The Barry Co. in Milwaukee.

Kevin Barry and David Buckley of Barry Co. represented the seller of that land. The site has been on the market for years, and previously was considered by Franklin-based Carmex lip balm manufacturer Carma Laboratories Inc. for a planned expansion.

Olson said Saputo has opened discussions for an about 350,000-square-foot facility that would cover about 30 acres closest to the street intersection. That facility would include offices and a significant amount of jobs cutting cheese that would be shipped to Franklin for processing, packaging and distribution. He said those production jobs would pay approximately $20 an hour. The facility could have about 650 total jobs, he said.

“We’ve had lots of interest, but we’ve not encouraged any of it until this plan,” Olson said of that property. “This brings an international company we’ve been looking for, this brings the human component, the manufacturing, specifically.”

An application for the development has not yet officially been filed with the Franklin planning department for review.

The city of Franklin has already created a tax incremental financing district to help build infrastructure to support industrial redevelopment of that area. Olson said talks are underway for Franklin to provide an incentive to the Saputo Cheese project in the form of annual property tax repayments if the facility creates a minimum level of new property value. That would require consideration by the Franklin Common Council.

Chad Vande Zande of Cushman & Wakefield|Boerke Co. in Milwaukee worked with HSA Commercial on the property purchase, according to The Barry Co. release. HSA Commercial is working on other development plans for the remaining acres it purchased next to the future Saputo Cheese facility.

“It’s a great jump-start for us on the much planned business park, and there’s more to come in the next 30 days,” Olson said.

Sean Ryan, Milwaukee Business Journal

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