CITY OF BROOKFIELD – Aldermen have instructed city staff to take the first steps in keeping a Fortune 500 company in Brookfield.
At a special joint meeting of the city of Brookfield’s Community Development Authority and its Common Council Tuesday, July 11, officials were briefed on the economic implications of Fiserv, Inc. potentially moving its headquarters out of Brookfield.
Earlier this year, Fiserv announced that it would be looking at other possible locations at which to construct a new office building to house its corporate headquarters. The company is currently located in the Brookfield Lakes Corporate Center off of Bluemound Road and has been in the city since 1992.
The current proposal on the table and the direction given to city staff is to offer Fiserv financial incentives in the form of an overlap tax incremental financing district at the southeast corner of The Corridor, a mixed-use project being developed by Irgens. The overlap TIF would be in part of the same area already covered by TIF #5 created for The Corridor in 2015.
“It’s not expanding the TIF district but extending the life. If you bought a house with a 15-year mortgage, this is essentially making it a 17-year mortgage for the roof,” city of Brookfield Director of Community Development Dan Ertl said.
“Fiserv is one of 10 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Wisconsin,” Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto said. “This meeting proves that the city of Brookfield is very serious and ready to move quickly if chosen by Fiserv.”
Ponto said city officials met with Fiserv representatives last Thursday.
City hires consultant
The city has contracted with Illinois-based Gruen Gruen + Associates to analyze the potential economic impact of Fiserv exiting or staying in the community. Gruen Gruen + Associates Principal Aaron Gruen was on hand to relay the company’s findings Tuesday.
“The retention of Fiserv will produce a variety of economic and fiscal impacts,” Gruen said.
Those impacts include both direct and indirect effects. According to Gruen’s findings, in addition to the 650 jobs that would be directly lost by Fiserv moving its headquarters — and therefore employees — elsewhere, there would be an additional 749 jobs lost in the surrounding area as a ripple effect.
“Imagine those jobs leaving the area. That means those workers won’t be going to the gas station, the bakery, the dry cleaner, the retail stores and so on,” Gruen said. “In addition, the business itself hires service providers and others that wouldn’t be getting that work from the business if it wasn’t there.”
In total, according to Gruen, $91 million in total annual income would be lost in the area if Fiserv were to exit Brookfield. The company also generates approximately 4,500 annual hotel nights in the area.
Gruen relayed findings that offering assistance for the new office building to be located along Interstate 94 near the remaining Ruby Farm buildings would not only be a sound financial investment for the city, but would also potentially spur more growth.
“A new office building would be a positive signal to other property owners, developers and businesses,” Gruen said. “It would signify a positive, communal image for the community and would encourage others to emulate the success of the project.”
Not all agree
While a majority of city of Brookfield officials on-hand Tuesday night were in favor of the proposed plan to pitch to Fiserv, not everyone was on board.
Alderman Christopher Blackburn has opposed granting aid in the form of tax incremental financing in the past with the Fiserv case being no different.
“What are we going to do, write a check every time someone says they’re going to leave?" Blackburn said. "I don’t think that’s good public policy."
Alderman Mark Nelson was among the dozen aldermen who supported directing staff to begin.
"This council has spent a lot of time on The Corridor. The dream that Irgens had was that at some point in time there would be this major company that would come and have a beautiful site out on the freeway there," Nelson said. "Here we are facing exactly that dream."
The TIF approved for The Corridor in 2015 was intended to cover assistance for costs related to the northern portion of the development with further requests for the southern office portion of the project possible.
The Community Development Authority approved beginning the TIF district process — which includes a number of steps, including a public hearing and eventually ending with a decision by a Joint Review Board — by a unanimous 5-0 vote. The common council followed with a 12-2 approval with Blackburn and Alderman Jerry Mellone voting against the motion.