Our Views: Milton ripe for economic development

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz is telling developers that “if you want to get into Milton, you’d better get in now.”

In other words, hurry or get shut out. Schuetz might be exaggerating, but only slightly.

After all, as businesses that had steady traffic flowing past on the old Highway 26 route now deal with the quiet created by the new bypass, Milton is indeed ripe for development.

Consider the Interstate and bypass interchanges you travel. How many sit vacant for long before a gas station and convenience store, a restaurant and perhaps even a hotel pop up? Such businesses could rise along the bypass skirting Milton’s east side.

That’s especially true given the groundwork that city officials have been wise to plow. They have purchased land to expand the business park that lies on both sides of the bypass. They’ve enacted a tax increment financing district that will help pay for utilities and other public improvements should a business show interest. And they contracted for a 2012 study that shows support for a hotel, which the city lacks.

More good news came this month when Rock County 5.0 announced that Austin Consulting has designated 115 acres in Milton’s Crossroads Business Park as “shovel ready.” Yes, hundreds of acres in Janesville, Beloit and Edgerton earned the designation previously, and all remain vacant. When a company is thinking about investing to seize a business opportunity, however, each day’s delay can cost money and risks a competitor getting the jump on the idea. The Milton certification assures the sites are ready to dig without delay, and Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein says he sees more such developments around the Midwest each month as conditions improve.

Schuetz made his pitch during a breakfast briefing for local bankers, real estate agents  and builders. Real estate agent Fred Hookham is among those sharing Schuetz’s enthusiasm. Milton, Hookham notes, has a good mix of commercial and industrial sites available just as business owners are feeling more optimistic. That, he says, makes the opening of the bypass perfectly timed for development.

Should that development follow, it would boost Milton’s tax base and benefit all residents.

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