Without a rail spur, Clausen Quality Chocolate wouldn’t have been interested in building a chocolate factory in Milton, City Administrator Al Hulick said.
On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced a Transportation Economic Assistance Grant would fund 25% of a $1 million rail project that extends a Wisconsin Southern/WATCO rail line to the factory.
“TEA grants support great projects across Wisconsin where local officials see ways to advance economic development through infrastructure improvements,” said Evers in a news release. “And deals don’t get much sweeter than finding a way to help deliver sugar to a chocolate factory.”
CQC plans to spend about $105 million to construct and equip a 350,000-square-foot plant. The first phase is expected to be completed and operational in fall 2022 and create 50 new jobs in Milton.
Altogether, Hulick said the project encompassing 146 acres has the potential to be the largest development project in the city’s history. The next closest in terms of size is probably 10 or 12 acres, he said.
CQC’s future plans, if executed, could reach a size in excess of 1 million square feet, Hulick said. He estimated the largest building currently in Milton, Charter NEX, is about a quarter of that size.
While CQC is paying for the rail spur, the city will own the spur and the adjoining land.
“The potential for economic multipliers that would not exist but for this project are almost incalculable,” Hulick said.
Already, he said, the city is seeing signs of an economic ripple effect. In the last 10 days, Hulick said he has responded to three site selection proposals. He otherwise said he might respond to six in one year.
With a project of this size and CQC’s plans for growth and longevity, Hulick said Milton “could very likely have spillover into other sectors of our local economy, including commercial and residential growth.”
On June 29, the plan commission and city council will be reviewing CQC’s first phase site plan and conditional-use permit application.
Rail construction will take place in fall, but Hulick said CQC is hoping to build its facility sooner than that.