Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
June 2007
Commerce Funding Helps with Site Remediation for Lad Lake Building in Milwaukee

Gary Erdmann, executive director of Lad Lake, which educates troubled students, offered this anecdote as the reason for the nonprofit's existence: A young man from Milwaukee landed a job working for a home remodeling company, and the foreman outlined a three-step task he was to perform. The worker did the job, but didn't follow the steps his foreman had laid out. An argument ensued.

"They got into this big thing, and ultimately, the kid blew up and lost his job," Erdmann said. "That's really where a lot of these kids struggle -- they do need these soft skills. What (employers) really want are young people who have a work ethic, who show up on time, that know how to deal with conflict."

He said Lad Lake, established in 1902, is going to try to teach troubled Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) students and former foster-care children those types of skills at its new building at 225 W. Capitol Drive. The group is renovating the former manufacturing building into a school with a gym, cafeteria and rooms for night classes that would teach financial literacy and other daily living skills like being on time for work.

Originally known as the Wisconsin Home and Farm School, Lad Lake taught troubled and neglected boys the value of personal responsibility and hard work. The original Dousman location is still in use, but there are now three Milwaukee locations to carry on its expanded mission that includes girls and families.

Lad Lake contracts with MPS and will teach 230 at risk students aged 12 to 21 with high truancy rates or a history of disorderly conduct at the new building. With a student to teacher ratio of 8-to-1, Erdmann said the students will get more of the attention they'll need to succeed. "We just think the location will help to bring people together and teach these kids the necessary skills to transition into adulthood," Erdmann said.

With an October, 2007 completion date Lad Lake plans to lease the building from Milwaukee-based Williams Development for seven years and then, if the bank account can handle it, purchase it from the developer.

The building renovation, being performed by Briohn Building Corp., will be complete in October. The 1930 building has been boarded up for 20 years, but the city of Milwaukee acquired it in 2002 through eminent domain. The city's redevelopment authority issued a request for development proposals for the site after acquiring it, and Williams was the only responder, said Joel Brennan, the redevelopment authority's assistant executive director/secretary.

The building design didn't work out for industrial users, he said. "But kind of an opportune thing happened with Lad Lake because they were looking for a site, and this site was available," Brennan said.

Frentzel Products Inc., which has a facility on the neighboring lot, will expand its building into the southernmost portion of the Williams site, Brennan said. Lad Lake received a $3 million loan from M&I Bank, and it's looking to raise $5 million in donations to pay off the project costs, Erdmann said. The Wisconsin Department of Commerce gave Williams Development a $400,000 check to pay for site remediation.

-- Sean Ryan, © 2007 Daily Reporter Publishing Co

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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