New Berlin - Adding businesses to plump up New Berlin's tax base is on the minds of all five candidates for mayor.
Two-term mayor Jack Chiovatero is facing challenges from Alderman David Ament, former mayor Mary Claire Lanser, Janet Schulz and Joseph Wieneke in the Feb. 19 primary election. Voters will narrow the field to two for the spring election April 2.
"I'm always out there talking to companies, corporations and brokers to bring high-quality development," Chiovatero said, adding that he both calls and visits them.
Chiovatero considers Sendik's Food Market on Moorland Road one of his triumphs.
"I worked with Sendiks for two years to get them," he said. "I called constantly."
Chiovatero said he also worked to get Quaker Steak and Lube and Buffalo Wild Wings, both of which moved in, and is trying to get a Red Robin or Olive Garden restaurant. In fact, he believes he has contacted just about every major chain, including Outpost Natural Foods, about space in New Berlin.
About 100 businesses close in New Berlin each year, he said, but he and the development staff are proactive and able to bring in nearly 100, Chiovatero said.
The approval process has been streamlined and regular meetings are held with businesses, he said.
Ament, who owns his own business, has two approaches in mind in terms of attracting businesses.
One is the New Berlin industrial park, which he thinks can compete to get new businesses if it can be made to look more attractive. The area needs some cosmetic sprucing up, with can be done with minimal spending, he said.
"Some of it looks like an older industrial park," Ament said. "It's got to look attractive and be affordable."
His second approach would be to work with the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and the New Berlin Industrial Association on what businesses need and want and get leads on outside businesses that might be persuaded to come to New Berlin. Ament said those organizations have the structure to get feelers out the farthest.
Ament said he also would hold a large meeting with business owners to see how the city can help them.
Mary Claire Lanser
Lanser, also a business owner, said she is no stranger to the topic. She considers establishing the Westridge Business Park as the primary accomplishment of her term as mayor (1993-97).
Last year, businesses in Westridge paid more than $1.2 million in city taxes alone, Lanser said.
Upscale development would be a priority if elected, she said.
To achieve high-quality developments, Lanser said she would work with developers early to make sure they know what the city expects in terms of architecture, materials and landscaping.
Overall, Lanser said she would try to find businesses that are looking for locations, be more assertive about pitching New Berlin to them and make sure New Berlin's strengths are communicated to businesses through the Waukesha County Economic Development Corp.
Schulz, who works in the employee benefits field, said developments are sometimes stalled because of controversy, and the city's 2020 Comprehensive Plan doesn't seem to attract the businesses the city hoped for.
Perhaps the plan needs to change to better meet the needs of the city, Schulz said. She would strive to reopen the plan and get more businesses, civic groups and residents involved, building support for a new plan that creates fewer objections to development.
She said she also would be more judicious about granting variances so that the city gets what it expects.
If projects get stuck because they need approvals from state agencies, Schulz promised to hammer for decisions.
"If you don't follow up, things don't get done," Schulz said.
Wieneke, a sales manager for a construction equipment distributor, said New Berlin needs to be more business friendly.
He said he would remove some layers of regulation in favor of staff approvals and have staff lead businesses through the approval process more closely so they don't have painful surprises.
To draw in more businesses, he would contact customers or suppliers of businesses already in New Berlin to see if they would like to relocate here. Then the city should step back and stop being an obstacle, he said.
Wieneke also said departures from the 2020 Comprehensive Plan should stop. If the city wants development at a certain location it should try to make it happen, he added.
"If the city wants a hotel at Moorland and Greenfield, it should reach out and make the vision happen, rather than responding to what comes along," Wieneke said.
WHAT: Candidate forum sponsored by the New Berlin Rotary Club for the five mayoral candidates
WHEN: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2
WHERE: New Berlin West Middle/High School library, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave. (Park on west side of the building about half way back for easier access.)
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