Friday, October 13, 2017

Historical industrial site getting 21st century makeover, paving way for future job growth

If you’re not familiar with the old Solvay Coke & Gas Co. site, the waterfront parcel on Milwaukee’s southeast side was once bustling with activity, and we’d like to see it return to productive use.

We now own the 46-acre parcel of land stretching from the Kinnickinnic River to East Greenfield Avenue. We purchased the property earlier this year because we’re partly responsible for the EPA-required cleanup of the site, which was occupied by a couple of our predecessor companies as well as other companies prior to Solvay’s ownership.

The Solvay site, as it appeared in the 1930's

The Milwaukee Gas Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Gas) purchased coal gas from Solvay’s operations. The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. (later known as Wisconsin Electric Power Co.) had electric railroad support facilities on another part of the property. Dating back to the late 1880s, the property has hosted a variety of industrial processes – from coke production, to iron production, to hide tanning and more. The above photo of the property shows a very active scene in 1930s.

Some of the debris left at the site
We’ve made substantial progress in cleaning up the site so it can be redeveloped. This site is uniquely positioned to offer many amenities highly sought by industrial companies. The eastern edge abuts the KK River, offering ready shipping access as well as a Great Lakes port. Railroad tracks run along both the east and west edges of the site, offering access to Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific rail lines. Plus, I-94 is just a few blocks away. It’s an infrastructure trifecta: It’s rare for companies to find three different modes for transporting their raw materials and finished products in one place. In addition, high pressure steam from our recently converted gas-fired Valley Power Station is available along East Greenfield Ave. 

Since purchasing the site, we have: 
Demolition of an old stack

  • Installed fencing to secure the property
  • Razed chimneys and old buildings
  • Removed asbestos and lead paint 
  • Removed 100 tons of trash and construction debris 
  • Recycled 30 tons of tires and conveyor belts 
  • Recycled 96 tons of steel
  • Recycled 2500 tons of asphalt
Next steps include soil sampling and an engineering evaluation to outline soil remediation options. The EPA will review these options, seek public comment and then recommend an action plan. Once we receive a final action plan from the EPA, soil and groundwater cleanup can begin. Our goal is get the site ready for redevelopment, possibly in 2019. We look forward to bringing new life to this historic industrial site by attracting businesses that can create family-supporting jobs that will enhance Milwaukee and Wisconsin. 

Demolition of an old building



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We Energies sponsors China Lights’ return

For the second year in a row, We Energies is sponsoring China Lights at Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners.

This year’s event promises to make the gardens brighter than ever with 50 lantern displays across three quarters of a mile of Boerner’s landscape. These vivid and expertly lit displays depict flowers, figures and animals -- real and mythical. Each handmade lantern was constructed on-site by Chinese artisans. Nearly all of the lanterns are different from those shown last year.


The event offers food and drink as well as vendors selling Chinese crafts and gifts. Additionally, each day features an illumination parade, as well as multiple live performances including musicians, spinning tops, juggling and martial arts demonstrations on stages sponsored by our company.


We believe in building stronger communities by supporting initiatives that promote economic health, arts and culture, education and environment. “We Energies is proud to sponsor China Lights in Southeastern Wisconsin because it is an exciting celebration of art and culture that we know all will enjoy,” said John Zaganczyk, vice president – customer services.

China Lights runs through Oct. 22 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and is closed to the public on Mondays. Potential visitors can learn more about the event, including information on tickets and parking, at chinalights.org.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MPS students get unique chance to pursue line mechanic career

We’ve teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to develop a first-of-its-kind job training program for students interested in pursuing a career as a line mechanic. The opportunity could open the door for students to work full-time at We Energies upon graduation.

“You are among a select few to get this chance,” veteran troubleshooter Theo Minor told a group of students at Milwaukee’s Alexander Hamilton High School recently. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Initially, the training program is being offered to juniors at Hamilton High School. About 40 students attended an assembly to learn more. Many will follow-up with a field trip to our training center later this month.

Hamilton HS students learn more about new line mechanic work study program.

Those who pursue the program will attend several training sessions throughout the school year. Approximately 8-10 students will then be invited to work at We Energies over the summer. They’ll be assigned to Milwaukee line crews and observe the duties of line mechanics firsthand. 

Students will then continue with training sessions their senior year followed by another season of summer employment. Upon completion, they may be hired as line mechanic apprentices or pursue a different career track at We Energies.

To be considered for the program, students must:
  • Be juniors in 2017/2018 school year
  • Remain on track to graduate in 2019
  • Be punctual and have excellent attendance
  • Actively participate in all program activities
  • Obtain a valid driver’s license by graduation
  • Pass drug/alcohol screenings 

This is the first time we’ve partnered with MPS to offer a program like this. We think it’s a win-win: students will learn valuable skills and potentially find full-time employment after graduation, while our company finds a new way to recruit talented individuals for rewarding careers.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

We Energies Foundation sponsors Michigan Street Bublr Bike Station

Frequent visitors to Zeidler Union Square will notice something that might be familiar to them but is brand new to the park – seven Bublr Bikes and a 15-slot docking station. The We Energies Foundation has sponsored the Bublr Bike station in the park on the corner of 4th and West Michigan streets, adjacent to We Energies' downtown Milwaukee offices, where anyone can rent the blue bicycles often seen around town as part of Milwaukee’s bikeshare system. This station is Bublr’s 62nd, which cover the Lakefront to Wauwatosa and UWM to Bayview. Bublr hopes to build more stations in the coming years, including 25 in the next month.

“Sponsoring a Bublr Bike station close to our downtown Milwaukee office supports the We Energies Foundation’s efforts to build strong communities,” said Beth Straka, senior vice president – corporate communications and investor relations, WEC Energy Group, and vice president, We Energies Foundation. “I look forward to using the bikes myself.”


Sally Sheperdson, executive director of Bublr Bikes, echoed Straka’s enthusiasm about the new station. “Bublr Bikes is excited about our newest station in Zeidler Park, made possible through the generosity of the We Energies Foundation. Bublr provides a healthy, inexpensive way to commute to work, zip around town and explore the city. It is a great way to bring the community closer together. And having this station just across the street from Bublr Bikes’ new headquarters in the Grand Avenue Mall building is a bonus!"

More information on Bublr Bikes, including pricing, station locations and details on the mobile app, can be found at bublrbikes.org.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Energy assistance now available

Customers now can apply for energy assistance for the upcoming heating season.

Applying for energy assistance has never been easier. Visit the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) website at homeenergyplus.wi.gov or call 866-432-8947.

Milwaukee County residents can apply for assistance in person at Community Advocates or United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS). Visit energyassistancemke.org or call 414-270-4653 for more information.

More families may qualify for aid this year due to changes in income eligibility. For example, an individual who earns $26,601 per year or less may qualify, and families of four that earn up to $51,155 per year also may qualify.

WHEAP provides qualified residents with a one-time grant to help pay energy bills. Qualification is based on income levels, not on whether someone is behind on paying their energy bills.

Applicants must provide:

· Photo ID for applicant (first-time applicants only), including name and address

· Proof of income for all household members for previous three months

· Social Security numbers for everyone in the household

· Current energy bill or account number

· Phone number of landlord and rent certificate or statement (if applicant is a renter and heat is included in rent or a separate payment is made to the landlord)

WHEAP provides assistance to more than 200,000 Wisconsin families annually.

Customers with questions about their energy bills or payment options should call our payment assistance line at 800-842-4565.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Public Service Building draws hundreds of visitors for Doors Open Milwaukee

Visitors view the large marble walls
 and chandelier in our lobby.
The public received a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee this past weekend. The event, which drew nearly 800 visitors, was staffed by employee volunteers.

“Everyone was truly impressed. They thanked us immensely for spending our weekend here with them,” said Jennifer Eisner, manager of Customer Service at We Energies and organizer of the event.

Visitors called the building a hidden treasure in Milwaukee. Built in 1902, the Public Service Building (PSB), located at 231 W. Michigan St., was a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly positive, according to Eisner. “Visitors told us the building was amazing and thanked us for opening our doors.”

Historic Milwaukee Inc. hosted Doors Open Milwaukee, a celebration of Milwaukee’s art, architecture, culture and history, now in its seventh year. More than 150 buildings are open to the public for two days every September to provide behind-the-scenes tours in Milwaukee’s downtown and surrounding suburbs.

Friday, September 22, 2017

See our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee

Public Service Building was built in 1902.
Few buildings are still standing from the early 20th century, and even fewer have the history and grandeur of our Public Service Building (PSB) in downtown Milwaukee. This weekend, you can get a rare glimpse inside our historic headquarters during Doors Open Milwaukee.

The PSB was built in 1902 as a central station for The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co., a predecessor of We Energies. Milwaukee’s original streetcars operated out of the building. Trains entered from Second Street, picked up their passengers, and then exited onto Third Street. At one point, the building was the largest interurban railway terminal in the United States.

PSB lobby is neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style.
The PSB was designed in a neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style which was very popular in the early 20th century. The four-story building is an architectural treasure, both outside and within. In the early days of the building, the second floor featured facilities for entertainment including an auditorium, bowling alley, library, billiard room and barber shop. The auditorium still is used today as a corporate meeting space.

As visitors approach the PSB, they sometimes notice the operating clock above the main entrance. Inside, attention is drawn to the marble lobby walls that came from an Italian quarry and include a curious architectural detail: a stained-glass window depicting a swarm of bees buzzing around a hive.

Stain-glass window depicting
a swarm of bees
 buzzing around a hive.
“We have received positive feedback every year since we started participating in Doors Open Milwaukee," said Jennifer Eisner, our coordinator for the event. “We are happy to show this architectural gem to the community, which would not normally have access to it.”

The PSB was remodeled many times over the years to accommodate the needs of its occupants, but in 1996, the company completed a grand effort to restore the building to its original glory while also expanding and modernizing office space. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The PSB will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24. Visitors are invited to tour the lobby and auditorium, and also can attend a presentation about the building and company history.