There is new hope for the Central Wisconsin Village of Brokaw, six months after a paper mill shutdown left 400 people without jobs. A development company has big plans for the property.
Brokaw's very existence was threatened by the closure of the Wausau Paper mill, which provided jobs for its residents and tax revenue for its government coffers. Last week, the shuttered mill property was bought by Niagara Worldwide, a northern Wisconsin development company, whose president Eric Spirtas sees good things ahead.
"Brokaw is a great opportunity," he says. "We're looking to manufacturers. We're looking to processors. We're looking to assemblers. We're looking to anyone that would need open, high ceilings, and then the heavy electric and heavy utility that would come with that type of manufacturing."
The mill property also has access to a rail line and nearby Highway 51. Spirtas says he is talking to several interested parties, which could be tenants at a future business or industrial park at the site. He says its days as a paper mill are over.
"If a company that's expert at creating a certain type of paper can't do it at that location, then it's not really something that someone else could just take a run at," he says.
Developer Eric Spirtas says the former mill employees are one of the Brokaw's greatest assets, and their skills and work ethic can be put to use again.
"That town was built by the people through their jobs, through their efforts, and through their commitment to a company for 100 years," he says. "And if it was good once, it can be good again."
The Niagara Worldwide president plans to start tearing down some of the paper mill's unusable buildings next week. He says there will be "marked changes" in the Village of Brokaw within a year.