Economic growth apparent in Milton

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Jake Magee
August 19, 2015

MILTON—Business is booming, and Milton's not surprised.

The city council's Tuesday night approval for Charter NEX Films to more than double operations in the city's eastside industrial park is one of many examples of economic growth in Milton.

The park features a healthy number of businesses already, from United Ethanol to Ott Schweitzer District to Penn Color Inc. A Kwik Trip in development will open by November. Two credit unions recently opened in the city.

Last week, the Milton Plan Commission had a 12-item agenda, which is longer than City Administrator Al Hulick has seen before, even during his time as Janesville's economic development coordinator. Properties are changing hands and businesses are growing, he said.

“When you start to add those up … it's a clear indication that activity is on the rise…” he said.

And that rise is in spite of the Highway 26 bypass. While retail and commercial businesses within the city haven't necessarily benefited from the bypass, the industrial park has, Hulick said.

“The bypass has changed the vantage point for Milton,” he said. “People are more aware because there are more people in that area.

“It's made the east side more attractive, really,” he said.

That's by design.

The city planned the park to take advantage of the bypass. Close access to the Interstate is ideal for businesses that don't rely on high customer traffic.

Milton invested in the industrial park by installing infrastructure and utilities; buying, annexing and properly zoning land; and developing plans to react quickly to proposed businesses within the park.

That hasn't quite happened yet, though. No other businesses have proposed site plans, but officials are in preliminary talks for further additions to the business park, Hulick said.

“The nice type of economic activity we're seeing is buying and selling is leading to additional development,” Hulick said.


Milton's Charter NEX Films plant, which primarily makes plastic seals for food, opened in 1998 and occupies about 67,000 square feet at 1264 E. High St. That's 17,000 square feet more than before expanding last year.

That's still not enough for the growing business, which hopes to break ground this year and more than double by adding 91,000 square feet, making room for a total of 13 production lines. The plant currently operates six.

Because of last year's expansion, Charter NEX Films will have at least nine operational lines by July 2016. The city council's approval Tuesday night allows for another four lines and warehouse space, Plant manager Aaron LaPointe said.

LaPointe guessed the expansion would add 50 jobs to the 60-person operation.

“We supply a real high-quality product for our industry. We've seen a real big increase in demand,” he said.

The city approved a conditional-use permit for Charter NEX Films' expansion despite it not meeting landscape requirements. Had the plant been required to meet a landscape threshold based on its size, the property would have been overwhelmed with trees and shrubs, Hulick said.

Officials said the expansion is great for Milton's economic growth.

“This project will be a tremendous expansion and investment in the Crossroads Industrial Park, which will result in additional tax base generation and employment levels for the city of Milton,” Hulick wrote in a memo to the plan commission.

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