The Milwaukee Harbor Commission delayed progress on a wind turbine project near the Hoan Bridge on Thursday because of concerns that the project won’t create enough jobs for city residents.
The city is planning to build a 154-foot wind turbine next to the Port of Milwaukee administration building at 2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive using money from the federal stimulus program and grants from the state Focus on Energy program and We Energies.
The commission received five bids from contractors to build the turbine and is legally obligated to accept the lowest bid or reject all the bids. The lowest bid came in at $558,000 from Kettle View Renewable Energy, of Random Lake.
However, Kettle View only plans to use “emerging business enterprises” for 2 percent of the work. The city’s Emerging Business Enterprise Program aims to direct business to small companies in the city of Milwaukee that are owned by disadvantaged people, including women and minorities. Typically, the city requires contractors to use emerging businesses for 18 percent of a contract. But because this project includes a federal grant, the city can’t impose the requirement on the bidders.
Commissioner Kristine Martinsek said she’s disappointed Kettle View didn’t include a higher emerging business total in its bid.
“It would be a great opportunity for our central city businesses to be mentored a little bit and learn a little bit about this,” she said.
The commission tabled the issue to give the city legal staff time to examine its options. So far, the commission’s choices seem to be to accept the Kettle View bid, reject all the bids and put the project out for bid again or cancel the project.
Ald. Robert Bauman said he’s in favor of the last option if the city can’t find a way to include more emerging businesses in the project.
“If we can’t send a message on a discretionary project that we are serious about EB goals, then I don’t know where we can send a message,” he said.
Stacy Vogel Davis covers small business and retail for The Business Journal.
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