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Eminent Domain

When the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) informed the leadership of Central Ready Mixed (the Wisconsin division of Chicago-based Prairie

Steven Prokopy

When the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) informed the leadership of Central Ready Mixed (the Wisconsin division of Chicago-based Prairie Group) in 2001 that its West State Street headquarters was located on a flood plain and needed to be relocated immediately, the company's options were limited. We'd been at the State Street location since the 1950s, but the bottom line was we had to get out of downtown, says Jim Kidd, yard manager for Central's Builders Brick & Materials operation.

Rather than go through the permitting hassle of building a new plant and offices on a greenfield site, management decided to buy a recently closed Lafarge North America plant north and west of downtown. After a failed attempt to purchase all of Lafarge's ready mixed operations in the Milwaukee area (the company ended up splitting the Lafarge properties with Meyer Material Co. in 2001), Prairie managed to get the property on West Hampton Ave. about five months after Lafarge had shut it down.

Originally owned by old-line Milwaukee leader The Tews Company and purchased by Lafarge in 1996, the existing plant on Hampton was built in 1953 and had since become an eyesore for neighboring residences directly across the street from the property's main entrance. Central didn't think long about tearing down the rusted-out plant to make room for a new completely automated plant, which came on line in early 2004 after a five-month construction. The people in the neighborhood love us and the new plant, says Kidd. They love how clean we keep the yard and the equipment.

In addition to a brand new ready mixed plant, Central decided to move all of its administrative (including sales staff and payroll) and dispatching operations (using Systech software) to the new location as well. The office will act as a central dispatch center once the remodeling is completed sometime this month. Central Ready Mixed consists of two main plants, two others operating under sister company Ottawa Ready Mix, and one more operating as Ojibwa Concrete Inc.

The new Hampton plant is a double-dry, gravity-fed batch plant from RexCon. The aggregate module includes two 12-cu.-yd. batchers with individual rotary-type vibrators. The cement module has two 180-cu.-ft. batchers. Dust control is handled by a C&W KR-1800 dust collection system. Effectively operating as two separate plants under the same roof with separate scales, computers and loadout mechanisms, the facility is capable of running two separate mixes at once at a rate of 400 yd. per hour, although Central typically runs it closer to 300 yd. per hour.

Keeping tabs on Central's 100-plus truck fleet (most of which are Oshkosh and Advance mixers) throughout the Milwaukee area and surrounding counties is a Nextel-supported GPS tracking package.

Cement comes in from St. Marys Cement's Charlevoix, Mich., mill and nearby Lafarge North America terminals, which also supply slag when required. The plant's fly ash comes from the Wisconsin Electric Power Co.'s Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, just south of Milwaukee.

The building materials business (Builders Brick & Materials) was actually opened in June 2002, before the new ready mixed plant was completed. Since Central does not manufacture such materials, product is shipped in from Minnesota and the Carolinas.

In ready mixed, Central has supplied some high-profile projects in the area recently, including 100,000 yd.-plus of product to the Milwaukee Deep Tunnel Project last spring, an 18-mile waste water overflow catchment system. (Ironically, the project was designed and managed by the MMSD.) Central also supplied all of the concrete for the 142,050-sq.-ft., $100 million Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by worldwide celebrity architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava. A major contribution to the Marquette Interchange overhaul is also on the horizon.