When the foundry closed for good, the Calumet County community lost hundreds of jobs at a business that at its peak employed more than 1,000. The city also lost its largest taxpayer and its largest water user.
Six years later, Brillion is still struggling. Property taxes went up 15% last year just to pay the bills, and the 20-parcel foundry site, while largely demolished, remains a giant scar on the city’s east side.
That scar, however, is a sign of progress. It’s the result of a bold decision by Ariens Co., the locally-based, family-owned maker of snowblowers and lawn equipment that employs about 1,500 workers in its Brillion plants and headquarters, to buy the property in 2018 and take the lead, in partnership with the city, to redevelop it.
It has also received two $500,000 grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that helped to pay for demolition and renovation of the office building.
Missy Hughes, WEDC’s secretary and CEO, said she came away impressed by the commitments of Ariens and community leaders after touring the site last year.
“I was up visiting Ariens Co. and went over to the ironworks and, my gosh, I mean, it’s a big piece of a piece of concrete that needs to be taken care of in this little community,” she said. “It is really exciting to see someone come in with a vision to do something about it.”
[Adapted from: The loss of a major employer rocked Brillion in 2016. Today, the city has its sights set on a major transformation. September 29, 2022 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]