New international concourse proposed at Mitchell Airport

By Dan Muckelbauer - Freeman Staff

Sept. 29, 2017

MILWAUKEE - Noting Foxconn's announced expansion into the region, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele proposed a new terminal for foreign flights at General Mitchell International Airport as part of his 2018 budget plan presented Thursday at the airport.

"With the anticipated economic impact of the Foxconn development, passenger travel and freight shipments are only expected to increase at Mitchell," Abele said in his statement.

Earlier this month, Gov. Scott Walker approved $3 billion in incentives for the Taiwanese electronics maker to build a massive $10 billion plant for manufacturing flat screens. Sites in Racine County, south of the airport operated by Milwaukee County, have been considered.

The goal is to demolish the E Concourse in 2018, the airport's oldest concourse, and replace it with a terminal with multiple gates that can handle more flights, increase passenger satisfaction and comfort, and house all necessary U.S. Customs and Border Patrol services, Abele said. The terminal could be expanded as passenger traffic increases, he added.

Abele's spending plan includes more than $25 million in borrowing and airport funds to begin designing a new international terminal for General Mitchell International Airport. He said "the airport will design and construct a new international terminal, at no additional cost to the taxpayers."

County Supervisor Jason Haas, whose district includes the airport, said: "I'm not convinced it's a good idea to add $25 million to the county's debt to build a new terminal for a private corporation that has already received $3 billion in taxpayer financed incentives."

Abele noted 10 new nonstop routes were added in the last year at the airport, including to Guadalajara, Mexico. The county executive anticipates more international travel.

"Milwaukee County is working with airlines to expand international flights to other points across the globe to meet the business and recreational travel of the citizens of Wisconsin and Northern Illinois," he said.

The new terminal design is intended to be expandable so the airport can add to its international capacity in the future as passenger traffic increases.

Abele's 646-page budget proposal also includes paying for roads, bridges and transit with a $60 vehicle registration fee, up from the $30 wheel tax enacted last year on Milwaukee County residents. In a spring nonbinding referendum, voters opposed the $30 wheel tax by about 72 percent.

Other proposed spending by Abele includes $1.1 million in response to the opioid crisis for the Medical Examiner's Office and County Behavioral Health Division. Of the total, he slated $900,000 for community-based treatment options and $200,000 for an advanced mass spectrometer instrument to cut the testing time for opioids and other drugs from weeks to hours.