Miller remains key Milwaukee player

Friday, November 8, 2019
Margaret Naczek, Business Journal

While the MillerCoors name is departing Molson Coors' corporate structure, its presence and tradition will remain and even grow in Milwaukee with the addition of employees being transferred to the city, along with opportunities for new beverage innovation at the Tenth Street Brewery.

Molson Coors' new president and CEO Gavin Hattersley announced the company’s revitalization plan Oct. 30 as the beer manufacturer reported its third quarter earnings, which saw a 3.2% decline in overall net sales and a 2.3% decline in its U.S. market.

Part of that revitalization strategy includes removing the MillerCoors name from the company’s global structure and moving its North American headquarters to Chicago.

“I knew that having four large corporate centers in the United States was sub-optimal,” Hattersley recently told the Milwaukee Business Journal in an exclusive interview.

Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley
Enlarge - Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley (JORDAN BALDERAS)

While the Miller name, known in Milwaukee for over 150 years, will be gone from the corporate structure, the company’s presence in Milwaukee is growing with all functional support positions being brought to the city. Miller currently employs about 1,350 people in the area. Hattersley also vowed that the company will continue to be a major employer and active in many community initiatives and events.

“Milwaukee has been the home to Miller beer for over a century,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Oct. 30. “It is part of our history. It’s part of our present. With the announcement today from Molson Coors, it is clearly part of our future as well.”

Barrett said the city and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. worked with Molson Coors during the restructuring. The mayor expects an announcement about funding from both the city and the state in upcoming weeks.

Miller Brewing Co. recently repainted the "Girl In The Moon" sign on the side of the brewery in the Miller Valley.
Enlarge - Miller Brewing Co. recently repainted the "Girl In The Moon" sign on the side of the brewery in the Miller Valley. (MARK KASS)

No specified number of jobs has been announced, though Barrett and other city leaders said the restructuring will bring hundreds of jobs to Milwaukee. Hattersley said he expects some of these support function positions to come from the Denver branch, which will be closing, as well as Canada and Chicago offices.

“My initial thought was Milwaukee is going to win part of what Denver lost in terms of the support jobs that are coming to Milwaukee,” Greater Milwaukee Committee president Julia Taylor said.

While Taylor suspects many of the marketing jobs will move to Chicago, hundreds of white-collar jobs will come to Milwaukee.

Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, anticipates the city will see an increase in corporate function jobs including IT, finance and human resources along with the established brewery positions.

“These are exactly the kind of jobs that are important to Milwaukee. These are jobs attributable to product that is exported outside of the community that brings in that new income,” he said.

Given the choice, Sheehy said he would rather take the new corporate structure that benefits Milwaukee over the permanence of the corporate Miller name. Molson Coors will become Molson Coors Beverage Co., effective Jan. 1, 2020. Hattersley said this is a reflection of the company's desire to compete in a growing beverage market.

Molson Coors will invest in both its above premium craft beer options and non-beer categories such as seltzers and wine spritzers heading into 2020, Hattersley said.

“I think the reflection in the name is a reflection of the strategy that the company has to grow,” Sheehy said, adding that Miller will always be synonymous with Milwaukee regardless of the removal of the MillerCoors name.

“It’s where its roots are. Beer drinkers are always going to have the opportunity for 'Miller Time.' Those two things are not going to change,” Sheehy said.

The GMC's Taylor agreed.

"We've always been a Miller town," she said. "I think the key thing is investments get made in Milwaukee."

Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee
Enlarge - Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee (SCOTT PAULUS)

Steve Kwapil, CEO of Brew Pipeline Inc., a Wisconsin beer distributor with operations in Pewaukee, said the revitalization plan was not a big surprise.

"It's typical corporate restructuring. For Milwaukee, it's a big deal, but in industry standards, it's nothing earth-shattering," Kwapil said.

Kwapil is not a MillerCoors distributor, but his company distributes beer to all 50 states. He said the changes will have zero impact on beer distribution and are simply cost-cutting measures.

MILWAUKEE INVESTMENTS

Molson Coors has already invested back into Milwaukee with renovations to the company's Tenth Street Brewery. The expansion and renovations have added a lot of flexibility to the brewery's production, Hattersley said.

"Some of our new products we are launching into the market are going to be made in Milwaukee, which they weren't before," Hattersley said.

While Hattersley could not disclose every new product made at the Tenth Street Brewery, he did say that one of the company's new beverages, Blue Moon Light Sky, will be brewed at the Tenth Street location.

In 2008 when SABMiller and Molson announced the joint venture to form MillerCoors, the MMAC tried to pitch a Milwaukee headquarters for the company. Denver worked on a similar pitch, but Chicago was selected as the U.S. unit headquarters.

More than 10 years later, Sheehy said Molson Coors has responded with a restructuring plan to improve its efficiency and effectiveness to compete.

“2008 was clearly a loss for Milwaukee. This 2019 decision is clearly an advantage for Milwaukee,” Sheehy said.

Taylor said Molson Coors choosing Milwaukee to move hundreds of jobs is a testament to the work of local organizations such as economic development group Milwaukee 7.

“We are positioning ourselves as a place where people want to grow talent,” Taylor said.

Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
Enlarge - Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (SCOTT PAULUS)

The economic impact of Molson Coors restructuring extends farther than just the addition of new jobs, Sheehy added. There are other positive side effects, he said. With Molson Coors employees moving to Milwaukee from other North American branches, there will be the addition of new families purchasing homes, paying property taxes and more.

“That in turn is going to drive the need for schools and other services, all the support functions that Miller would rely on here in the community,” Sheehy said.

 

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