The Milwaukee 7 was formed in September 2005 to create a regional, cooperative economic development platform for the seven counties of southeastern Wisconsin: , . In this OnMilwaukee.com series, Gregg Hoffmann profiles each of the counties and highlights their unique attractions and appeal.
Waukesha County, sitting to the west of Milwaukee, is a thriving, vital county in its own right.
It includes 37 municipalities within 576 square miles of suburban and rural areas. The county truly provides an interesting blend of suburban and rural life.
You can cool off in one of numerous lakes in the county and an hour later shop at some of the region’s top malls and shops. Waukesha County also offers some great support for a variety of businesses.
The largest municipality within the county is Waukesha, the county seat. Money Magazine picked Waukesha the “36th Best Small City in the Country” in 2006.
Downtown has been revitalized and includes a wonderful Historic Downtown and Riverwalk. As a pedestrian friendly, urban destination with a "small town" feel, the downtown is home to a variety of unique specialty shops, restaurants and businesses.
The heart of downtown has been energized by approximately $20 million of new development in the past three years, including the completion of the Riverwalk which extends three miles through downtown. Waukesha boasts a thriving arts district with six galleries and over 50 artists, a cultural museum and a new performing arts theater.
You’ll also want to go a few blocks south of downtown to tour the campus of Carroll College. Often called Wisconsin’s pioneer college, Carroll is the oldest college in the state. In 1841, settlers living in the Wisconsin Territory community of Prairieville established the academy that five years later would become Carroll College.
Carroll is one of three institutions of higher education in Waukesha, with UW-Waukesha and Waukesha County Technical College.
If you go east of Waukesha, you enter the suburban area that includes Brookfield, Elm Grove, New Berlin and other municipalities that serve as homes to thousands of people and businesses.
Brookfield Square, located just off I-94 at the corner of Moorland and Bluemound Roads, offers a great dining and shopping experience with over 125 specialty stores. Other fine shops and restaurants can be found in Brookfield and Elm Grove, which pride themselves on offering “style” to the metro area.
In addition to providing many services and amenities, New Berlin, Muskego, Menonomee Falls and other municipalities in the eastern part of Waukesha County also have excellent business and industrial parks which house businesses ranging from manufacturing to service.
Rural western area
Go west of the City of Waukesha and you can still find charming rural and small town attractions. Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak State Park and Retzer Nature Center offer hiking, biking, nature tours and will make you forget you are only minutes away from urban attractions.
The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago offers the bounty of the land, especially during harvest season. The Clark House Museum in Pewaukee, Hawks Inn in Delafield and the Red Brick Museum in Mukwonago are just three sites that will remind you of the rich history of Waukesha County.
Speaking about the history of the county, one of the most interesting aspects was the “Springs Era. “As far back as the 1700's, the native people told fur traders about the area's mineral springs. In 1868 Col. Richard Dunbar promoted what he believed were healing properties of Waukesha's water, which launched Waukesha County's “Springs Era.”
Through 1910, people traveled cross-country to drink the water. Accounts tell us that up to 25 passenger trains arrived daily. Elaborate “springhouses” were built above the natural springs. Today's visitors can see the last of the original springs on the Moor Downs Golf Course, Frame Park and Springs Park.
Waukesha County is dotted with lakes, which offer swimming, fishing, boating and other recreational opportunities. Lakeview Entertainment Center owns and operates Milwaukee's Premier cruise line -- Prestige Yacht Cruises. A 57' luxury motor yacht sails beautiful Pewaukee Lake April through October.
You can view miles of scenic natural shoreline and many dramatic lakefront estates as you set sail on your own private charter. The ever-growing Pewaukee Lake is home to Piano Blu, a new restaurant and bar, and many other dining spots. But, it’s still known for its musky fishing.
If this writer had one day to spend in Waukesha County, it would start on one of those lakes, to watch the sun rise and perhaps catch a few fish. After the fish, catch some breakfast at one of the great little “ma and pa” cafes you can find in the smaller towns of the western part of the county, walk off that big meal with a hike in one of the state forests or parks, or play a round of golf, and then head east.
In the early afternoon, take in some of those tours of the City of Waukesha previously mentioned. Then, buy some mementoes at Brookfield Square or other wonderful shops in the eastern part of the county.
Finish off the day with dinner at the historic Elm Grove Inn or another fine restaurant, and maybe take in a concert or play to call it a night.
If you decide you want to stay permanently in Waukesha County, the Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce offers programs to help establish, promote and develop businesses in the county. The Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation also offers a variety of services and can help a businessperson connect to educational and other resources.
Other highlights include Old World Wisconsin, one of the country’s largest outdoor living history museums and Ten Chimneys, home of Broadway legends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Genesee Depot.
There are many success stories for businesses in Waukesha County. The Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Times Top Ten Small Businesses of the Year for 2007 included: CSE (Caliendo Savio Enterprises Inc.); Capital Data Inc.; Kolb+Co.; Lakeland Supply Inc.; M&M Office Interiors Corp.; QPS Companies Inc.; Schroeder Solutions; Tailored Label Products Inc.; and World Class Wire & Cable Inc. These businesses join many, long-established companies that find Waukesha County a great place to do business.
Watch for Pabst Farms, located off of I-94 and Hwy. 67 in the City of Oconomowoc and Town of Summit to continue to evolve the development in Waukesha County. Pabst Farms is a unique 1,500-acre master-planned community with residential, retail, and commercial environments.