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Somewhat in the economic and cultural shadow of Chicago 90 miles south, Milwaukee is nevertheless a self-sufficient city, as well as a commercial and cultural center for Wisconsin and particularly its more populous southeastern portions. A melting pot for 19th-century immigrants from northern Europe, the city has kept up old-world traditions, most notably the brewing (and consumption) of beer. Following a period of industrial decline- including the brewing industry- the city has revitalized some areas, particularly downtown, and created an area of lakefront parks and museums. The business picture has changed to include more financial services and retailing companies along with the traditional base of metal products, electrical equipment, and machine tools. The area is headquarters to a surprising list of Mid-sized corporations, including Briggs & Stratton, Harley-Davidson, Allen-Bradley, Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls, which operate plants in the vicinity, and service players like Manpower, Inc., Northwestern Mutual and retailer Kohl’s.
Milwaukee has a full complement of cultural, performing arts, and recreational amenities, including a world-class art museum. The city has good transportation services thanks to airlines choosing to avoid Chicago and good rail service arteries emanating from the Windy City. Suburbs have a true neighborhood feel, often with a strong ethnic character and substantial historic preservation.
Waukesha, a few miles to the west, is a large satellite with a small college presence and strong family-oriented residential areas. West Allis is a large and fairly non-descript older suburb west of Milwaukee between the downtown core and Waukesha. A bit surprising considering proximity to Chicago is the city’s full complement of major-league sports, including the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and the MLB’s Brewers. Cost of living and housing are a bit high on a Wisconsin scale but attractive nationally. The area has a strong community pride and residents have a reputation for having fun.
The city is located on a shore plain where the Menomonee River flows into Lake Michigan. Terrain is generally flat near the lake, giving way to rolling hills inland with mixed farmland and woodland. The climate is continental with a wide temperature range and frequent storm systems from the west. Occasional severe winter storms can drop an excess of 10 inches of snow and deliver frigid Canadian air. Lakes Superior and Michigan moderate these arctic blasts somewhat, although winds from Lake Michigan can generate significant wind chills. Summer temperatures reach into the 80’s and 90’s with occasional warmer and humid spells. Winter precipitation is usually of long duration and low intensity, while summer precipitation often comes as heavy showers and thunderstorms. First freeze is early October, last is early May.