At least part of the Milwaukee Streetcar will be made right here in Milwaukee County. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other city officials toured the plant of Cudahy-based Milwaukee Composites Inc. on Thursday afternoon to see first hand the floors that will end up in the Milwaukee Streetcar — and at no cost.

Milwaukee Composites makes patented phenolic composite floors for mass transit vehicles. The advanced plastic floor can stand up to the beating of thousands of commuters everyday, while being fireproof and moisture resistant. Firm president and founder Jeff Kober notes that their patented flooring weighs up to 900 pounds less than their competitors, and saves customers like New York City subway-operator Metropolitan Transit Authority over $1 million annually through reduced energy costs.

But while the company sells to all these other cities. the floors are being donated to Milwaukee as part of the $18.6 million contract between the city and Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corp. for four streetcars. In addition, Milwaukee Composites will donate a fifth floor for the vehicle on order for the lakefront extension. The first vehicle delivery is scheduled to take place later this year. Before that can happen, Milwaukee Composites will ship the floors to Pennsylvania so they can be installed into the vehicles.

How much would five streetcar floors sell for? Turns out, they’re not cheap. “This is about a $100,000 donation” Kober says.
Why did he decide to make the donation? “Because it’s important they be built by our people for our city,” Kober explains. “We make our composite products here in Milwaukee for vehicles that operate in cities all over the world. It’s exciting for our team to be supplying a project we will all use and enjoy on a regular basis in our home city. Our floors will be part of Milwaukee history.”

The 140,000 square-foot Milwaukee Composites facility at 6055 S. Pennsylvania Ave. is home to 70 employees. Located in the shadow of the airport, they toil in relative anonymity (at least locally) as they work to build the floors that go into everything from subways in New York City, Philadelphia and Shanghai to light rail vehicles in Phoenix, Denver and Seattle. A growing segment of their business is in smaller streetcar vehicles, with their floors being included in many of the new American-made Brookville streetcar vehicles in use in cities like Detroit and Dallas. The company is now exploring getting into subway car doors.

Kober is a graduate of Milwaukee School of Engineering and has spent decades in the advanced plastics industry. He founded Milwaukee Composites in 1997.

The donation for the Milwaukee Streetcar will allow many Milwaukee Composites employees and their families to see their hard work in use for the first time.

The Milwaukee Streetcar project, now known as The Hop, is scheduled to begin operation in the fall of 2018. An extension to the lakefront is schedule to begin in late 2019. The $128 million starter system is being funded in part by $68 million in federal grants. A 12-year, $10 million sponsorship commitment from Potwatomi Hotel & Casino was announced in recent weeks, which coupled with a federal operating grant, will keep the project as a no-budget item for the city until at least 2021.

This article by Jeramey Jannene originally appears on