In the early 1980's, faced with the threat that an expanding CUNA Mutual could leave the city of Madison, civic, political, university, and business leaders gathered. It was decided that the University of Wisconsin Research Park would sell 60 acres to CUNA Mutual for the company's expansion.
With new technology, downsizing, and outsourcing, CUNA Mutual no longer needs the land for expansion. The UW Research Park is bursting and the UW would like the land back and is willing to pay. Now CUNA Mutual plans to develop the land as housing and a shopping mall.
From Isthmus, Madison's weekly newspaper,
CUNA Mutual Group is planning a major mixed-use project on and around its west-side Madison campus, reopening old wounds over how some of this land was acquired...
..."Back in the early 1980s," he says, "the entire community — the city of Madison and the university — did the right thing to help CUNA Mutual, thinking of the greater good. Now that the university would like the land back, CUNA Mutual is only looking at one thing: how it can maximize the value of that land to CUNA Mutual. There is no consideration for the larger community."...
Two relevant points:
- While CUNA Mutual and the University of Wisconsin do plan a swap of land, that is not the first choice of the UW, or the choice that is in the best interest of the greater community.
- CUNA Mutual's Rick Uhlmann makes the point that
...the company's land buys in the early 1980s provided critical "seed money" to the research park. It (CUNA Mutual) acquired the land "not just for expansion" but also as an investment...
Ullmann must think that you and I are the dimmest rubes since the Russians sold Alaska. The UW only sold the property because of the threat of CUNA Mutual leaving. The so called 'seed money' may have helped in the early years, but it was not necessary or desired. Otherwise the UW would have sold acreage at public auction and raised some real money.
Of course the UW never intended to sell the property in question to CUNA Mutual or anyone else for 'investment' purposes.
CUNA Mutual owns the land. They paid fair dollar for it, though they never had to compete in the open market to pay for the purchase of public property - they got a deal.
CUNA Mutual has every right, within the law and the zoning codes, to do with that property as they see fit. But their handling of this matter makes it clear that they do not approach this issue with the same civic concern that led them to its ownership.
Disclosure: I am a paid consultant working with OPEIU Local 39 which represents the organized employees at CUNA Mutual.