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OPINION - The new company at the industrial park

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I don't have any problem with Wausau using tax dollars to help prepare a site at the industrial park for a new tenant. That happens in landlord-tenant relations all the time. "Will build to suit" is common. If a company wants to move to Wausau, but a city-owned building isnt quite right, the city might be willing to make modifications to make it happen. In this case, the city will cover the costs of moving a construction crane onto the site and will build a new wing and parking area onto the old Fiscars building.

How much? That's a decision for city leaders to decide. I think $650,000 for a company that promises 20 jobs initially and 50 jobs a few years down the road is a bit rich. But that's a judgment call. And the city is putting one-time costs into the project. The benefits of an ongoing concern; paying rent, employing local residents, expanding and paying taxes should eventually narrow the imbalance between what the city puts in and the benefits the company provides.

So I don't think the city did anything wrong in its agreement with Ordered Motion Systems.

I'm sympathetic to Jarp Industries of Schofield, one of Ordereds competitors. They are expanding into the Wausau Industrial Park too, and are doing it without a large start-up gift from the city. I'd say this to them: if Jarp's expansion into Wausau made sense as a business decision, it should still make sense even if a competitor is setting up shop next door.

But, as is too often the case, the decision-making process at Wausau City Hall stinks. City Council members have complained that the project came to them for a vote without any information attached to it. Instead they got a blank packet that was added just before the deadline for agenda items. And council members were told their vote was a now-or-never decision; that a new industrial park tenancy wouldnt happen if they didnt act right away. Some council members say city staff withheld that information on purpose. That might be. But then, shame on the City Council for voting blindly on more than a half-million dollars in taxpayer dollars. If you arent sure about an expenditure, then the proper vote is 'no'.

Wausau will get a new employer with growth potential. That's good. Well also get more distrust and acrimony at city hall. And while were almost getting used to it, that's bad.

Chris Conley
4.14.14

Image: Wausau city logo from wsau.com