December 16, 2010

Wind turbine company reworks deal with Wisconsin Rapids

By Nathaniel Shuda, Daily Tribune Staff, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, 16 December 2010

Almost two months after announcing the downsizing of plans to build a wind turbine blade manufacturing plant, a Wisconsin Rapids company is renegotiating its deal with the city.

Energy Composites’ current development agreement with Wisconsin Rapids is set to expire Dec. 31, City Council President Jean Young said. Officials must alter the plan because of the project’s reduced scope.

“I’m hopeful that we come to some resolution because we kind of need to quickly,” said Young, who also serves as chairwoman of the Finance and Property Committee, which is reviewing the agreement.

Since announcing the change in scope Oct. 19, company officials have not given specifics about how the change will affect the project and the potential jobs other than to say it will reduce the initial cost from $54 million to $23 million.

City officials would not publicly talk about the contents of the revised proposal, which they discussed last week in a closed session during the Finance and Property Committee’s monthly meeting. No action was taken.

“The atmosphere was good,” Young said of last week’s meeting. “We had a very good discussion. There was a fairly good turnout (of Council members).”

The committee plans to take up the issue again in closed session, immediately before Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“This is the first step – to negotiate this revised agreement, based on everything we’ve already heard publicly,” Mayor Mary Jo Carson said. “I don’t know what the discussions will be.”

In November 2009, the City Council approved the original agreement to invest $5.3 million in taxpayer money to support the estimated $43 million project, which involved building a plant company leaders said would employ more than 600 people.

According to that document, the city would have paid $1.5 million for infrastructure costs, including extending city streets and expanding railroad access to the property, and $6,000 for each full-time job the company creates on or before Dec. 31, 2012, up to $3.8 million.

After slowed financial markets led to hesitation from investors, company officials decided to downsize the project, with plans to complete the work in phases, instead of all at once, Energy Composites President Jamie Mancl said Oct. 19 during a presentation to City Council members.

The original agreement contains dates and deadlines that do not remain applicable since company officials decided to reduce the scope of the project, City Attorney Sue Schill said at that meeting.

Meanwhile, the $35 million in tax-exempt recovery zone facility bonds, a tax-exempt status the federal stimulus package made available to the company, will expire Dec. 31, forcing company officials to find another way to secure investors – a feat they hope to accomplish with the help of private financing firm Stern Brothers & Co.

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