Wisconsin Rapids is ready to buy back land it sold to a local company that two years ago announced plans to build a wind-turbine blade manufacturing plant on the property.
Energy Composites Corp. faces a Friday deadline to either reach an agreement with Wisconsin Rapids or sell the nearly 94 acres of land back to the city at the original purchasing price, Mayor Mary Jo Carson said.
Carson said the sale doesn’t necessarily mean the project is dead, but it won’t happen right now.
“Obviously, ECC doesn’t want to hold us up in reference to that land, which we thank them for,” she said. “We appreciate their interest in their hometown.”
Carson said City Attorney Sue Schill has been working with the company’s attorney to reach a buy-back agreement.
On March 31, 2009, the company announced plans to build a 350,000-square-foot plant in the Rapids East Commerce Center that would create at least 400 local jobs. Since then, those plans expanded to 535,000 square feet and more than 600 positions.
To facilitate the project, the city later sold the Wisconsin Rapids-based company 93.7 acres of land in the Rapids East Commerce Center for $500 an acre – a 90 percent discount from the typical asking price – plus a $1,000 option fee, for a total price of $47,850.
Under the pending agreement, the city would buy back the land at the same price for which it sold it, Carson said.
“I’m glad to see it being sold back to the city at the original price,” City Council member Marion Hokamp said. “The sooner they do it, the better it’s going to be. Maybe we’re going to get somebody else interested (in the property).”
As part of the original development agreement, 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 created on or before Dec. 31, 2012, up to $3.8 million.
At this point, Wisconsin Rapids has not invested any money in the project, city Finance Director Tim Desorcy said.
A decline in bond market conditions led company officials to put the project on hold while they searched for investors. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.
Hokamp, who has publicly criticized Energy Composites for a lack of action, said the city should have bought the property back sooner. She remained skeptical of the project throughout the process.
“Way back when they started, I never thought it was going to be done,” she said. “They knew they weren’t going to have anything out there a long time ago.”
Other council members do not regret giving the company so long to bring the plan to fruition.
“I think we had to give them every opportunity to succeed,” council member Lee Albrecht said. “You have this carrot dangling out there that there are 600 jobs on the horizon; I think you have to do whatever you can to have that carrot come to you.”
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