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Mercury Marine incentive could spur new development (5:08 p.m. 9/8/09)

Sean Ryan
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The incentive plan for Mercury Marine includes the city of Fond du Lac buying more than 20 acres from the company for new development.

The property on Pioneer Road is at the periphery of Mercury Marine’s campus. The company is not using the land. As part of Fond du Lac’s attempt to keep the company in town, the city plans to spend $3 million for the property, said City Manager Tom Herre.

“We started out with the premise of trying to look at ways that we can be of assistance to Mercury Marine,” he said, “and certainly one of those ways is to purchase land.”

Mercury Marine pays roughly $20,000 a year in property taxes for the 20 acres, Herre said, so the loss in tax base is small compared to the problems created if the company, which employs 1,850 people, downsizes or leaves. The long-term plan is to create a tax-incremental financing district to attract new projects to the land, Herre said.

The Fond du Lac City Council on Thursday will consider approving the purchase, he said.
The land buy adds to Fond du Lac County’s plan to create a new sales tax of 0.5 percent to support Mercury and beef up county revolving loan programs for other businesses.

The sales tax would generate up to $7 million a year under current economic conditions, said Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, president of the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp. Half of the money would support loans to Mercury Marine to pay for new product research and development and to create new jobs in Fond du Lac by relocating operations from Stillwater, Okla., she said.

For every new job created, the company can cut $1,000 out of the amount of money it must repay. For every job lost, the debt increases by $500.

The Fond du Lac County Board on Wednesday will consider the sales tax increase and, if approved, the tax could take effect April 1.

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