Wisconsin wins Ford with lower taxes

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 15, 2002

A favorable site and lower tax rates in Wisconsin versus Minnesota were two reasons that appear to have affected Ford Motor Company’s decision to locate a new distribution center in Menomonie, Wis. instead of Albert Lea.

Rebecca Yanisch, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, said that the difference for Ford was within the state offers.

&uot;The officials at Ford said there were 17 different factors they looked at in making their decisions,&uot; she said. The two main differences, she said, were: The commercial and industrial property taxes in Wisconsin were lower than Minnesota, and the cost of workers compensation is higher in Minnesota than Wisconsin.

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&uot;They were extremely impressed with the commitment and responsiveness of the cities of Stewartville and Albert Lea,&uot; she said. &uot;Governor Ventura personally met with them when they were here last month to campaign for the Minnesota sites. &uot;

&uot;They said Albert Lea was much more responsive than some of the sites in Wisconsin. The city of Albert Lea should take a bow for that,&uot; Yanisch said. &uot;They were extremely impressed with the planning that was done in (the city’s) presentation and with the site. The city is well served by Paul Sparks and the rest of the people who made the presentation.&uot;

Menomonie Mayor Dennis Kropp said the site that Ford chose is owned by Minnesota company 3M.

&uot;They will buy it from 3M and then the city will help break down the cost of the land with a tax increment financing district,&uot; Kropp said. He said they have not yet created the district.

According to Kropp the city has a formula they use to come up with their offers in these situations. &uot;We’ve got a formula we use based on the number of jobs, the cost of the building that goes up,

the hourly wages, and the community benefit,&uot; he said.

Kropp said that Ford has not made clear their reasons for their choice.

&uot;When these companies come in and look they of course look at transportation availability, but Albert Lea is certainly competitive with that,&uot; Kropp, who grew up in Fairmont, said.

The Menomonie mayor said the site offered was in very good shape.

&uot;The site has everything already in place: water, sewer, roads, and it’s adjacent to the freeway,&uot; Kropp said.

Albert Lea had offered the Habben industrial site, which also had all the infrastructure in place. The site was also already in a TIF district.

Kropp said that the soils were very favorable for building in Menomonie. He had heard from contractors who had visited both sites that their site was topographically stronger.

&uot;The site is perfectly flat,&uot; he said. &uot;We were told by the contractors who looked at the Albert Lea site that there were some topography problems with

knolls and hills on the site.&uot;