Just about everybody expects area local governments to support economic development. But they also expect local officials to be good stewards of any public dollars used to assist such development.
Back in the 1980's, Two Rivers applied to the State's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, for funds to assist Eggers Industries in expanding to the former Mirro plant on 13th Street (now the Eggers West Plant) and to assist a management buyout of Paragon Electric that helped (for a while) to retain that business in Two Rivers.
The State awarded $500,000 in CDBG funds for the City to loan to Eggers, and $750,000 for the City to loan to Paragon. As both loans were repaid, with interest, the State allowed the City to retain those repayments, to capitalize a local economic development revolving loan fund (RLF). There are dozens of similar funds in small cities across Wisconsin, hundreds across the U.S.
In the ensuing years, numerous RLF loans have been issued and repaid (with interest), and cash balances held by the City have been invested and earned interest. The City's RLF has more than doubled, to the point where it has total assets of about $2.8 million.
As of June 2008, the fund has $800,000 cash on hand, and about $2.0 million in outstanding loans. The State allows the City to retain and re-use this grant money for the express purpose of offering loans to assist with job creation and retention here in Two Rivers. These funds must be maintained in a separate fund, and cannot be used for other municipal purposes like capital projects or supporting City operations.
Woodland Face Veneer got its start in the Two Rivers business incubator in 2002. Company President Rick Philipps has guided the company through phenomenal growth, with an emphasis on customer satisfaction and employee involvement. WFV grew out of the incubator into larger space in the Columbus Street Industrial Park in 2005. Today, the company employs 40 people and keeps on growing.
Rusch Machine, which occupied the smaller incubator building from 2000 to 2004. Chris Rusch moved in with three employees, and had grown to about a dozen when his company graduated to larger space, on Columbus Street, in 2004. Rusch continues to grow, selling its custom tube-bending machinery throughout North America and now in Europe. City loans have helped finance some of that growth. Today, Rusch Machine employs 18 people.
Since moving to the Two Rivers incubator building in March 2006, GT Machine employment has grown from 14 to 32. The company has received assistance from Two Rivers Economic Development to assist in its expansion, including a loan for machinery and equipment in the summer of 2007 and $60,000 in Community Development Zone tax credits in the fall of 2006. Established in 1998, GT Machine, LLC is a specialty machine shop. The company serves original equipment manufacturers in the material-handing, agricultural, water treatment and other industries. It also provides machining services to several local foundries.
Eggers has called Two Rivers home since 1884. With 220 employees in the city, and another 230 at its plant in Neenah, Wis., Eggers has a worldwide reputation for high-quality, custom designed wood products. The newly constructed 260,000 square foot facility allowed the company to move from a land-locked, multi-story manufacturing facility to a one-floor operation. The new building includes 230,000 square feet of production space and 30,000 square feet of office space.
We arranged for $1.5 million in tax incremental district funding to assist this $12 million venture. the $1.5 million investment will be reimbursed from the increased property tax revenues from the development of this formerly tax-exempt property over a period of up to 23 years. There are twelve condominiums and eight senior housing units on the former Washington Park property. The newest buildings are adjacent to the new Washington Park along the river. Four units have already been sold. Eventually, there will be 22 duplex condo structures (44 housing units) on the old high school site.
Renovation of the old Two Rivers Community Hospital building was done by Rice Enterprises. The old hospital, replaced by the new Aurora Medical Center, has long-term assisted-living apartments, short-term apartments. The project also allowed the adjacent Hamilton Home to increase the number of nursing home beds from 85 to 99. The Hamilton Senior Apartments has 39 long-term, assisted-living apartments and 30 short-term apartments for those recovering from medical problems but who expect to return to their homes. The building will also has a theater, chapel, computer room, a great room with a large stone fireplace, a country store, banking facilities, laundromat, beauty and barber shop, coffee shop, craft store, and garages. Many apartments also have a washer and dryer. The assisted living apartments range from 433 square feet to 912 square feet with a kitchen, dining room, and one or two bedrooms.