Job creation seen as priority
By Robert Cloud
At the Aug. 29 Economic Development meeting, City Administrator Chad Hoerth continued discussion of the selling price for land in the North East Business Park.
Located within New London city limits, the business park is bordered by County Trunk DD and Spurr Road.
It was first developed in 1999 and expanded in 2011.
Hoerth told the committee that he looked at other business and industrial parks in the area.
Hoerth said Weyauwega and Clintonville charge $10,000 per acre for land in their business parks.
Waupaca’s asking price is $40,000 per acre, “but they’re willing to negotiate a lower price, even give it away as part of a development agreement,” Hoerth said.
Shawano has a starting price of $20,000 per acre, but they also have an incentive program to encourage development.
Hoerth also described some recent discussions he has had with potential developers or interested businesses.
“I have been asked flat out what we are currently asking per acre,” Hoerth said.
He noted that a solar farm may be built about 7 miles outside city limits.
“They are looking at routing their transmission lines to the industrial park where ATC has their current substation,” Hoerth said. “One of the things this company is looking at doing is potentially having a battery facility.”
Solar power would charge up the battery facility during the day. At night the batteries would discharge into the ATC substation.
ATC and New London Utilities both have substations in the industrial park.
“The solar company is looking for 15 acres to start,” Hoerth said.
“In that type of scenario, I don’t foresee a ton of job growth,” Hoerth added, noting that he did not know what a battery facilities assessed value would be.
“I’d like to see that industrial park be used for job creation and some kind of industry that isn’t just storage,” said Ald. Tim Roberts, chair of the Economic Development committee.
“I’m really concerned with the battery thing with the solar part because that’s so trendy right now and there’s a lot of tax breaks and incentives going into that right now and in a year or two that might go away and what will happen to those batteries?” Roberts said. Would they just be abandoned there?”
“Remember, you have the final say if you sell it,” Hoerth said. “Obviously, whoever we negotiate with, that comes to you and if you guys don’t like the project, you’re not selling the land. You own the land.”
Hoerth said he appreciated the goal of job creation when negotiating the selling price of land in the industrial park.
Ald. Dave Dorsey said his goals with selling the land would be job creation and increasing the city’s tax base.
“I would have no problem with giving the land away if I knew there was a substantial employment opportunity coming in here,” said Ald. BaLynda Croy.
Committee member Hans Thompson said he doubted the project’s viability because it needs a corridor for transmitting its electricity and he observed significant opposition at a recent meeting.
“They don’t have eminent domain,” Thompson said.
“The project itself is all voluntary to get the electricity from the solar farm to that ATC substation and there were an awful lot of residents who were dead set against it and if they can’t find a corridor to get it there, it won’t happen,” Thompson said.
Hoerth described a data enter that is currently looking for an initial 50-acre site.
The center would need 200 to 500 megawatts to operate.
Hoerth said he discussed the project with Jason Bessette, the general manager of New London Utilities, who said the entire city of New London uses a maximum of 32 megawatts.
“The electricity requirement that they’re looking at would be triple if not quadruple of what the entire city uses today,” Hoerth said.
At the end of the discussion on the North East Business Park, Hoerth said he would prepare some formal documents for the committee to review.