County hopes forgivable loan will hook Kerry

By DAVE RANK - Daily News Staff

Oct. 3, 2013

WEST BEND - Washington County decided it will add a forgivable loan to a package of enticements local economic development experts hope will convince Kerry Ingredients & Flavours to expand its plant in Jackson, bringing in an additional 60 jobs.

Following an hour-long closed session Wednesday night, the County Board voted 25-1 to approve a loan that will be linked with the economic development effort the village of Jackson was putting together.

Economic Development Washington County officials met with the Jackson Village Board following the County Board vote where the “final framework for an incentive package” was approved, EDWC Executive Director Christian Tscheschlok said.

The low-interest forgivable loan would essentially be converted into a grant if certain agreed-on parameters are met by the company, County Attorney Kimberly Nass said.

The amount of the potential loan is not being disclosed at this time, County Board Chairman Herb Tennies said. He is a county supervisor from West Bend.

On Sept. 26 the Jackson Plan Commission made the recommendation to approve the expansion project proposal, which will be voted on by the Village Board at a public hearing Tuesday, Tscheschlok said. “We are committed to moving this project forward to a successful closure.

“Our current facility is at capacity,” Josh Wagner, Jackson plant manager, said. “The project will enable us to expand our production and packaging in response to an increase in customer demand.”

Wagner said Kerry will make a decision quickly once all approvals have been made.

County Supervisor Ralph Hensel from West Bend cast the single no vote on the county loan. He said he was not a fan of corporate welfare. “I’m just not in favor of it.”

County Supervisor Michael Parsons abstained from voting because his employer has business dealings with Kerry.

Absent from Wednesday’s special board meeting were county supervisors Todd White, town of Trenton; Peter Sorce and Dawn Eyre, Germantown.

Tuesday, following a closed session of the County Board’s Executive Committee, it was disclosed the loan could be as much as $500,000, although no one would confirm that Wednesday.

The money would come from the county’s Attraction Fund, created for such projects and administered by the EDWC. The five-member Executive Committee recommended the board approve the loan to Kerry.

In September it was revealed that parent corporation Kerry Group plc will decide later this month where among its 45 facilities in the United States it will place the project, which could boost employment by 60 workers and add 119,000 square feet for production and warehousing to the existing 165,000-square-foot facility at N165 W21455 Main St. (Highway 60).

The Kerry Group produces ingredients and flavorings for the worldwide food and beverage industries and is headquartered in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. Kerry’s largest division, the America Region offices, are in Beloit, which heads up operation in both North and South Americas.

The Jackson plant produces dairy and culinary products, and employs 140.

If Kerry authorizes the expansion, construction would begin this year with a targeted completion in August, according to a spokesman for a design firm working on the local proposal.