Florence TIF district OK’d

FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence County is one step closer to getting a new grocery store and seeing several other economic development projects come to fruition.

Wendy Gehlhoff, economic development director for Florence County, announced Friday that the county’s proposed tax increment financing (TIF) district has received final approval from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

With this approval, Florence County can now offer a $50,000 TIF incentive to an Upper Peninsula company interested in operating a new full-service grocery store in the old Haberkorn’s grocery store building on the west end of town.

However, Gehlhoff pointed out that the grocery store project is also contingent upon the receipt of a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) grant. She expects to hear back on the status of the grant in two weeks.

Another potential TIF district project is the expansion of a sawmill in the industrial park.

If the grocery store project and the sawmill expansion go through, Gehlhoff estimates that 25 to 31 new jobs will be created.

Gehlhoff stressed that the county will approach all potential projects conservatively.

TIF districts work by setting aside any new tax money generated from the district, which could result from new buildings or growth in property values, and putting that money toward new developments within the district.

“The decision to implement a development project will be based on that project’s ability to generate the tax increment needed to pay for the upfront costs,” Gehlhoff explained. “Typically, the payments will be made yearly from the new increment rather than in one upfront sum.”

Gehlhoff said that the district will have a retroactive starting date of Jan. 1, 2013 and a base value of $11,539,200.

Owners of land and buildings within the TIF district will continue to pay normal taxes to the school, technical college, town, and county.

The TIF district consists of 652 contiguous acres in the town of Florence. Included areas are the industrial park, all of Central Avenue, the Natural Resource Center, the area south of U.S. going west of town, and some parcels north of the downtown area.

Further down the line, Florence County may consider a senior housing or assisted living development as another TIF district project.

“Florence County has a superb nursing home facility, but lacks elderly-friendly housing options for our growing retiree population to downsize and simplify,” said Gehlhoff. “Our median age is 49.7 years, much higher than the state average and 2.5 years higher than the surrounding counties as well.”

Overall, Gehlhoff hopes the TIF district will attract businesses and visitors to Florence County.

“TIF is the best tool in Wisconsin to create jobs, increase tax base, and add new products and services to our community,” she said.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.