By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Fewer than half of Wausau’s current developer agreements have conditions that require the project to grow the city’s tax base, according to documents released last week by Economic Development Director Chris Schock.

A review of the city’s tracking database shows 34 current agreements, 19 of which do not specify a required assessed or fair market value of the property once the project is completed. Half of the 34 projects do not include a job creation requirement.

That’s unusual, aid Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance Research Director Dale Knapp, because the whole reason for developer agreements is to stimulate economic growth.

The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recommends that any jurisdiction’s economic development incentives have specific goals and criteria that define the economic benefit that both the government and the entities receiving the incentives expect to gain from the agreement, the conditions under which the incentives are to be granted, and the actions to be taken should the actual benefits or outcomes differ from plan.

But Schock said each development agreement is unique, with parameters set by the city council. Some metrics might include minimum assessed value, while others might have job creation numbers or certain construction timelines that must be met, he aid.

After an agreement is made, the metrics are tracked through a master database by city staff, Schock said.

Economic development agreements are used to promote or grow the local economy, according to the GFOA, though each municipality has unique needs and objectives that are sometimes at odds with the developers themselves. Municipalities are responsible for providing services to residents while businesses, which in many cases have come to rely on incentives and subsidies, are focused on maximizing profits. That means agreements are carefully crafted to satisfy the needs of everyone involved.

In Appleton, for example, agreements with developers for major projects are not only tied to value creation, there are often person guarantees given by the developers themselves that ensure the city’s investment is secure. Karen Harkness, Appleton’s director of community and economic development, said some developers are required to make up the difference if a project fails to reach its goal.

“Each development agreement is different, and the needs are different,” Harkness said. “But there is always some value creation tied to the needs of the community, some justification for the agreement.”

Harkness said that it is not unusual for job creation to be excluded from the agreement, because many projects, such as housing developments, are not intended to create jobs.

Many, but not all, of Wausau’s agreements that lack so-called “clawback provisions” for not meeting benchmarks were entered into before 2012, noted Lisa Rasmussen, Wausau’s city council president.

Rasmussen said that’s when things began to change in the city.

“Some did not contain benchmarks at all, which was not good,” Rasmussen said. “When our Finance Committee and ED Committees at the time learned of that, things began to change in terms of the way the development agreements were set up, including benchmarks and clawbacks to secure the taxpayers’ investment in the projects and tie it to results.”

The city’s economic development committee will meet on Tuesday, June 6 to review current development agreements. Public comment is allowed. 

13 replies on “Report: Wausau development agreements not always tied to jobs, value creation”

  1. Got to love Lisa Rassmussen’s comments. As if she isn’t aware! She served on Council with Deb Hadley and knew this way back then. And, she has
    been on the Council ?? 10 years —and President 2-3 times and pleads ignorance. Another Great article Shereen —- who is running this madhouse–
    Mary Ann of course—- and to think there are no penalties/job guarantees,++++. Who would have ever thought! Your Council does not even have one business person on it. Soon 107 Million in debt. Can’t wait to see what happens with the Theater, Wausau Chemical, others. Wausau’s becoming desperate
    to get any development — no banks would borrow on this high high risk!

  2. There is nothing magic about being a “businessman” that imparts any special powers of reasoning. However, I will agree that it does seem that common sense is in short supply at this point in time.

  3. I’d be interested in knowing if the following is true:
    When Downtown Grocery burned, they moved to the mall. The owners of the Downtown Grocery building (at that time) were Janke’s. They (Janke’s) donated the burned out building to the city and in turn, the city GAVE the building to the owners of Downtown Grocery. Cost free and tax free. HOW does it work for a privately owned business to get a building GIVEN to them by the city of Wausau? 3rd St. seems to be pretty decent property value, etc, yet the city literally gave the building away? I wonder how many small business owners in the downtown area are aware of this and how they’d feel if they didn’t know?

  4. The city got the building for nothing, so giving it away, and getting it back on the tax rolls seemed like th best course of action. Are you suggesting th city should have used tax money to rehab the building and then try and market it? That could take years.

    Get a brain!

    1. Ok Simon, so riddle me this: HOW many private, small business owners have had the city of Wausau GIVE them prime real estate? I’d wager NONE. So who exactly needs to get a brain, moron?

  5. Well, by my count, at least one. That’s the one you are moaning about. Did I clear that up for you?.

    You failed. To address my rebuttal to you initial inane post. What should the city have done with the property, genius?

    Are you sitting down? Hope so because the city gives away property all the time. I know it’s crazy but the city gave away tons of riverfront property to developers who are supposed to eventually build something on it. To top it off, the city gave grants to theses same developrrs who are supposed to do the building. How’s that for a real knee slapper.

    Yea, I know it keeps me up at night also.

    1. So THAT’S why the city of Wausau is running a multi-million dollar deficit, ‘eh? So “Mr. Intellectual”, how many properties has the city of Wausau “given” to developrrs (your spelling, Einstein)? Oh, and before I forget to rudely again fail. To address your rebuttal (your sentence structure as well), I’ll address it so even you can understand. What else should they do? Well, how about getting out of the effin’ real estate business? How’s that wonderful mall doing? How’s that new, spiffy theater coming along? Oh wait……did the city give that property away too? I hear the mall board (or whatever the hell those idiots are called) still haven’t approved the plans. Hmmm… isn’t that some mighty insightful thinking on the part of our pest control king mayor and the other 3rd grade graduates in city hall!
      So basically, you can think of ONE property the city has given away to a private business owner. Yet, according to you, they do it all the time. Which is it? Oh wait, I know your answer. The Russians did it, didn’t they?

  6. Sorry for my lapses in English, I tend to write to the level of my audience. I am glad you are on top of things.

    Don’t complain as to those who continue to speed the city toward bankruptcy as they were elected by you and your neighbors. I guess it is true that the people get the kind of government they deserve. Or, we have met the enemy and they are us.

    Many of the folks on the city council ran unopposed in the last election. That would seem to indicate the level of concern of most of the electorate who put our city officials in position of power. And don’t even get me started on the three city council members who also seve on the Marathon County Board while collecting a paycheck from the city.

    Perhaps you should consider coming to a city council meeting and registering to speak to the council. That would be a great forum for you to express your outrage at the present goings on.

    Look forward to seeing on June 13, 2017.

    Ta Ta

    1. Forgot your humble pill today, ‘eh?
      Yup, I’m fully aware of how elections work. For the record, I didn’t vote for Mr. Bug Sprayer (or for his libtard opponent). You’re preaching to the choir regarding the double-dipping of the city council and County Board. We’ll agree on that one.
      Tuesday the 13th, huh? I’ll honestly consider that. I’m truly getting to the point of not caring who I piss off or who knows my identity. The hypocrisy, mismanagement and overall stupidity of these elected morons does need to be challenged.


  7. I much prefer humble pie when it is properly prepared.

    I think that as much as we banter back and forth we most likely agree on a vast number of issues impacting us as taxpayers. And I will admit that some of the actions taken by some members of the city council defy all explanation. That is why I am constantly amazed that they get reelected. Either the residents in their districts are too stupid to see what is going on or they simply do not care.

    But all is not lost. There is an election cycle coming and city voters will have an opportunity to change the face of the city and by doing so change the direction of the city. They can vote out the free-spenders who feel they have the right to spend money on any cockamamie project that shows up on the doorstep of city hall.

    Last election cycle voters in 4 districts sent new people to city hall. While 2 of them have been consistently disappointing, the third one inconsistent in their voting, the council member from District 11 has consistently voted to hold the line on reckless spending. But that individual is in the minority. To effectively block future reckless spending we need at least 4 council members who have a brain.

    Perhaps you should consider running for elected office. Given the wit you have shown here you could really spice up a meeting. So show up on the 13th and give them a piece of your mind. Better yet come early and speak at the finance committee meeting which will start a 5:15 pm that evening. The finance committee will be discussing two major expensive projects. The relocation of Wausau Chemical and Great Lakes Cheese. These two projects collectively will cost the city, when all of the numbers are tallied, $28,203,000.00.


  8. Nah….I prefer apple pie, made with Cortland apples of course. 😉
    Yup, I think we agree on much too. Your delivery just sucks, SImon. lol
    I’ll freely admit that I don’t know a ton about how city govt. functions. Although I can pretty safely say that I know more than the people who constantly vote these clowns into office. One thing I’ve always wondered is why local elections don’t make the candidate(s) declare what political party they’re affiliated with. Seriously. That would certainly help in my decisions regarding who I would or wouldn’t vote for. I’d also be willing to bet I know what party affiliation those free-spenders associate themselves with.
    As for running for elected office…..omg…..I can’t scream NO loud enough. Just going by the shatstorm that Keene Winters started by telling someone what he thought of them, I’d be “under investigation” in a nanosecond. Plus, I truly have more important things in life to do than to wrestle with the mental midgets at city hall.
    That $28 million number is mind-numbing… a disgusting way.

    Be good, Simon…..

  9. Calm down guys — I am totally P.O’D at what is in the article stating nobody is held accountable —without penalty/loss of all $$$ —- by contractual commitment.
    Who wouldn’t build a building, like Wausau Chemical, if the City gave you free land/80% of total cost (8 million of 10 million) and City takeover of all cleanup of
    contamination($$$$$$). And, the Council not asking to be updated on all contracts status/fulfillment. But then the current Council –including 10 year incumbent Lisa Rasmussen let it happen without question. She was President 2-3 times. Tipple gave his friends everything — and approved contracts with no guarantees.
    And to let Debt go from 28 million to 107 million should help put the City on the Path of doom. Please note we see nothing in City Pages or WDH — they want to be loved by the City/ City Controllers. We need to let everybody know about exists as the best investigative honest online news
    we have seen in Wausau for years. And, make all new Mayor City contracts have guarantees to get any $$$$. Or payback if terms not met. Amazing that Great Lakes Cheese isn’t asking for 80%. Surely one way to help fill our long unfilled City Industrial Park! Weston’s is full and without paying off others to come!

    Please do me a favor –walk/drive by these two properties (Wausau Chemical/Great Lakes Cheese) and tell me you see potential — I do not. And, ask why
    the City Planners allowed Trolly Flats and Sav-O-Supply type housing to allowed. Plus, all the development costs to follow —in addition to Security needed
    to keep safe. I surely would not buy a Condo with a City Street in front of —or a Water Plant next door. My bet is the City will want to buy/take down/relocate
    eyesore ABC Supply Building next. Thank heavens we have the Cloverbelt Credit Unions who did it all on their own –beautiful new building. They should have asked for 80% payment of their new beautiful building.

    Thank you Shareen for your investigative reporting. And, Keene Winters –for some Great Articles on the City unplanning/debt. We couldn’t get a City Administrator to come here given what he/she would be walking into. Surely we need one –but it’s too late. All we can do now is PRAY! Amen.

  10. Perhaps the city is looking to acquire thr Great Lakes Cheese property so they can use it as a dump site for all of the contaminated soil it will have to remove once it gets its hands on the Wausau Chemical property. That should make those “luxury” condos even more marketable. I can see the sales brochure now. You too can own a riverfront condo overlooking a packaging plant in the front, an active railroad only feet from your backdoor and boardered on you left by an active water plant and on your right by piles on contaminated dirt. Yea, they will be lined up around the block to snatch these babies up.

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