The city of Milton is taking steps to encourage and facilitate the development of a chocolate factory that initially could bring 60 jobs and more later on.
Proposed development by Clasen Quality Chocolates (CQC) includes 169 acres land north of Putman Parkway and 8 acres west of County M, according to City Administrator Al Hulick, who spoke at two meetings on Dec. 3. Both Joint Review Board and Plan Commission meetings were online.
CQC specializes in chocolate and confectionery coatings and has facilities in Middleton and Watertown, with corporate offices and a CQC Innovation Center in Madison.
“CQC intends to develop their site in three phases, with their first phase being 390,000 square feet, their second probably doubling that and their third probably tripling that,” Hulick said.
In the first phase, Hulick said CQC is calling for 60 jobs and expects to “ratchet that up rather quickly.” The company could move to Phase 2 as soon as 2022, he said.
“At this point,” he said, “there’s not a lot of risk on the table because 1) we haven’t given Clasen anything yet and 2) we don’t have anything invested other than the creation of the district.”
By “district,” he is referring to the creation of Tax Incremental Finance District (TID) 11.
If all goes according to plan, Hulick said Milton will be only the second in Wisconsin’s history to do a “simultaneous creation and subtraction.”
Before the city of Milton can create a TID, it’s in a situation where it must subtract value from an existing TID.
If the city of Milton could just add land to an existing TID, he said it would.
“By state statues, no municipality can ‘TIF’ more than 12% of its equalized value,” he said.
Milton is at 12.5%.
“We’re not allowed to add land to an existing TIF district without doing a corresponding subtraction,” he said.
State statute also says a municipality may not subtract parcels and add them back into the TID in the same year.
“The only opportunity afforded to us in state statutes is what they refer to as a simultaneous creation (and) subtraction,” he said.
That municipal tax incremental finance fete requires not only the coordination of many moving pieces but the good will of an existing company that’s willing to leave a TID.
The city of Milton found that good will in Charter NEX.
“The initial question is always, ‘What’s in it for us,” Hulick said. “And the answer is nothing (for Charter NEX).” But removing Charter NEX from TID 6 also doesn’t change anything for Charter NEX, as far as their tax bill, he said.
Another reason Charter NEX was appealing is it’s on the TID boundary and it’s in the city’s oldest TID, which will expire the soonest (in 3 or 4 years).
To fall below the 12% threshold, Hulick said the city needs to subtract about $4 million from a TID. Charter NEX more than met that need, Hulick said because said its value is about $7 million.
“They were very accommodating to our request,” said Hulick, noting Charter NEX has seen tremendous growth, so their value is increasing rapidly and he noted they have not utilized TIF funds.
Removing Charter NEX from TID 6, a new TID can be created and the value of Charter NEX returns to the overlying taxing jurisdictions. Hulick referred to it as a “double plus.”
The Plan Commission agreed and approved the plans to amend TID 6 and create TID 11.
What’s in TIF 11?
TIF 11, if approved, will encompass the entirety of the CQC development site as well as parcels on the periphery that are currently located in an existing TIF.
Once CQC combines its parcels, TIF 11 would have six parcels, the majority of which would be vacant and city-owned. Three parcels are already developed: SSI, Diamond Assets and Penn Color.
On the northwest corner of Putnam and County Highway M, Hulick said a local developer is looking to construct a 50,000-square-foot facility with the potential of expanding to 140,000 square feet.
“We also know that Freedom Graphics is going to move forward with a 100,000-foot addition to their facility on East High Street,” he said.
“That’s why those properties are included in the TIF 11 boundaries as well.”