Tuesday Trends sample: Kohl's rising, economic optimism mixed and WEDC falling
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Kohl's: One of Wisconsin's most prominent brands is set for dramatic growth in the state following an agreement between the company and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation on up to $62.5 million in tax credits over 12 years. The deal includes Kohl's taking ownership of about 100 areas of vacant land in a Menomonee Falls office park, along with a small office building adjacent to it; the property will be used to create a second corporate campus not far from the company's current headquarters. In exchange for the building and land, Menomonee Falls will get a 530,000-square foot former Kohl's distribution center in the village. Once construction begins, the village will provide road improvements and up to $12 million in incremental tax revenue generated by the development. In making the announcement, Gov. Scott Walker says the company will need to retain its existing 4,500 jobs and add another 3,000 to receive the full amount of credits. Walker says it was clear at the beginning of negotiations that Kohl's preferred to remain in Wisconsin, but that the company also entertained offers from out of state and that the administration's top priority was keeping Kohl's here. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the company to move its headquarters to the city’s Park East area earlier this year.
Economic optimism: The latest edition of the Wisconsin Economic Scorecard shows a majority of state residents feel Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, an increase compared to the last quarter. The survey of 594 people found that 51.1 percent felt good about the direction of the state, compared to 41.9 percent who see the state "on the wrong track." Respondents were evenly split on the question in the previous quarterly poll conducted by the UWM Center for Urban Initiatives and Research and in cooperation with WUWM radio and WisBusiness.com. But respondents to the survey aren't as optimistic about the economy in the context of federal health care reform. The scorecard 44 percent of residents think the Affordable Care Act will hurt the state economy, with about a third of survey respondents believing it will help. When it comes to the law's impact on personal health care costs, however, residents are most likely to express the view that they won't be affected, with 43.3 percent giving that answer.
See more on the survey:
WEDC: The governor hailed the creation of the new quasi-governmental agency last year as a more flexible operation that would be better equipped than the old Commerce Department to bolster the state's job creation efforts. But there have been problems in the transition and plenty of bad publicity, which observers see as the reasons behind Walker's decision to place his deputy chief of staff in a top spot at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. They say the shakeup also suggests WEDC in Walker's eyes isn't a quasi-governmental operation after all. Ryan Murray, Walker's deputy chief of staff, is taking over the chief operation officer spot following a botched "soft offer" of tax credits to a company seeking a state contract. The offer was eventually pulled back and the contracting process reopened after the problem came to light -- through reports this week showed the company officially signed on for $11.7 million in tax breaks in March, shortly after the offer was made. Another report says the agency expects a $14 million shortfall this year between its spending and revenue. Some see Murray's move as a way for the governor to keep better tabs on things; some also see it as a message to WEDC head Paul Jadin that he'd better right the ship. Critics complain the appointment goes against everything WEDC was supposed to be by inserting someone with a political background into the top echelons of an operation that's supposed to be a step removed from politics. They also complain Murray doesn't have a private sector background. Walker supporters, however, say there have been some grumblings in the business community about WEDC, and the appointment as a sign the governor is trying to turn that around.