We rarely hear about local government boards or city councils saying "no" to "fear market enterprise," so when I heard that the Fond du Lac county board refused to grant a low-interest government-backed $10 million loan with a $300K forgivable provision to boat engine maker Mercury Marine, I thought of only one word: Courage.
Mercury's Chief Financial Officer Steve Cramer said he was disappointed, but they will move forward with the expansion at a slower pace.
Without government assistance, there's no rush to expand and generate profits? Sheesh.
Although 17 members of the 25 member board voted yes, the resolution required a super-majority of 3/4 (19) for passage. Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel expressed disappointment with the vote.
FDL Reporter Excerpt:
Buechel said the precedent had been set Oct. 22, when the Board voted 24-0 to loan $6 million to Alliance Laundry Systems of Ripon for assistance with an expansion project.
“They (Alliance) weren’t threatening to leave,” Buechel said, referencing Mercury Marine’s request for $50 million in 2009 to keep them from leaving Fond du Lac.
Here's the thing. Many of these businesses including some in Janesville asking for local government hand-outs are posting profits and have a deep well of investors and stock holders to draw from. At the same time they boast about a culture of collaboration and what great supporters they are of the community they're operating their business in, yet they don't hesitate to leverage their existence by threatening to leave if they don't get what they want. That sticks in people's craws.
But some public officials are finally catching on that true community players don't do that. If all it takes is some free money to win your business or loyalty - you're not worth bargaining for. Sorry.
We might struggle and have to make some sacrifices without your magnificence, but I guarantee we'll be a better people and community from it.
I have no idea what the political make-up of the FDL county board is, but I hope this decision spurs other communities to re-think their economic development policies. In my view, the seven board members who stood up for the taxpayers deserve an ovation and should win a "no-fear market enterprise" public service award.
Read the full story at the FDL Reporter.