TIF essential to the success of local communities | submitted by Mike Davis

Over the past four years and longer, our nation and our community have heard the drumbeat of the need for jobs. In Middleton, we are dedicated to a sound and comprehensive plan for economic development, including aggressive efforts to bring well-paid jobs to the area. Tax increment financing (TIF) is the primary economic development tool in the state of Wisconsin. Without TIF, cities have very few other options for expanding the tax base and assisting companies that wish to expand or relocate.

We are fortunate in Middleton and the Greater Madison area to see the recessionary effects of the past four years starting to fade. Currently, we have at least five major employers seeking to expand here, and four of them (all but Meriter Health) are in the city’s Tax Increment District (TID) #3, which is primarily west of Highway 12 but also includes Downtown Middleton. Because TID #3 is in the last three years of its statutory expenditure term, we have limited options by which to assist with those employer expansions while wrapping up other important projects like the need for downtown parking. Because of that limitation, we petitioned our state legislative representatives to help us acquire a statutory extension of our TID #3 by 10 years. We are hopeful that the bipartisan sponsorship we now have will enable this statutory change to take place.

One of the employers seeking to expand is Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC), a tremendous homegrown, privately held company employing about 550 in Middleton. ETC is a true success story, and is the leading international producer of theater lighting systems. The city has worked with ETC over the past 11 years to facilitate its construction of a $20 million-plus building and one expansion. Currently, we’re working with the company on a longer-term expansion plan to add even more jobs to the regional economy, but the costs of storm water management and additional parking are very challenging.

Another company is Spectrum Brands, which chose to locate in Middleton due to the lack of suitable spaces in Madison. The city of Middleton is doing its best to accommodate Spectrum’s development and the prospect of over 500 jobs on a site west of the Beltline just off Deming Way. We are working on an agreement with the developer by which the developer will finance the improvements to the site at his own risk. In return, the taxes paid by the new development will fund $3.5 million in site improvements, including storm water maintenance, parking improvements, and LEED-certified features encouraged by the city’s plan.

Two other major employers currently in Middleton (one biotech company and one software development company) are also seeking to expand here. Without the use of TIF, the city would be hard-pressed to find the resources to accommodate the growth of all four of these major employers simultaneously. In all four of the companies mentioned, the salaries and benefits are highly valued in our regional economy, usually averaging $60,000 in pay annually. We need to keep their existing jobs here and enable them to bring more jobs to the area.

Whether or not the state Legislature approves the Middleton TIF bill, the city is dedicated to efforts to keep jobs in Middleton and the Greater Madison area. While Madison residents comprise the largest share of the employment in Middleton, about 88% of our city’s own residents work in Madison or surrounding communities. People care little about whether they work in Middleton or Madison, so long as they have a good job and live in a great community where they can thrive. On both fronts, Middleton, Madison, and all our neighbors share the success of being one of the best places to live AND work in the United States. Let’s continue to work to keep it that way.

Mike Davis is the city of Middleton administrator and director of community development.

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