Council hears update on SCEDC activity

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – In only three years, the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. is already ahead of its goals.

That was the picture SCEDC Executive Director Dane Checolinski painted for the City Council Tuesday.

“We’ve created about 540 new jobs,” Checolinski said of the group’s economic development efforts since it was founded in 2010. “Most of our work has been with existing companies to retain jobs.”

The annual budget for the public/private partnership has grown from $233,000 to $412,000, Checolinski said, with private sector support growing from 18 to 48 percent of the total budget. The number of private companies contributing to the SCEDC has grown from from 28 to 74 in that same period.

City Administrator Brian Yerges pointed out that the city of Plymouth is one of the local governments that contributes annually to the SCEDC. “I have a lot of contact with Dane. I meet with him on a monthly basis,” Yerges told the council.

“Our first and primary goal continues to be the retention of companies already in the area,” he stated.

The SCEDC did that successfully in Plymouth, Checolinski added, taking the lead in facilitating a financing package that helped Dairy Farmers of America to invest $13.4 million in new equipment, retaining 357 jobs in Plymouth.

He noted that the dairy industry remains strong in the Plymouth area.

“Our organization acts as a service center for companies with non-traditional financing, site selection and workforce development,” Checolinski explained.

That has included bringing a total of $23 million in public funds to companies in the county.

The SCEDC has also coordinated listing available commercial and industrial properties throughout the county in one convenient and free location on its website, Checolinski said.

“We’re looking at an immediate need for warehousing space,” Checolinski told the council. “We’ve been engaged by two other dairy-related industries in the last two weeks, both looking at starting up new facilities here (in Plymouth).”

He also reported that just that day the SCEDC had landed another new project in the county.

Future goals for the SCEDC include helping to build the county’s workforce, retaining young talent that is here and attracting new workers and talent.

One handicap the county faces in attracting new industry is federal Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards that impact Sheboygan County.

“Sheboygan County is the last non-attainment county in the state of Wisconsin. That puts us at an incredible disadvantage,” Checolinski admitted.

That means that industry must obtain state and federal approval for new equipment or processes that could impact air quality, a process that can take up to a year, according to Checolinski.

That delay could dissuade companies that might come to Sheboygan County but are looking to build quickly in order to get into production.

There is a push underway to get at least the western half of the county out of the non-attainment designation, Checolinski added. That is the case in Kenosha County, the only other county in the state even partially under non-attainment status. The western part of that county has been removed from the designation, he said.

“That would make Plymouth the only city in the county in attainment,” Checolinski concluded.

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