Another big cheese for Plymouth

THINGS JUST KEEP GETTING cheesier around here — and that couldn’t be better for Plymouth.

Fresh on the heels of Sargento’s announcement of a $15 million expansion of their headquarters facility here, Dairy Farmers of America revealed plans for a $13.4 million expansion and modernization of their South Street plant.

One’s memory doesn’t have to go back too far to remember that facility as the Borden’s plant, built in 1954 and acquired by DFA in 1997. The plant is the last remaining vestige of Cheeseville, when the area along the railroad tracks on what was then the south edge of the city teemed and bustled with cheese making, packaging and shipping — helping to solidify Plymouth’s title as Cheese Capitol of the World.

The project will allow DFA to increase production at the plant by 3 percent, which is a significant increase in an economy where so much of our manufacturing base is shrinking. It will keep more than 350 people employed right here in Plymouth, rather than somewhere else. It will keep an annual payroll of more than $20 million pumping into the Plymouth and Sheboygan County economy.

All of that more than justifies the decision, by the city and the Joint Review Board, to extend a $750,000 forgivable loan to DFA out of Tax Incremental Finance District 5 funds to help finance the project. That money should be repaid out of tax proceeds from the improvement in the space of just several years — a much quicker pace than almost all of the city’s other TIF projects have been repaid over the years.

The city is also initiating the process of creating a sixth tax incremental finance district to help pay for necessary infrastructure upgrades for the Sargento project.

The city is closed to TIF’ed out, in the governmental parlance. The total value of the various active TIFs in the city is within a fraction of a percentage point of the maximum allowed under state law.

But because the Sargento project covers a small parcel — roughly two acres — of undeveloped industrial land, the starting value of a new TIF there will fit in under the statutory limit, making its creation possible.

That allows the city to finance the cost of relocating old utility lines located under the former Sunset Drive, and to upgrade four-decade old city services, such as water, not only to Sargento but also to the entire north industrial park. That’s an upgrade that is desperately needed, for safety reasons alone.

Again, the value of the improvement on that land should generate enough additional tax revenue to pay off the cost of those projects faster than the city has seen on more than a few of it’s TIF projects in the past.

Altogether, cheesy news is good news for Plymouth.

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Bitter Neumann