Eau Claire’s efforts to bring industrial work back to the city after Uniroyal closed its tire plant 25 years ago hit another milestone last week.
The City Council approved closing Tax Increment Financing District No. 5 because property taxes from businesses that moved into that north side area since 1997 have fully paid for roads, utilities and other public infrastructure there.
“We’ve got quite a few businesses out there,” said Michael Schatz, city economic development administrator.
Industrial buildings worth a total of $55.7 million have moved into that portion of the Gateway Northwest Business Park, including factories for Nestle and Minnesota Wire. Some of the more recent additions have been a large FedEx Ground distribution center and buildings for Kurz Industrial Solutions and Blue Maple Technology. Chippewa Valley Technical College also has its Gateway Campus in the district.
But 20 years ago, that area was part of a large tract of county-owned farmland worth about $1 million that became more desirable with the addition of the North Crossing, which opened to traffic in 1994.
Gateway Industrial Park Corp. — a partnership among the city, Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp. and Xcel Energy — was created to boost Eau Claire’s industrial sector after Uniroyal left in 1992 acquired the land, seeing its potential.
“It was good to have a park that was closer to Minneapolis,” Schatz said.
Convenient access to Interstate 94 and then U.S. 53 via the North Crossing were major selling points to businesses that require a large amount of trucking to distribute products.
“The site was chosen because of its ease of access to major highways, proximity to customers’ distribution centers and a strong local community workforce for recruiting employees,” said David Westrick, spokesman for FedEx Ground.
FedEx’s distribution center opened in July 2016 at 2435 Prospect Drive, part of the delivery company’s long-term plan to open and relocate facilities to improve capacity, speed and service.
The 150,000-square-foot distribution center currently employs 80 year-round, Westrick said, and adds more during the holiday season.
The TIF that closed last week represented a second wave in Gateway’s endeavor to attract new businesses to the north side. The first was in an adjacent area that is home to Hutchinson Technology Inc. (now TDK), Silver Spring Foods and a Coca-Cola facility along the North Crossing.
And there are ongoing efforts to encourage more companies to consider building in that part of Eau Claire.
Eau Claire’s TIF No. 9 covers remaining vacant parcels in the Gateway Northwest Business Park. There are currently 386.6 acres — divided up in lots ranging from 2½ acres to 157 acres — available in the park, according to a map from the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corp.
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