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Lawmakers work quickly on tax break for Wells' Dairy

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Legislature on Tuesday approved tax incentives sought by Wells' Dairy Inc. to prevent the Le Mars-based company from moving its corporate headquarters out of state.

The bill, approved 45-2 in the Senate and 98-1 in the House, was put on a fast track after state economic development officials said competition from Nebraska and South Dakota was intense.

"One of our competitors substantially upped the ante and the company is coming very close to a decision," said Mike Blouin, the state's economic development director. "We kind of have a ticking clock and a gun to our head."

Company officials visited with lawmakers Monday to seek changes in the state's New Jobs and Income Program, which offers tax credits and exemptions to businesses making a capital investment of at least $11.4 million and creating 50 or more jobs.

Currently, the program requires the company to own the buildings constructed as part of an expansion. The bill would permit the tax breaks to be applied to a company that only leases the buildings.

Some Democrats resented Republican leaders shoving the bill through so quickly.

"I want the Republican majority to understand that the reason we are bringing it up today is not because it is a good bill, but because it is a failure on your part not to establish an economic growth policy early in this session," said Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines.

Others said the state shouldn't cave in to companies who threaten to relocate if they aren't given millions of dollars in incentives.



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