What 2014 held for the city and an eye towards the future
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Economic development in Marshfield for 2014 was highlighted by business expansion and downtown revitalization. The report, produced via joint effort by the city’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell and Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Business Development Director Karen Olson, highlights a number of noteworthy business expansions.
According to the report:
—Paget Equipment added 16,500 square feet to their business, which allowed the company to add new equipment, expand services, and meet growing production demands.
—Nelson Jameson underwent an 11,000-square foot expansion, their second expansion in as many years, which will provide them additional warehouse and loading dock space.
—V & H Inc. purchased an existing building along East 29th Street and added 5,000 square feet to it, which now holds six mechanical bays for work on larger vehicles.
—Other businesses undertaking remodeling projects were Marshfield Clinic, PreventionGenetics, H & S Manufacturing, Ministry St. Joseph’s, and Arby’s.
UW-Marshfield/Wood County also constructed the UW Villas, a facility capable of housing 96 students. Another notable new development is Pioneer Bank’s over 20,000-square foot facility on Central Avenue that also houses First Weber Realty and Westland Insurance.
Unemployment was also down or flat for the sixth year in a row in Wood County, dipping below 6 percent for 2014. Wood County’s unemployment rate for 2014 was higher than Marathon County’s and the state of Wisconsin as a whole but below the national unemployment rate of 6.6 percent during the reporting period.
Agriculture continues to be a massive contributor to the local economy. According to the report, the industry “provides jobs for over 4,000 Wood County residents, accounts for $984 million in economic activity, (and) contributes $293 million to the county’s total income (while) paying $13.4 million in taxes.”
Real estate sold down from 2013
2014 did see a dip in the number and total dollar amount of residential and commercial/industrial property sold. Multi-family homes and land sold were up from 2013, but combining residential, land, commercial/industrial, and multi-family properties, Marshfield had about $6 million less in property sold in 2014 compared to 2013.
In Marshfield real estate sales totaled nearly $28 million in 2014, which is down from about $34 million in 2013 but closely mirrors 2012 in which total real estate sold was about $27.5 million.
“Really I think it’s an indication that more people are looking at doing additions or improvements to existing facilities versus going out and acquiring new,” Angell said.
Overall assessed values for commercial and manufacturing properties within the city continued increasing as they have every year since 2010. The assessed value of commercial and manufacturing properties increased about $12 million from 2013 to 2014, which the report attributes to “both business additions and expansions but also to increase in value of existing businesses.”
The Façade Improvement Program allowed downtown businesses to tap into grant money allocated by the city and Main Street Marshfield to renovate the exteriors of their buildings, and over the course of the six-year program, 41 projects were completed worth $2.2 million in improvements to the downtown area. In 2014 alone five projects were completed as part of the façade program, totaling nearly $1 million in improvements made.
Olson said that the 2014 report is evidence that the strength of a community’s economic well-being is largely based on its current businesses.
“The 2014 Economic Development annual report again solidifies that 80 percent of a community’s growth comes from existing businesses. Our focus continues to be on working closely with them to attract and grow (a) talented workforce while having quality and affordable housing options available,” Olson said.
Looking to 2015
A large part of the economic development focus of 2014 may be manifested in 2015. The 2014 Marshfield Housing Study, conducted by the consulting firm MSA Professional Services, Inc., reflected that there was a clear demand for more affordable and desirable housing in the city within the price range of $125,000-$200,000.
To that end, a potential city-owned subdivision has been proposed where the city would purchase lots, keeping prices down, and then develop the land and sell to buyers looking to move into the area.
Mayor Chris Meyer said at a late January common council meeting when the subdivision idea was first proposed, “So by paying for the infrastructure as a community in that subdivision, we get the lot prices down, which gets the house price down to an area that is in this zone that we’ve identified in the housing study.”
In the proposed subdivision, the city would acquire 25 lots on a 12-acre site, with the site yet to be determined. The acquisition and development of the subdivision would be financed by investments from the city of Marshfield, Wood County, Marshfield Utilities, and Marshfield Wastewater Utility. Those entities would devote an amount of money to the project equal to the value the homes would likely return in tax or utility bill revenues over an estimated seven-year period.
The proposal also calls for the Economic Development Board, which is funded by yearly dividend payments that Marshfield Utilities makes to the city, to contribute funds to the project. Should all the investors get on board with the subdivision concept, their contributions would become available to the city for immediate use.
Wood County has formally committed $120,000 for the project and Marshfield Utilities has committed $100,000. On Tuesday the Marshfield Common Council voted to commit funding to the project as well but did not specify an exact dollar amount.