City offers 20 years of tax incentives to keep Oshkosh headquarters

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Oshkosh Corp. would receive 20 years of property tax incentives from the city as well as the ability to purchase 35 acres of land at the Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course as part of a proposal to get the company to build its new headquarters in the city.

The company reacted positively to the proposal, saying  “We are proud to be part of the city of Oshkosh and are grateful for the partnership we’ve developed over our 100 year history. We thank the city of Oshkosh staff, city of Oshkosh mayor, City Council and Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. for working together to develop a competitive offer for a global headquarters location.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic” that the offer is good enough to persuade the Fortune 500 company to keep its executive offices in Oshkosh, said Allen Davis, the city’s director of community development.

Under the proposal, the city would:

  • Sell 35 acres of the golf course for $100,000 an acre, or $3.5 million.
  • Provide an incentive grant of $6 million that the company would receive by not paying $500,000 a year in property taxes for 12 years.
  • Provide additional tax incentives for another eight years that would apply on a more limited basis, covering only the portion of the site’s value that exceeds a guaranteed minimum.
  • Construct $7.2 million in infrastructure.

“This is a defining moment for Oshkosh,” the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and GO-EDC said in a joint statement.  “The city’s proposal is an affirmation and indication that as a city, we are ready and willing to do what it takes to compete and win.”

For its part, the company would agree to:

  • Build a headquarters worth at least $18.5 million.
  • Work to preserve, relocate or replace any public memorials and plantings that currently exist at the golf course.
  • Maintain trails and landscaping on its headquarters property and on adjacent public land up to the public trail that would be built on the riverfront.

The Common Council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 5:30 p.m. to consider the proposal, with has been submitted as a letter of interest to the company’s site selection consultant. The Plan Commission and the Advisory Park Board are scheduled to hold a joint meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Convention Center to take public comment and make recommendations.

If the council approves the offer, it will be submitted to the company’s board of directors. According to a timeline released by the city, a land purchase agreement would be completed in December with the closing of the sale occurring in March or April. Infrastructure construction would begin in 2018. The new headquarters, roughly 150,000 square feet, would be completed by December 2019.

The use of the sale proceeds would be ultimately up to the council but could be used to pay down the golf course’s existing debt and to fund other parks improvements, city officials said. Some of the money could also go for some infrastructure expenses.

The infrastructure costs that the city proposes to pay would fund a section of the Riverwalk along the current golf course property. Also included would be a stormwater management system, likely using the existing water hazards at the course, that would support planned development along Oshkosh Avenue as well as the new corporate campus. In addition Westfield Street would be upgraded and a nearby roundabout would be expanded for higher traffic flows. Some of these costs might be offset by a grant from the state.

The project would dramatically reshape the city’s waterfront and remove a major recreational facility from the city. In some quarters, the idea of the city selling park land to a private company has drawn strong opposition.

Supporters of the plan, however, have pointed to the economic impacts of a company like Oshkosh, arguing that the new facility could add hundreds of jobs and millions of income to the local economy. They also warn that the departure of the headquarters could add up to a loss of as much as $75 million on an annual basis.

Illustration: This is a concept plan for a corporate headquarters for Oshkosh Corp. at what is now the Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

1 Comment

  1. The proposal reminds me of the worst trade in Minnesota VIking history.
    The Vikings traded the Dallas Cowboys five good players for Hershel Walker, who flopped.
    The Cowboys did well. The Vikings did not.

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