Winnebago city leaders will give the owners of Zierke Built Mfg (ZBM), Inc., a letter supporting the company’s move to Fairmont.
But, the vote to do so at Tuesday’s City Council meeting wasn’t unanimous.
City Administrator Chris Ziegler says the city Economic Development Authority recently met and all board members felt the city should not object to the Zierkes’ relocation.
“I don’t think we should drag it on much longer. We should give them a release letter without conditions,” says Ziegler.
Obtaining the letter will allow the Zierkes to seek state funding and other tax breaks once they relocate.
In the past, the council has debated whether to sign a letter in exchange for an option agreement to purchase one of the company’s buildings.
City officials also have discussed pursuing payment of taxes not paid on ZBM buildings while the company was on the state’s JOBZ program since 2004.
“Even though it is a tough pill to swallow, we aren’t in any position to stop these people to improve their company by the move,” says Councilman Scott Robertson.
However, Councilman Rick Johnson wasn’t too eager to give his support.
“I wasn’t very positive about it,” says Johnson. “They received tax benefits over the 12 years they were on JOBZ. Now they are going to Plan B and and will do it again.”
Under the JOBZ program, Zierke Built did not have to pay sales or corporate income taxes and property taxes to the county, city and school district. In addition, the company received numerous smaller tax taxes.
The tax-free benefits ended at the start of 2016 and seven months later ZBM officials announced the company was moving to Fairmont.
Kyle Zierke and his father, Greg, attended the meeting and again expressed that deciding to leave the city was a tough decision.
“We appreciate all Winnebago has done. All of the city administrators and everyone have been top shelf,” says Greg Zierke. “Sometimes you have to move on to the next step. It doesn’t make business sense to stay.”
The Zierkes say they have been discussing expansion of the company for several years.
They say the current facilities aren’t adequate and upgrading them would be too costly. Also, a limited workforce is making it difficult to hire skilled welders.
Ziegler says city officials don’t want the ZBM buildings to sit empty too long and hope the buyer will provide much needed jobs. The Zierkes agree and vow to work with the city to sell the property as soon as possible.