Our Economic Development Commission

Fort Atkinson recently passed an ordinance creating an Economic Development Commission (EDC). I was part of the initial process, working with our city manager and others. I had gotten input from the previous Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium director, who suggested our city should examine the idea. We looked at several different models, and decided this route made the most sense for our city right now.

My desire to start an official Economic Development Commission in our city came from wanting to ensure that we continued working on the tougher economic issues, while leaving a broad scope in place for individuals on the commission to bring forth their own ideas and goals. I also wanted the group to have official authority and accountability under our city government.

Earlier this week, our city council approved the following individuals to serve on the EDC:

  • Bill Camplin, owner of the Cafe Carpe, 1 year term.
  • John Mielke, Fort Atkinson Industrial Development Corp. President, 1 year term.
  • Scott Housley, W&A Distribution Services Inc. CEO, 2 year term.
  • Mike Wallace, Fort Healthcare President, 2 year term.
  • Mark McGlynn, IPEC President, 3 year term.
  • Margaret Bare, Fort Tax Service Inc. owner, 3 year term.

I’m proud to say I was selected to serve as the city council representative on the commission. The city manager and Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce director will serve as ex-officio (non-voting) members.

I believe the people selected represent a very experienced and well rounded group. Hopefully many different viewpoints will be brought to the table.

Our city seems to have turned a corner of late, in terms of new and positive business growth. Previously empty buildings are starting to fill up again, and a few new businesses have recently come in (such as Aster Assisted Living, pictured below). However, we still have some major issues to deal with. My hope is that the new EDC will help with different issues, both big and small, in Fort Atkinson.

Click this link for the full story our local paper did on the EDC: Daily Jefferson County Union story (Section on the Economic Development Commission is about halfway through the story).

Thoughts? Comments? Reply below!


Dark Store Legislation

Today I’m dusting off my keyboard to share a letter I wrote yesterday to my state representative and state senator. I wrote them to share my concerns about “dark store” tax loophole tactics used by some large “big box” chains here in Wisconsin to get their property taxes reduced, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The League of Municipalities has a good page about how dark store tactics are employed by some businesses. You can read more here. Essentially, these businesses argue that their property tax valuations should be compared to similar sized properties which could be closed and no longer operating. If such argument is successful, it means a further property tax burden is shifted to other property owners in the community (including homeowners).


Yes, that shiny new store in your town could see a tax valuation similar to a property like this!

There is currently a bill circulating in the state capital which would preempt further dark store tactics. Here is the letter I wrote below (name removed, as I don’t want to turn this into a political commentary on our local legislators):

Rep. _________,

I am writing you to today to express support for legislation put forth by Rep. Brooks and Sen. Roth regarding closing the “dark store” tax argument that some companies are using to successfully argue for property tax reductions throughout Wisconsin.

I’m sure if you polled your constituents, overwhelmingly, most would feel they already pay enough in property taxes. Without passing this dark store legislation, homeowners could see an unfair shift of more property taxes going towards them. I’m sure that is something you and your colleagues would not want to happen.

Homeowners already pay their fair share of property taxes. Businesses need to pay their fair share, too. The difference is that the average homeowner can’t pay for high priced lawyers to argue in their favor. Please consider supporting this legislation, as it’s about simple fiscal fairness.

Mason T. Becker
Fort Atkinson City Councilman

Do you agree with the sentiments I expressed? Feel otherwise? Please comment below!