News Column

CVTC seeks loan forgiveness for high-tech center

June 22, 2014

By Andrew Dowd, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.



June 22--The Eau Claire City Council will decide this week if its $166,667 loan that helped build Chippewa Valley Technical College's high-tech business incubation center needs to be repaid.

Based on jobs created since the 2007 opening of NanoRite -- renamed last year as the Applied Technology Center -- CVTC President Bruce Barker said the loan should be forgiven.

"By our count, we've created over 50 jobs," he said Thursday to CVTC's board.

When the city issued the loan in January 2007, the agreement failed to specifically state how many jobs needed to be created or how much each one would be worth when it comes to forgiving the loan.

"That really wasn't clarified at the time of the loan," said Mike Schatz, city economic development administrator.

The loan document is generally tied the job requirement with standards of city economic development loans, he added.

"There was never a number of jobs placed in there," Barker mentioned during the CVTC board meeting.

The city does have programs that allow up to $10,000 in forgivable loan value per job, both Schatz and Barker said.

One of Eau Claire's recent business loans -- $33,000 provided this year to help Riverside Machine & Engineering relocate to a vacant Hutchinson Technology building on the North Crossing -- issued $1,000 for each new job.

Deciding if CVTC's center has met job creation goals so it will not need to repay the loan will be up to the City Council, Schatz said.

Barker and Schatz will speak Monday to the council, which will vote Tuesday on forgiving the loan.

Two other conditions of the loan -- that the center be built and an advisory group with city and county representatives be formed -- had been met when the center opened.

The city contributed a third of the $500,000 CVTC received from local partners to build NanoRite. Eau Claire County and Gateway Industrial Park Corp. each also contributed a third.

Following this week's meeting with the City Council, Barker said he expects to follow up with the county and Gateway's board.

The $4.2 million NanoRite opened in summer 2007 at CVTC's Gateway Campus on the city's north side with the aim of attracting entrepreneurs interested in microtechnology and nanontechnology.

The center struggled to fill completely with companies working on that small scale -- falling to 35 percent occupancy in 2010 -- and made sweeping changes in the past couple years to boost use.

In addition to the name change that indicated the center's broadened scope, CVTC's Applied Technology Center changed its marketing strategy and replaced seldom-occupied space with a data center.

Also on the City Council agenda:

n A report on input that UW-Eau Claire, CVTC, the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Eau Claire and other organizations gave on the city's proposed economic development priorities for 2014 through 2016.

n The council will reconsider installing sidewalks around Chilson Automotive, 3443 Highway 93.

n A City Council work session on Eau Claire's public works projects will follow Tuesday's regular legislative meeting.

n A proposed law to ban using e-cigarettes on city property where smoking tobacco cigarettes already is not allowed will be introduced at Tuesday's meeting. The City Council likely will not discuss or vote on the proposed ordinance change until its July 8 meeting.

Dowd can be reached at 715-833-9204, 800-236-7077 or andrew.dowd@ecpc.com.

n The Eau Claire City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday and 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.

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(c)2014 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

Visit the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) at www.leadertelegram.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)


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