Sub-Zero/Wolf is considering a $50 million to $60 million expansion of its Fitchburg facility that could add around 100 jobs.
Last week, officials from the manufacturer of high-end kitchen appliances presented plans for a 250,000- to 300,000-square-foot expansion of its Basswood Road facility to members of Fitchburg’s City Council.
After hearing the presentation, the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city’s financial consultant, Ehlers Inc., to study the feasibility of creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district around the site, which would be used to help cover a portion of the infrastructure costs associated with the project.
In addition to facilities in Madison and Fitchburg, Sub-Zero/Wolf has a presence in Phoenix and Goodyear, Arizona, and in Richmond, Kentucky. It’s unclear whether Sub-Zero/Wolf is currently negotiating with multiple cities about its expansion plans, but The Richmond Register reported in October that officials in Kentucky were considering a development plan for the company to build a dishwasher plant in Kentucky.
Officials from Sub-Zero/Wolf declined to comment Thursday.
Sub-Zero opened the Fitchburg factory in 1998, acquired Wolf in 2000 and subsequently expanded the factory in 2000, 2004 and 2007. The factories and offices in Fitchburg currently employ 1,117 people.
Should the expansion occur, the company said it would hire and train an additional 100 full-time employees with average wages around $18 an hour. Those jobs would have an additional 55 percent in benefits, according to the company’s presentation.
The expansion could help offset some of the company’s previous layoffs in the Madison area. In 2012, it announced cuts to 75 employees and 25 temporary workers from its Madison facility.
Sub-Zero/Wolf estimates the project would generate $250,000-$285,000 in new property taxes.
Fitchburg city administrator Tony Roach said it’s unlikely the City Council could approve a new TIF district before early June. The district would also need approval from a joint review board that includes the sites’ other taxing entities.
A TIF loan would be used to relocate a road that goes through the area where Sub-Zero/Wolf would build. Roach said he hasn’t done an analysis of the tax revenue estimates Sub-Zero/Wolf provided, but said at a quick glance, he’s “comfortable with those numbers.”
The possibility of expansion was made possible when the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission approved expansion of Fitchburg’s urban service area into the North Stoner Prairie in November. The area is bounded by Lacy Road to the south.
“I want to make sure we set the tone that a fantastic company like this has a working relationship with us,” Fitchburg Mayor Shawn Pfaff said. “That’s why we’ve worked the last couple years to make sure we had the urban service agreement, so we could get the land and have the opportunity for them to have this conversation with us.”
But expansion of the urban service area has been a contentious topic in Fitchburg politics, particularly in Tuesday’s mayoral race.
Pfaff’s challenger, Ald. Steve Arnold, has routinely opposed development of the North Stoner Prairie Neighborhood, but said he supports a smaller expansion of the urban service area, specifically to accommodate Sub-Zero/Wolf’s growth.
“It fits in with the parameters of my support and objection for various aspects of the North Stoner Prairie urban service area expansion. I still believe that most of the rest of that area should not be developed,” he said.
Arnold tried to add an amendment that separated the TIF feasibility study from negotiations so the newly elected council and mayor would have more input but his amendment failed 7-1.
“I thought that if we came in with the financial feasibility (study) then the new council got to give the go-ahead, then they would be more invested in it,” he said.
According to a timeline provided to the City Council, Sub-Zero/Wolf hopes to make a decision in May, break ground in July and have the facility operational by the middle of next year.