Janesville City Council approves $3.3 million deal with Seneca Foods

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

— Several business people at Monday’s council meeting lauded the work Janesville city staff did to keep a Seneca Foods expansion here, and the president of Forward Janesville offered to partner with the city to market the new anaerobic wastewater pretreatment lagoon the city is building.

The city was able to lower Seneca’s wastewater costs by building the pretreatment facility outside the company’s front door on East Conde Street.

The $3.3 million cost will be paid for in about a dozen years with the additional revenues the city’s wastewater treatment plant will earn from the extra processing line and by the sale back to Seneca of methane produced by the lagoon.

In addition, the lagoon might draw other food processing plants here.

The council voted unanimously to enter into a TIF agreement for the project.

Seneca will build an 80,000-square-foot addition that can house up to five new packaging lines. The company agrees to employ an additional 25 people over 10 years.

John Beckord said he tipped his hat to city staff for the innovation they showed when they came up with the green solution to treat wastewater.

He said Forward Janesville offers to underwrite a special marketing program targeting food producers and featuring the lagoon.

Bruce Kepner of Alliant Energy and a member of Rock County 5.0, a public/private economic development initiative, said Alliant has offered Seneca a discount on the energy needed for the additional line.

“It’s an important company for us,” Kepner said.

Councilman Doug Marklein called the project “pretty darned exciting” and said the expansion will be great for the area’s agricultural community.

Council President Kathy Voskuil thanked Seneca for working to stay here.

She also thanked city staff, including Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz and former City Manager Eric Levitt, who recently left the city for a new job, and noted staff started work on the project in March.

“A lot of good people worked to get a great thing done,” Voskuil said.

Seneca is traditionally tight-lipped about the company, and nobody had a salary estimate for the new workers.

Winzenz noted Seneca is a union shop.

Tim Benjamin, Seneca’s chief financial officer who is based at the company’s headquarters in New York, wrote recently in an email to The Gazette:

“We certainly appreciate the support of the city and the state on this project. They really stepped up, and this is a project that will create jobs.

“That’s exciting from our perspective and their perspective.”

He said the new packaging line is an important new direction, noting pouch packaging is an alternative to canning.

“In the long term, canning is declining bit by bit, so we’re looking to alternative packaging,” Benjamin said. “Canning and frozen packaging is flat at best, and this project in Janesville is absolutely key for us in terms of alternative packaging.”

In other business, the council:

-- Approved an agreement between the fire department and Mercy Health System to transport patients between Mercy Emergency North and the main hospital.

-- Approved the second round of bids to build a new transit center after the first round came in too high. Corporate Contractors of Beloit secured the low bid of $6.47 million.

Last updated: 8:00 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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