Janesville65.2°

Government officials, businesses eye their slices of $787 billion pie

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 22, 2009
— Rock County businesses and governments expect to benefit from federal economic stimulus efforts, but they’re unsure exactly how or when.

“We’re in the evaluation mode,” Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt said.


Technically referred to as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the legislation will funnel $787 billion to states. About 34 percent of the package—$286 billion—is in the form of tax cuts, while $120 billion will go to infrastructure projects. The remainder will be allocated for social programs.


Wisconsin is expected to get more than $3.7 billion, not including direct aid to individuals, tax breaks or federal competitive grants.


Millions of dollars could flow into Rock County, but it’s premature to estimate exactly how much or for what, said Levitt and Rock County Administrator Craig Knutson.


Both local governments submitted wish lists to the state in December, but those lists probably won’t line up with what’s ultimately doled out by the state through its existing programs.


The newly created Wisconsin Office of Recovery and Reinvestment will detail later this week what programs will be funded, who is eligible and how the money will be distributed.


That leaves Knutson, Levitt and their staffs somewhat in the dark.


Knutson is guessing Rock County will get full funding—perhaps as much as $2 million—for three bridge projects on county highways and three others on town roads.


Another $1.2 million could go to reconstruction work at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport.


The stimulus funds would speed up the bridge projects and cover the county’s share of the tab that is typically 20 percent.


“Infrastructure is certainly a part of it, but so are operational costs,” Knutson said. “We will be watching the state programs and scouring for other opportunities for our parks and buildings.”


The county also is looking at the stimulus funds for its medical assistance programs.


The city likely will apply for transportation infrastructure funds that would generate road repaving projects and bike trail improvements.


“It’s still early, and we’re trying to understand all the guidelines,” Levitt said. “We will also be looking at opportunities for economic development, transit and our parks.”


The stimulus package could reach local businesses.


The Janesville-based Rock Road Cos. is a major road builder and could benefit from highway projects awarded around the state. Other area contractors also are paying close attention.


Janesville-based Hufcor, a global manufacturer of operable wall systems, will track contracts awarded for school construction projects.


“Being in the partition business and the schools market, we’re trying to get more information,” said Jim Landherr, Hufcor’s president. “The contracts have to be approved first and construction has to start, but I’m sure there will be some benefit.”


Other local companies that have invested in high-tech, highly efficient manufacturing equipment might benefit from new depreciation accounting rules.


Mercy Health System will apply for incentive money from the $19 billion pot targeted to help health care companies computerize paper records. The law sets penalties for companies that have not complied by 2014.


Mercy is in the process.


“We’ve done it and are doing it, and once we know the structure and details, we will apply to get some of those incentives,” said Mercy Vice President Rich Gruber.


Gruber said Mercy will investigate funding targeted to federally chartered community health centers, as Mercy has a partnership with one center in Beloit.


A Dean Health System spokesman said Dean has completed its electronic records conversion, but the funds could help its affiliate hospital in Stoughton with its program.



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