Ma & Pa’s in Fond du Lac to remain open

Great news for those who head to “Miracle Mile” in Fond du Lac.

Earlier this week, the owner of Ma & Pa’s convenience store, 506 S. Main St., announced plans to close. The store, however, has been sold and will reopen under a new name.

Jeffery Korneli has bought the property and says he will reopen it as Korneli’s Main Street Express. Korneli already owns another convenience store in Fond du Lac. Officials have already approved Korneli’s licenses to sell soda and cigarettes. He is still waiting on a liquor license.

Read the rest:  Ma & Pa’s in Fond du Lac sold.

The devil is in the details

When Mercury Marine reversed course last week and allowed the union an opportunity at a re-do on proposed contract changes the question was why?  Another question thought by many and asked by Jerry Bader on his blog was “did somebody sweeten the pot?”  While it may never be known by the public what changed in the package, Mercury Marine is being offered a pretty sweet deal when it comes to incentives by local officials in Fond du Lac.

Local government is committed to providing a significant amount of financial assistance — up to $50 million from Fond du Lac County and $3 million from the City — as incentive to keep Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac.

Here’s the breakdown:

Following are some details of the incentive packages local leaders unveiled:

  • Up to $50 million will be available in the form of a low-interest, performance-based, collateralized loan from Fond du Lac County with guarantees provided by both the City of Fond du Lac and Fond du Lac County (in the event of default). The loan proceeds are to be used for new engine development; the relocation of some of the Stillwater, Okla., manufacturing positions to Fond du Lac; and a retirement incentive payment to union members.As a performance-based loan, it includes a $500 credit per job retained and a $1,000 credit per job created. There also is a penalty to the company of $500 for each position not retained. If the company does not maintain its presence in Fond du Lac, the loan becomes due immediately, in full.
  • The $3 million from the City of Fond du Lac would be provided to purchase surplus land owned by Mercury Marine and/or in the form of forgivable loans and grants from the City of Fond du Lac and its agencies.
  • So how does Fond du Lac county plan to finance this $50 million?

    The County Board of Supervisors will decide Wednesday night whether to finance a $50 million loan with a new county sales tax or through property taxes. A half-percent sales tax — the first ever for Fond du Lac County — is being proposed as the preferred option by Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel. (Source: City, county officials offer Merc $53 million – FDL Reporter)

    The proposed sales tax would pay for the credits apparently.

    The sales tax would be used to cover the $500 and $1,000 job credits. The loan would be issued by the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp., and the life of the loan is 12 years. There is no sunset provision.

    It’s an unusual move.

    “We spend tax dollars on a lot of things that are less important than job creation,” said James Buchen, vice president for governmental relations at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a business lobbying organization. “At least in this case, (taxpayers) know what it is going for.” (Source: Half-cent sales tax would help pay for Mercury incentives – JSOnline)

    It’s also a dumb move.

    At least the union had an opportunity to vote on concessions, residents apparently won’t have a say when it comes to the incentive package & likely sales tax increase to fund it.

    Is this large of an incentives package truly needed? The net gain of jobs over the seven years of the contract is minimal.

    Mercury currently employs 850 people in its Fond du Lac factory, with 500-550 on layoff, Fleming said.

    “We anticipate manufacturing jobs in Fond du Lac to grow as high as 1,400 to 1,600 by the conclusion of the seven-year contract we just signed,” he said. (Source: Mercury could add up to 750 jobs in Fond du Lac – JSOnline)

    So folks in Fond du Lac should provide $53 million in incentives to Mercury for what could ultimately be no “new” jobs or at most 200 “new” jobs by 2016?  And yes those numbers of 0 and 200 are correct because recalled workers shouldn’t constitute “newly” created jobs.

    So there are credits for jobs, what qualifies as a $1000 credit?  Does the job have to be newly created?  Or will a “recalled” worker returning to work at Mercury qualify as a “created” job?

    With or without more specifics on the details, $53 million in incentives to Mercury Marine from officials in Fond du Lac is just too much.  The county board and city council should vote down these incentive packages. Why? Mercury said if the union didn’t accept the contract proposal it would leave. It never said incentives were a part of it – at least publicly. Would Mercury break it’s word if the packages weren’t approved? Besides could Mercury afford the public relations nightmare that would ensue?

    One final question – when will the state release details of the incentive package they are still negotiating with Mercury Marine.

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    Stillwater, OK got screwed in the end

    That about sums it up after the union got an undeserved 3rd opportunity to vote on contract concessions & accepted them.

    Mercury Marine will accept IAM Lodge 1947’s ratification of the company’s contract proposal, Mercury President Mark Schwabero said Friday evening.

    Union workers have agreed to accept the same labor agreement they previously rejected Aug. 23.

    As a result, Mercury said it will begin this year to consolidate manufacturing work in its Fond du Lac facilities.

    A vote count was not released by the union, but officials of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers on Friday evening confirmed that the two-day voting process resulted in union ratification of the proposal.

    Consolidation of work in Fond du Lac will include transition of work from the company’s Stillwater, Okla., facilities over the next 18 to 24 months.

    Don’t get me wrong, this is good news for Fond du Lac and the rest of Wisconsin.  However it’s not difficult to see that in the process Stillwater, OK got the shaft from Mercury Marine.  If I was from the Stillwater area I’d probably tell Schwabero to stick it where the sun don’t shine, that his words of thanks are meaningless.

    “Our employees in Stillwater and Fond du Lac, as well as the communities and the states of Oklahoma and Wisconsin, have been very supportive throughout this challenging period,” Schwabero said. “In both locations, community and business leaders as well as our employees have done everything possible to help ensure a sustainable future for Mercury Marine. We want to thank each of them for their commitment and focus, particularly during these last two months.” (Source – Mercury accepts “yes” vote on contract proposal – FDL Reporter)

    Ultimately by reversing course and allowing this vote the last two days, Mercury showed it had no intentions of moving to Oklahoma.  If it did it would have held to the “hard” deadline.  The fact is union members had ample opportunity to review the proposed changes & make an informed vote – which they did August 23rd.  They should have had to live with that decision. But because the company doesn’t practice what it preaches in terms of ethics it reversed course 48 hours after announcing in a press release that the deadline had been firm & the union hadn’t accepted the proposed changes, so it was moving operations to Stillwater.

    “People should be reminded that there was another town, that we are very compatible with, in Oklahoma anxiously awaiting the results” of the vote, Fleming said.

    “Frankly, it would be unethical to tell Stillwater that there was a schedule and a set of conditions for negotiations and then throw it all out the window because the union in Fond du Lac chose not to allow its members to vote” in a timely fashion. (Source: Mercury says 2nd vote too late to save jobs – Milwaukee Journal Sentinal)

    Guess those words rang hollow and were meaningless in the end.  Wonder if Mercury Marine officials will ever honestly explain to those in Stillwater, OK why.

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    Another vote, union fallout & feeling used

    This morning union workers started voting on Mercury Marine‘s contract proposal yet again.  It’s the third time for some, though the 2nd sanctioned vote.  Mercury Marine yesterday emphasized it is the original contract & nothing has changed.

    “What this is, is a clarification of what is in the contract,” Mercury spokesman Steve Fleming said.

    The contract is the same document voted on by Mercury union members on Aug. 23, he said.

    “The contract being voted on this week is exactly the same, word for word, as the prior contract,” he said.

    The supplement was provided as a method of further explaining what already exists in the contract.

    “It was a way to say, ‘If you’re not sure what it (the contract) says, here is some information that will help you understand it,'” Fleming said. (Source: No changes made to contract proposal – FDL Reporter)

    So what’s in the supplement?

    That supplement talks about issues like accident and sickness pay and medical co-pays for retirees.

    It also says current active employees as of August 30, 2009, will not be subject to the New Hires and Recalled Employee wage structure, even if laid off and recalled in the future. (Source: What contract will Mercury Marine workers vote on? – WBAY)

    While the outcome won’t be known until Friday evening Mercury provided a brief explanation regarding the reversal of course in agreeing to another vote.

    “It’s kind of like discovering there is additional evidence you didn’t know about at the end of a trial. There is additional evidence to show that employees weren’t fully informed and might have been misinformed” on the Aug. 23 vote, Fleming said.

    In addition there has been fallout – local leadership is no longer involved.

    Meanwhile, the chief negotiator for the union at Mercury has resigned, according to members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 1947 who said union officials at the district and regional levels had become more involved in the recent issues in Fond du Lac.

    On Sunday, Lodge 1947 chief negotiator Dan Longsine said he was disappointed that results of a second vote would not count. That referendum was started late Saturday night, only two hours before a company deadline, and was later canceled.

    “I put my job with the union on the line. I will be thrown out of office, so I will resign before then,” Longsine said Sunday.

    Longsine could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Lodge 1947 members said he had submitted his resignation. (Source: Mercury Marine workers head back to the ballot box – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal)

    Lead negotiator Dan Longsine has resigned and Local 1947 president Mark Zillges is no longer involved, said Felipe Rodriguez, a 15-year employee of Mercury Marine.

    “I was down at the labor temple when I saw Dan and he personally told me he was done, ‘I am resigning today.’ That was Monday … Longsine resigned and was replaced by Rollie Chase. I heard it was personal reasons that he resigned.

    “It was word of mouth that we heard Mark Zillges is out of town taking his daughter to college – that’s what I heard,” Rodriguez said.

    And as can be expected folks in Stillwater are not happy with these developments and feel they were used.

    “It’s been unbelievable,” said Teresa Banks, a 29-year employee of MerCruiser. “ I can’t imagine anyone putting people through this. It makes me wonder how they sleep at night. One minute you’re feeling good, the next you just want to scream.

    “Mercury is using us as pawns to get from the union what they wanted anyway … (Mercury) wanted to make cuts and couldn’t do that without a union vote.”

    The introduction of a Stillwater relocation was but a tactic to force the union to negotiate, Banks contends. (Source: Union fallout precedes latest Mercury vote – Stillwater NewsPress)

    The argument could also be made that the uncertainty facing Stillwater is unethical when considering this statement earlier in the week.

    “Frankly, it would be unethical to tell Stillwater that there was a schedule and a set of conditions for negotiations and then throw it all out the window because the union in Fond du Lac chose not to allow its members to vote” in a timely fashion. (Source: Mercury says 2nd vote too late to save jobs – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal)

    But at this point it’s all under the bridge since a re-vote was sanctioned.  The results and a corresponding decision will likely be known by 8 pm Friday night.

    What would be ironic is if after all this the union still votes “no”.  Which isn’t out of the realm of a being real possibility.

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