600 proposed jobs in jeopardy in Wisconsin Rapids - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

600 proposed jobs in jeopardy in Wisconsin Rapids

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by Colby Robertson

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WAOW) -- Last year, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in an attempt to soften the blow from the economic crisis.

Part of the Recovery Act made $275 billion dollars available to states for contracts, grants and loans in the form of federal bonds.

Lawmakers hope the money would create new jobs and spur economic activity in the short term. In addition, congressional leaders hoped that some projects would contribute to economic growth in the long-term.

However, if left unused, those bonds are set to expire at the end of the year. Wisconsin has yet to use any bonds issued by the federal government.

State Senator Julie Lassa is introducing a bill to the legislature in hopes that those bonds don't go unused. The bill requests the legislature to pool the bond allocations together so more money is available for shovel ready projects.

In Wisconsin Rapids, they're ready to break ground on Energy Composites, a company that's expected to create 600 green jobs. If Senate Bill 440 doesn't pass those much needed jobs will likely go to another state or even Canada.

Right now this land in Wisconsin Rapids remains empty. Area leaders hope it's the future sight of Energy Composites a company that would bring 600 long-term green jobs to the area, but right now project leaders are waiting for the green light.

Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Mary Jo Carson says, "It would be devastating to our community because we've done all we can. We've done everything we could to make this happen in Wisconsin Rapids."

Now these 600 jobs are in the hands of the legislature. State Senator Julie Lassa of Stevens Point introduced Senate Bill 440 but has received opposition from other county leaders who don't want to pool the bond allocations together.

Senator Julie Lassa says, "They don't understand because the bond issue is so complex. I don't feel they fully understand. This legislation isn't going to harm them. It's actually going to benefit all the counties across the state."

Energy Composites will build industrial size blades for wind turbines throughout the United States and Canada. Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Mary Jo Carson says the community is lucky to have this opportunity.

Mayor Carson says, "This is a hometown entrepreneur. This is a young man who believes in his hometown. He wants to invest in his hometown and wants to create green jobs that are not exportable."

Senator Lassa says not only would these bond allocations go to waste if not used by the end of the year, but it would mean less job creation and that's something central Wisconsin truly needs.

Senator Lassa says, "It would just be a shame. A real crying shame if we're not able to get this legislation passed so we can get these jobs created here."

Senator Lassa says the senate economic development committee looks to have the votes to pass it. They hope to schedule a hearing as soon as possible for the full senate to vote on. But they are working against the clock.

Energy Composites has to break ground by March 1st or those jobs will be officially lost.

Online Reporter: Colby Robertson

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