Janesville City Council approves incentives for SHINE
SHINE CEO Greg Piefer said amid celebration outside council chambers that he understands why some members of the community might be uncertain about his company's proposal.
"It's got the word 'nuclear' in it, which is a scary word for a lot of people," Piefer said, pledging to get offer more answers for those interested in hearing them.
City officials have been working on the SHINE project for two years, and Piefer urged residents to trust them. Piefer praised city officials and said he is already spreading the word to other interested businesses about how easy it was to work with them.
The development agreement reached Monday includes $5 million in incentives and $4 million in a loan guarantee to private investors.
SHINE would make isotopes that would be used in more than 30 different medical diagnostic imaging procedures.
The 4-1 vote came after a lengthy public hearing and a question-and-answer period between company officials and council members.
Council members Yuri Rashkin, who voted no, and Tom McDonald, who abstained, said they did so because the public did not have adequate time to digest the development agreement. Russ Steeber, Kathy Voskuil, Deb Dongarra-Adams and Sam Liebert all voted yes.
McDonald said the council has been working on the agreement for two years but the public had less than a week to review it.
"Two weeks from now, I very well may have voted in favor of this project," he said.
Piefer said his board of directors needed an answer Monday or he might have been directed to look at locating in another community.
"I want nothing more than for it to succeed, but somebody has to be fiscally conservative in this whole mix," Rashkin said. "This is a big gamble."
Councilman Russ Steeber said the vote will define Janesville's future and the council must be bold and look at the big picture.
"In the long run, the city, the region and the state will benefit from what we're doing tonight," he said.
Most of the residents who spoke before the vote urged the council to use caution in the development agreement. They cited environmental concerns, the use of precious farmland for the project and the cost of the incentives.
Julie Backenkeller asked why the city has to guarantee $4 million in loans for the project's private investors.
"Why would the taxpayers want to take this risk?" she asked. "I realize we want to create jobs, but something's not right."
Backenkeller noted the city would run utilities past vacant land to get to the SHINE facility and warned residents about increased utility costs.
Also, if SHINE is unable to raise enough money to open its facility, Backenkeller wondered if it would it come back and ask the city for more.
Tim Weber, a local builder, said Janesville needs SHINE to begin its path back toward becoming the thriving community it once was.
"Is there a risk? Yes, but there always is," he said. "I guarantee you that Mr. Piefer is refining his business model to ensure success."
Piefer and his team answered questions about the radioactive byproduct, which would be produced in small amounts. They also stressed the type of uranium used in production is not the kind used to make nuclear weapons.
While his product is still conceptual, the individual pieces of the production have all been successfully completed, Piefer said.
When asked why his company needed the $4 million guarantee, Piefer said he really likes Janesville and wanted to locate here. But it all came down to competition, and there were four aggressive communities courting the company.
The guarantee is what Janesville needed to do to be competitive, he said.