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Marinette County may be looking at some heavy duty economic development programs to assist Fincanteri Marinette Marine as the local shipyard prepares to build new products.  Marinette Marine should know in a few months if they’ll be building four MMSC Class ships for Saudi Arabia.  The ships are a derivative of the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships now being built for the Navy.  In addition, both Lockheed Martin and Fincanteri are both working on designs for a next generation FFG(X) Frigate for the Navy which could be built here if they win the Navy’s design competition.   Fincanteri  estimates it will take a $100 million dollar investment to upgrade the local facility to build the new ships, and is looking for financial support from the area.  County Administrator John LeFebre told the County’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee that the County Board could be asked to approve a $50 million dollar loan to the company. The loan would be contingent on the awarding of the MMSC contract.  The county would raise the money through selling bonds. The company would be responsible for paying back the loan in full during the duration of the MMSC contract, and there would be no cost to the taxpayer.

Beyond that, the company is looking for perhaps $15 to $20 million dollars in grants, which likely would be tied to increased employment.  County Board Chair Mark Anderson says the new work could mean another 400 jobs at Marinette Marine.  To fund those grants, the Economic Development Committee recommended to the Finance Committee and County Board that they pass a resolution urging the legislature to allow counties to impose up to a half percent additional sales tax for economic development. The earliest that proposal could be taken up by the legislature would be next year.

Board Chairman Mark Anderson says the sales tax would be the only way the county could do grants.

The County Finance Committee is expected to discuss the issue of the loan later this week.