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This screen shot was taken from a Premier Marine video shown at the Sherburne County Board meeting on Tuesday. 

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

The Sherburne County Board of Commissioners has approved a $1,451,625 property tax abatement for a company that plans to relocate to Big Lake.

Premier Marine, now located in Wyoming, Minnesota, was established in 1992 and manufactures luxury high-performance pontoon boats. The company plans to build a 151,710-square-foot manufacturing facility and 30,000-square-foot shop on 21 acres of land in Big Lake.

Total project costs are $25 million. Upon completion, the project is expected to add about $10.6 million to the tax base and pay approximately $378,000 in property taxes a year, of which $96,775 would be the county’s portion.

Carlson Development Group LLC/Premier Marine requested a $96,775 tax abatement per year from the county over 15 years, for a total of $1,451,625.

The school portion of property taxes from the Premier Marine proposal are projected to be $80,775 a year. They are not subject to any abatement and will be paid, according to Assistant County Administrator Dan Weber.

The city of Big Lake’s portion is projected at $102,395 a year. Big Lake recently approved a 12-year property tax abatement for the project totaling $1.2 million.

The project will create 263 local jobs. That number includes the relocation of 193 existing jobs and the creation of 70 new jobs at an average wage of $46,322 annually, according to Weber.

He said the company’s projected revenues by the end of 2024 are about $85 million.

The county scores tax abatement requests, and this project scored 54 out of 60, or “high,” based on the county’s tax abatement scoring system. That makes Premier Marine eligible for 100% of its $1,451,625 request. The Sherburne County Economy Development Authority recommended approval of the abatement.

Bret Collier, of Big Lake, expressed concern about property tax abatements in comments to the County Board during open forum, before the abatement request was considered.

He said there should be a moratorium on abatements, beginning that day.

“Whatever happened to one must pay their fair share?” he asked.

He said the loss of taxes will need to be made up by other businesses and residents in the county.

If the Premier Marine tax abatement is approved, he said it will not be contributing to the maintenance or upkeep of any of Sherburne County’s services or infrastructure — extra wear on the roads, police, fire, and so forth — for perhaps 15 years.

Collier suggested the tax abatement for Premier Marine not be granted, especially given its length and magnitude.

Board Chair Raeanne Danielowski said later in the meeting that the property taxes being abated are those generated by the new development on the property. The county will continue to get property taxes that are already being produced by the land.

Commissioner Felix Schmiesing said he will support the tax abatement, pointing out that the county set up an EDA, has guidelines that it follows and the project was scored.

“If they (Premier Marine) did what we asked them to, and they have here, we certainly need to approve it,” he said.

That being said, Schmiesing also said the county should have its EDA take another look at tax abatements.

“Is 12 years right? Is 15 years too long? Is 18 years more right?” he asked.

Commissioner Lisa Fobbe said a County Board workshop on property tax abatements would be helpful to get an overall picture of abatements and how they support the communities.

Schmiesing noted that property tax abatements have become a way that communities compete with one another for businesses.

“If no one did it, it would be a different game, too. But we are forced to compete in that manner,” he said.

The County Board voted 4-0 to approve the property tax abatement. Commissioner Tim Dolan excused himself from the discussion and did not vote due to a conflict of interest.

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