By EVAN REID
FLORENCE, Wis. - The Upper Peninsula grocery chain Pat's Foods is expecting to open its new Florence location on June 26.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch speaks during a grant award ceremony at the future location of Pat’s Foods in Florence, Wis. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has awarded Florence County a grant to assist in opening the store, located in the old Haberkorn’s building.
Pat's Foods will be located in the old Haberkorn's store building on the west end of downtown Florence. Subway will remain in the building, and the new store will contain an ACE Hardware.
Haberkorn's closed about seven years ago, leaving Florence County without a full-service grocery store.
"This project will give our community the resources it needs to be self-sufficient," said Florence County Economic Development Director Wendy Gehlhoff.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) recently awarded Florence County a grant to assist in opening the store. With the grant, the project developer can be reimbursed up to $250,000.
"The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the State of Wisconsin has sent a message that rural counties do matter-and for that we are so grateful," said Florence County Chairperson Jeanette Bomberg.
The state funding is part of the WEDC Community Development Investment Grant Program, which supports community development and redevelopment efforts throughout the state, primarily in downtown areas.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was in Florence Tuesday for a grant award ceremony at the store location.
"Not only does this project fill a critical need for the residents of Florence County, but it has a strong economic impact as well," Kleefisch said. "The new store will create about 20 jobs, and it establishes a downtown anchor that could lead to additional economic growth."
Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of WEDC also spoke at the ceremony.
"This investment will help with the redevelopment of Florence County, and of Florence itself," he said. "We are pleased to play a key role in bringing a much-needed resource to the county."
Ben Campioni, owner of Pat's Foods, said the company had been considering the Florence location for the last five years, but the project was not feasible financially until Gehlhoff informed the company of the WEDC grant program, which provided the final piece of necessary funding.
Campioni also owns and operates Pat's Foods stores in Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, Ontonagon, and L'Anse.
"We will strive to be an asset to Florence and the surrounding area by providing products and services needed by residents and seasonal visitors," Campioni said. "We take part in the communities we serve by giving back to the towns and local charities generously, and we base our bushiness around being hometown proud."
The project is one of three made possible by Florence County's new tax increment financing (TIF) district, which received final approval in March. In addition fo Pat's Foods, TIF funds will be made available for expansions at Florence Harwoods industrial park and a new Family Dollar store.
TIF districts work by setting aside any new tax money generated from the district, which could result from new buildings or growth in property values, and putting that money toward new developments within the district.
Bomberg saw the return of a full-service grocery store as an important step for the county.
"It will help boost our economy. It will create jobs, improve our internal and external image, increase the tax base, and help spur new retail growth," she said. "But more importantly, we will have fresh fruits and meats to purchase locally."
Evan Reid's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.