In May, all three municipalities in Waupaca County with revolving loan funds, the cities of Clintonville, Marion and New London, passed resolutions to join the East Central Regional Revolving Loan Fund.
Combined with the resolution passed by the Waupaca County Board in April, all of Waupaca County’s existing revolving loan funds have now taken the first step in joining the 10-county regional loan fund for northeast Wisconsin.
I believe the new regional model will benefit Waupaca County even more than the current system.
However, I do want to remind everyone, by highlighting one of Waupaca County’s businesses, as to how much benefit this program has already been to our local economy.
Waupaca County, Clintonville, Marion and New London were able to capitalize revolving loan funds through an initial state grant.
The money originated with the federal government and was granted to Wisconsin via the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.
During the mid-2000s, the state temporarily expanded the eligibility of their grants to municipalities for use in the dairy industry.
This portion of the CDBG program was known as the Milk Volume Production (MVP) Program, and the funds had to be used by an applicant to purchase cows. The point of the new program was to grow Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
Quantum Dairy LLC was formed on July 1, 2002, in the town of Weyauwega by Jay Quella and Richard Wagner.
At the time, Quella was a dairy producer and the owner of Quantum Dairy. He had expanded his operation from 200 to 650 milking cows over the previous eight years.
Quella had arrived at a point where he wanted to diversify away from the dairy farm. Wagner was one of the owners of Weyauwega Milk Products, and then, Trega Foods.
He had been buying up land near Quantum Dairy, and he left the cheese business and got into the dairy business.
The two joined forces together in the LLC to help accomplish their separate goals. Two years later, Wagner purchased Quella’s portion of the corporation, and in July of 2005, Wagner’s son-in-law, Kurt Duxbury, joined him as the full-time manager of Quantum Dairy.
At this time, Quantum Dairy was milking approximately 950 cows and they owned 157 acres.
They had built an operational manure handling system, which included an anaerobic digester, separator and electric generator. They soon began selling energy back to the local grid system.
I began working with Quantum Dairy in the fall of 2005, in order to prepare an MVP application for the state of Wisconsin. That application was approved in December, and the contracts were signed on Feb. 1, 2006.
The application was for purchasing 1,200 cows, but the full project also included other significant investments.
Phase one included a double 32 herringbone parlor, holding pen and one 400 cow freestall barn.
Phases two and three included four more 400 cow freestall barns.
Finally, a feed center and additional silage bunkers would be added.
The total investment for the project was just over $9.9 million, which included the MVP application to the state of Wisconsin for $600,000.
At the time of the application, Quantum Dairy employed 15 people. They projected an increase of 13 new employees over the next three years.
On April 26, 2013, Quantum Dairy made their last payment on the MVP loan.
Over the past seven years, Quantum built a 40 parallel parlor. They also built two 400 cow freestall barns and three 500 cow freestall barns.
In addition to the feed center, which was expanded beyond its original configuration, and silage bunkers, Quantum built a maternity center where calves are born and sick cows are nursed back to health.
They also removed two old barns to site a pad for raising calves from birth to 6 weeks, retrofitted two other old barns to raise calves from 18 months to 5 years old, constructed a large storage shed and added a leachate control system.
The land they manage for cropping to supply the dairy is around 3,000 acres.
By the end of 2013, Quantum will install a sand separation system for cow bedding, as well as partner with an outside investor to expand their digester so they can both sell electricity and provide for the dairy’s power needs.
Quantum Dairy currently has 2,200 adult milking cows, and they also have 42 people working there.
The $657,357.05 paid back by Quantum Dairy (principal and interest) has allowed Waupaca County to help fund other business start-ups and expansions.
Those businesses have invested additional funds, hired additional employees and paid additional taxes to Waupaca County and the local communities.
The impact these federal funds, from the CDBG program, have had on business development and job creation in Waupaca County cannot be overstated.
The local revolving loan program, which was established as a result of the CDBG money, is truly a way that our communities benefit from the taxes they send to the federal government.
And now, onto the new Regional RLF program, which has a significantly larger pool of funds to help businesses, as well as a broader array of loan programs that address the full spectrum of companies; from start-ups, to main street businesses, to large industrial firms.
David Thiel is executive director of the Waupaca County Economic Development Corp.