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Lawmakers working on taxbreak for Wells' Dairy

DES MOINES (AP) -- Lawmakers are placing on a fast track a tax incentive bill sought by Wells' Dairy Inc., a northwest Iowa company that has considered moving its corporate headquarters out of state.

Wells', makers of Blue Bunny ice cream, frozen novelties and dairy products, wants to build a $30 million corporate campus to replace seven crowded office buildings scattered around Le Mars.

About 400 corporate employees currently work in the buildings.

The company is considering staying in Le Mars, moving to another Iowa location or relocating across the border into Nebraska or South Dakota.

Company officials visited with lawmakers Monday morning seeking changes in the state's New Jobs and Income Program, an economic development package that offers tax credits and exemptions to businesses making a capital investment of at least $11.4 million and creating 50 or more jobs.

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Currently the program requires the company to own the buildings constructed as part of an expansion.

Lawmakers are planning to consider Tuesday a bill that would permit the tax breaks to be applied to a company that only leases the buildings constructed for an expansion.

"We want to ensure that they can have somebody else build the building and lease it to them and still be eligible for the NJIP tax credit," said House Speaker Chris Rants, R-Sioux City.

He said Wells is a company that Iowa should work hard to keep.

"Wells Blue Bunny is a fantastic corporate citizen in northwest Iowa. It's the epitome of a family owned business that has grown larger and larger over the years and remained true to its roots and remained active in the community," Rants said.

Rep. Clarence Hoffman, R-Charter Oak, said corporations often prefer to lease buildings rather than own them in today's business climate.

Rants and Hoffman, chairman of the House Economic Growth Committee, said the bill is expected to be considered by committees Tuesday and debated in the House and Senate Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We're trying to respond very quickly," Rants said. "We're trying to be nimble about responding to the request by the Department of Economic Development to finish off this package."

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Companies qualifying for the JNIP can receive local property tax exemptions for up to 20 years on the value added to the property and can receive refunds of sales, services or use taxes paid to contractors during construction.

The program also can provide an investment tax credit of up to 10 percent of the capital investment in machinery, equipment, land, buildings and improvements to existing buildings for up to seven years.

An additional research and development tax credit of up to 6.5 percent could be available based in increasing research activities.

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On the Net: Wells' Dairy Inc.: http://www.wellsdairy.com

Iowa Department of Economic Development: http://www.iowasmart.com/

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