By Charles Collier, The Denmark News
MARIBEL—Maribel Grain Company’s new gas station and an adjoining Burger King location are expected to be completed by Memorial Day, capping the most aggressive economic development Maribel has seen in some time.
Over the last seven years, the Village of Maribel has slowly become known as a community on the decline. Rabas Garage closed but a few years ago, preceded by Denmark State Bank’s departure from its branch there. Despite a vibrant Lions Club and agricultural community, there has been little optimism from an economic viewpoint.
Maribel Grain, a feed mill and cooperative with 180 local stakeholders has been supporting the rural Manitowoc County community since 1910, and general manager Brian Rabas says brighter days are well within reach now that nearly four years of planning are coming to fruition.
In 2015, Rabas told the Cooperative’s Board of Directors, “We need to do something to change the attitude that Maribel is a dying community, we need activity in Maribel to keep our businesses successful.”
Shortly after that statement and agreement from the Board, Maribel Grain purchased 23 acres of farmland from the Pantzlaff family across from its current I-43 One Stop BP gas station and convenience store just west of Interstate 43 on CTH Z. The land was foreseen as the future site for an expanded gas station and convenience store.
On the same day, I-43 One Stop was sold to regional freight hauler Advantage Transportation with an agreement for the C-store to continue operating until the former Pantzlaff land was developed. Moving forward with the plan presented complications of its own and a 2016 assessment of the situation by Maribel Grain and the Village determined sewer service and a new street would be necessary for any improvements.
Funds were short for the Village of Maribel’s government, however, and such an undertaking of infrastructure construction was not feasible. Working with the Village, Maribel Grain ironed out details for opening the Maribel’s first ever Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District. Typically a municipality will put forth funds to forego sewer and street construction and allow developers leeway on taxes for a set amount of time. In this instance, Maribel Grain is providing the ante and guaranteeing funds for the TIF.
“Maribel Grain has a developer’s agreement with the Village which insures that if tax revenues from the TIF fall short of annual loan payments for TIF projects, Maribel Grain will pay the Village for the shortfall, thus eliminating the risk of the TIF for the Village,” Rabas said, adding that Denmark State Bank has provided financing.
The new 600-foot street completed earlier this year was named Ewald Lane after Ewald Pantzlaff, the farmer who tended the land there for many years. A new storm water management pond, gravity sewer line, and upgrading of the lift station on the Ridge Restaurant property were also projects made possible through the TIF district.
The Village has overtaken operation and maintenance of the lift station and sewer line at the Ridge which will allow sewer service to the new C-store and future developments which could be attracted to the Interstate-adjacent parcel.
Rabas said there has been intermittent interest expressed in the remaining 18 acres of the TIF district, but that when Maribel Grain’s new convenience store is up-and-running, the site’s business benefits will become obvious.
Cave Enterprises, a Chicago-based franchisee operator, will be operating a 2,556 square-foot Burger King location connected to the 5,168 square-foot convenience store under a lease agreement with Maribel Grain.
The new station will also add bulk diesel exhaust fluid, off-road diesel fuel, larger restrooms and showers for truckers, as well as a food counter and seating area. Advantage Transport will also be expanding with shop and office space with additional space of their own.
So far, the site at Ewald Lane has already had most of the necessary sewer infrastructure installed by Bielinski Excavating of Denmark and US Petroleum Equipment of Kimberly has installed underground fuel tanks and the initial pump canopies.
Maribel Heating & Plumbing, Ledden Refrigeration, Hubbart Electric, Harris Masonry, and Fels Ready Mix are expected to play their critical roles in building the new structure under Kimberly-based general contractor Keller.
With floor space tripling that of its current location, Maribel Grain is anticipating new hires. Cave Enterprises anticipates the need for 15 employees at the Burger King and Advantage Transportation’s new space will open up additional opportunities as well. Rabas and of all of Maribel hope these are just the first whispers of revitalization.
Even on a cold, windy day with a blanket of near-sleet mist whirling about, Rabas smiled at the prospects of the future, “Maribel Grain, the Village of Maribel, and myself have put a lot of time and effort into providing what we hope will be projects that spark future development and growth for Maribel,” he said. “With the community’s support and encouragement for other businesses to build in our TIF district, everyone’s effort will indeed bring new life to Maribel.”