Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fond du Lac tries to keep Mercury Marine headquarters

Fond du Lac officials are presenting a united front in an attempt to convince Mercury Marine to keep its corporate headquarters in the Fox Valley, even if more than 800 manufacturing jobs are shifted to Stillwater, Okla.

Mercury Marine president Mark Schwabero plans to meet today with leaders of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local 1947, the labor union for manufacturing employees at the Fond du Lac-based company.

The company said it will be willing to listen to overtures by the union until midnight on Saturday, Aug. 29. However, the company has said it will not alter the terms of its final offer, which was overwhelmingly rejected by union workers on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a joint statement was issued today by Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County executive; Tom Herre, Fond du Lac city manager; and Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, president, Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp.:

"Emotions are running high throughout Fond du Lac County and the City of Fond du Lac today as we look at the possibility of life, for the first time in a long while, without Mercury Marine as our largest employer. The recent developments may permanently alter the corporate landscape and economic climate of our city, county, region and state.

"As we look to our future, it is important that we take a look at the events leading up to today. Conversations first began with Mercury Marine this past spring, and those of us at the table were asking the same soul-searching questions others have been asking and having the same conversations. Is the company being fair? Is this truly the only option?

"We did our homework and our due diligence and know without a doubt that doing all we can to keep Mercury Marine in the location in which it has flourished is the right thing to do - not just for the company - but for our people, communities, our county and the State of Wisconsin.

"The process which took place proved the earnest motivations of those at the table. There were many points along the timeline where the potential existed for the process to take another direction, but everyone worked together to show that the city, the county, the state and all involved were sincere about keeping Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac. We worked closely with the company throughout the past several months to develop a total incentive package that would have assured Mercury Marine stay in Fond du Lac for a minimum of 12 years. This package included new engine development; the relocation of the Stillwater Oklahoma manufacturing positions to Fond du Lac; and an incentive payment to IAM workers. Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation worked with the State of Wisconsin, Fond du
Lac County and the City of Fond du Lac to build two legs of the three-legged stool.

Unfortunately, the third leg wasn’t able to be put into place. This is not the fault of any single entity. The marine industry has changed significantly due to the economic downturn, and some tough decisions have had to be made all around. Now, we need to look forward.

"While the possibility does exist for the retention of manufacturing jobs through midnight on Saturday, Aug. 29, our focus must now be on the future. Our efforts will be directed to keeping the corporate headquarters of Mercury Marine - and the 800 associated jobs - here in Fond du Lac. We are planning to present a package to the company that addresses this important goal. Beyond this, know that we will continue the effective economic development strategies and programs we have in place, fully support efforts to grow our existing business and bring in new business, and work together to come out of this stronger than before.

"As we focus our energies on how we move forward from here, we ask that everyone affected by this do the same and to stay positive. This is not a time to be divided by opinion, but to be united as we all work together for the future of the City of Fond du Lac and Fond du Lac County."

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said he is "disappointed by the vote. Mercury Marine is offering a remarkable opportunity to consolidate hundreds of jobs here in Wisconsin." Read more in BizTimes Milwaukee's daily roundup of headlines from newspapers across the state at

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