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McGraw-Hill Expands Use of Port

Does the Planned Commercial Complex Fit the Mission of the Revised Riverfront?

M.D. Kittle

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 2, 2006

And see, Rob Kundert, "McGraw-Hill Port Expansion Welcomed", Editorial, "McGraw-Hill Give Dubuque Its Affirmation", and Editorial, "City Blazing an Economic Development Trail"

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

Hotel and waterpark. Museum and aquariums. Conference center. Riverboat casino.

Once an industrial center, the Port of Dubuque has been transformed into a playground - an entertainment and educational destination attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Now, a few years after the launch of the first phase of the renowned America's River project, Dubuque riverfront revitalization could take a commercial turn.

McGraw-Hill Higher Education on Friday confirmed plans to build a $32 million, 140,000-square-foot office complex near the corners of Fifth and Bell streets.

Construction is slated to begin this summer with a tentative opening targeted for summer 2007. The economic development project is contingent on millions of dollars in state and local incentives.

McGraw-Hill Higher Ed, corporate family member of media conglomerate The McGraw-Hill Companies, reportedly has long been cramped at its Kerper Boulevard complex. Company officials say the port property would give the textbook publisher room to grow.

McGraw-Hill would bring more than 400 "good-paying" jobs to the Port of Dubuque.

But does the commercial complex fit the mission of the revised riverfront? Is it the so-called "best and highest use" for some very valuable, and limited, city-owned land.

Supporters say "yes."

"I think it answers the question about what's next in the Port of Dubuque. That kind of investment in downtown Dubuque is fantastic as far as I'm concerned," said Bill Baum, interim director of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., which has shepherded the McGraw-Hill expansion plan for two-plus years.

Baum and others argue the McGraw-Hill office would go a long way to spur future development projects at the port - from retail to restaurants to entertainment venues. The company's big work force could be a captive audience, bringing its discretionary dollars to port and downtown destinations.

Office space fits the port's planned unit development vision, which includes a mix of entertainment and retail purposes. The code, however, does stress that the majority of an office's first floor must be comprised of retail space. McGraw-Hill was released from that provision

"They decided because they were building the building they didn't want to take on the risk of retail," said Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol. "It's not their business; they are in the business of selling books."

Given the size and scope of the project, Buol said the city would give the company a pass on the retail clause.

McGraw-Hill's port plan does come with a hefty price for the city and state. The proposed state incentives package, up for Dubuque City Council review on Monday, calls for more than $4 million in loans and investment credits and sales tax rebates.

The city, under the proposal, would create a tax increment financing district, saving McGraw-Hill some $6 million during the 10-year life of the TIF assistance.

And the company would get the 21/2 acres of prime port land, priced at $1.1 million, for half price. It's the same sort of allowance offered to McGraw-Hill for its $7 million warehouse project at Dubuque Industrial Center West, and other businesses at the park.

But is there a better use - a higher use - for the valuable riverfront land?

Before Dubuque voters shot the idea down at the polls, the land on which the proposed office complex would sit was pitched as the site of a minor league baseball park. At the time, supporters argued the entertainment venue would be a huge draw for the changing riverfront.

Buol said McGraw-Hill just brings a different mix to the port. The office building, he said, would create a "natural synergy" to the area.

As for the land discount, the mayor asserts the company's ongoing investment into the community's economy will more than make up for a half-million dollar discount.

"They pay excellent wages, they are making a $30 million-plus investment in the community and long term we will make up that (land) money over and over again just in wages and taxes," Buol said.

McGraw-Hill Higher Education certainly has added to the local tax roll. Last year, the textbook publisher paid nearly $260,000 in property taxes on its Kerper Boulevard property, according to the Dubuque County Treasurer's Office.

If the price tag for McGraw-Hill's office complex does approach $32 million, the company would be looking at a tax bill north of $1 million a year, based on basic estimates.

Of course, under the TIF agreement, those entities benefiting from McGraw-Hill's property taxes wouldn't see a dime until after the 10-year run of the TIF district.

What makes the Port of Dubuque so alluring to the growing McGraw-Hill Higher Education? Baum said company officials looked into land at the city's technology park.

But corporate spokesman Tom Stanton said the education unit preferred the centralized location of the port.

"It's close to conference facilities, hotels and other amenities that a growing business requires," Stanton said.

Baum said company officials told him McGraw-Hill employees preferred the port location and its urban setting.

"From a work force recruiting standpoint, it's very beneficial to them."

While the expansion project is capital intensive, the initial job-creation goals don't compare with other recently announced economic development plans.

Deere & Co., for instance, plans to create some 120 jobs, for a significantly smaller incentives package. Sedgwick Claims Management Services in February announced it would open a Dubuque office, initially creating 100 positions. The financial services giant sought and received about a half-million dollars in state incentives.

Buol asserts McGraw-Hill's plan is about more than 44 jobs; it's about keeping nearly 400 good-paying positions in Dubuque.

"They could locate in a lot of different places in Dubuque and outside," the mayor said. "And we are looking at a possible expansion there down the road."

McGraw-Hill Port Expansion Welcomed

Council Members Believe $32 Million Project is a Real Tribute to Dubuque

Rob Kundert

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 2, 2006

It's more than jobs.

There will be spin-off benefits to McGraw-Hill's plan for a $32 million office building in the Port of Dubuque, according to members of the Dubuque City Council.

"Nothing is going to ignite more retail activity down there than another 500 car doors slamming at 5 p.m.," said at-large member Ric Jones.

The council will vote on a package of incentives Monday night that includes a half-price buy on more than two acres of valuable Port of Dubuque property, tax increment financing and support for state financial assistance.

In exchange, the company will move from Kerper Boulevard to the new four-story, 140,000-square-foot building it will construct near Bell and Fifth streets.

The company pledges to add 24 new jobs to its 276 full-time positions and 20 more to its 113 permanent part-time positions.

"The building will actually be able to hold many more employees than will be retained or hired. There is plenty of room to expand," said Mayor Roy Buol. "It is a real investment on McGraw-Hill's part and a major commitment to Dubuque."

The company's track record draws the attention of council member Ann Michalski.

"This is a premium company," she said. "They pay good wages, have stable employment. They encourage their people to be involved in the city."

The spin-off of an active office building belonging to a major corporation will be felt by its Port of Dubuque neighbors.

"The company will bring in a lot of people from out of town and that will help serve a lot of those businesses in a good way," said council member Kevin Lynch.

Employees traveling to and from work also should boost development in the downtown, Michalski said.

The company's Burr Ridge, Ill., location was in the running for this project, according to a city staff memo.

"I am glad McGraw-Hill is going to stay in Dubuque and expand," said council member Karla Braig, with a nod to the heritage of the local operation which began as the William C. Brown Publishing Co.

The council will also review:

* a recommendation to hire First Transit, Inc., to provide a general manager to operate the Keyline Transit system.

* the second of three votes to allow Roger Kunde/North End Wrecking to rezone part of its property to expand his auto salvage operation off Peru Road.

* the third and final vote to allow hunting and target practice within the city limits on land zoned agricultural of no less than 10 acres. It would be limited to bow-and-arrow, air guns and shotguns (no slugs), by permit only.

A provision has been added to require the property owner to be present during target practice.

* a public hearing on the plans and specification on the demolition of the former Water Department and Stealth Racing buildings at the Fifth Street entrance into the Port of Dubuque. Newt Marine was the low bidder on the project, at $38,911.

McGraw-Hill Give Dubuque Its Affirmation

Office-Building Plan Represents a Change for Port of Dubuque


Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 3, 2006

McGraw-Hill's plans to spend more than $32 million to build a four-story office building in the Port of Dubuque area raised some eyebrows.

After all, for more than a decade now, when it came to Dubuque's riverfront, the mantra was "Tourism and Retail." Where a 160,000-square-foot office for a major textbook publisher fits into that plan is a head-scratcher.

However, there is still plenty of space in the Port of Dubuque for more retail and more tourism. And the presence of several hundred more workers in the area might add incentive for shops and other enterprises to join the neighborhood.

McGraw-Hill's decision is a huge affirmation for Dubuque as a community and a center for a quality work force.

Speaking of major projects, the Carnegie-Stout Public Library is looking at a major - as in more than $5 million - project to renovate its historic structure.

Without a doubt, the century-old structure is an architectural gem.

Without a doubt, the gem needs polishing.

Over the years, some of the building's better features have been covered or closed to public access. That should change.

It's noteworthy that library trustees plan to pursue this remodeling and renovation without asking the voters for a tax increase through a bond issue.

However it is raised, the money needs to be raised. The community has too precious an asset in Carnegie-Stout Library to let it deteriorate and be underutilized.

City Blazing an Economic Development Trail

McGraw-Hill is an Example of How City Officials Keep Job Growth Flowing


April 5, 2006

Eleven-hundred jobs.

That's the tally of new positions last year in the Dubuque County work force. Not counting seasonal employment, the county gained 1,100 jobs.

That doesn't happen by accident.

Every community is beating the economic development drum. Every rural town and urban dwelling wants to create more jobs. It takes more than hoping and wanting. Dubuque is accomplishing what other communities are struggling to do.


For one thing, it is being open to ideas like McGraw-Hill Higher Education's investment in the Port of Dubuque.

The focus on Dubuque's riverfront in the past few years has been tourism, entertainment and education. Businesses were moved out of the port to make room for the $188 million America's River project. Now we're moving business back in?

This is where city leaders have to look at the big picture and see the vision through. We may want the Port of Dubuque to blossom with retail shops, sidewalk cafes and coffee houses, but that's a tall order. The National River Museum & Aquarium has been up and running for nearly three years. The stampede to stake a claim in the port has not been forthcoming. It is time for the city to prime the pump.

That means jumping at the chance to bring in a large construction project, expanding an existing business and creating new jobs. The City Council understands that bringing the McGraw-Hill employees, 400 strong, into the port every day will help build momentum in an area that has seen a growth lull in the past couple of years. More people in the vicinity will increase traffic for the types of businesses the city is hoping to attract.

Economic development officials in Dubuque know the value of working with a premium company like McGraw-Hill to meet their expansion needs - even if that means tax breaks. There's the obvious: Adding 44 more jobs to the rolls. Then there are the less tangible but equally important benefits: Added traffic in the Port of Dubuque and sending a message to other businesses that expanding here is beneficial for companies as well as the community.

When it comes to job growth, Dubuque officials are piloting the city in the right direction.