May 8, 2009

SC Johnson's response

SC Johnson responded by email this evening to our stories about the company's Administration Building and Research Tower being tax exempt. Spokeswoman Kelly Semrau clarified some numbers and noted SC Johnson's new buildings will contribute $166,942 to Uptown's TIF district. Here's Semerau's response:
Thanks for contacting us. Governor Doyle did grant a State tax exemption for the Administration Building and the Tower. There is a state law which provides tax exemptions for architecturally significant historic buildings in Wisconsin. The tax exemption is estimated to be $40,000 for the Administration Building and the Tower. However, and very importantly, the new building that we are constructing will provide an estimated $166, 942 in incremental taxes for Racine.

Annually, more than 4,500 visitors from around the world visit our campus and these buildings to tour them and the amount of visitors is expected to grow with our new building. (Please note this number is just the people who take tours and not the people from companies who may call on SCJ for business purposes.) SCJ since the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings were constructed, have painstakingly kept these buildings in pristine condition which is a challenging job. The company spends more than $3.2 million each year for upkeep (new roof, new facades, etc.) This figure does not include maintenance which would be significantly more.

The upkeep on these buildings is done so that the public and our employees can enjoy the beauty and splendor of the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings as well as project a wonderful image of Racine to the world. It’s also important to note that the upkeep is contracted out to local businesses that in turn employ people in our community.

Where there may be confusion which is unfortunate, is that prior to SCJ applying for this state tax exemption, Mayor Becker had notified SCJ about his vision for the redevelopment of Uptown and his desire for a TIF to help fund the redevelopment. The state tax exemption and the city’s Uptown TIF are two separate issues with two separate governmental entities – for example the Mayor doesn't rule on a state tax exemption.

As a matter of fact, the incremental taxes for the new building of $166,942 will be assigned to the Uptown TIF for 14 years. And, Fisk, after hearing about the Mayor’s vision for the redevelopment of Uptown gave a donation of $500,000 from the company towards the Uptown redevelopment effort. This TIF donation is very consistent with our donations in many, many parts of this community.

I hope you can set the record straight.


  1. If I may no more BS from J Wax! Please take your DRC and go away

  2. Colt,

    I can't say I agree with everything the DRC tries, but I'm not convinced that the lack of their involvement in downtown (and Uptown in particular) would be a good thing for Racine. Some of these areas have the potential to turn into real dumps without some pressure -- and money -- from outside forces.

    I'm curious, what do you consider flawed with the DRC's efforts and what belongs in their place?

  3. Can SC Johnson get Federal/State/Local grants for their "Historic Buildings". If so how much would we be talking about?

  4. More BS from J-Wax

  5. Can she please comment on how little they pay for the large amount of water they use for their products??

    Does anyone at the water dept. have the stones to comment on this??

    Anyone from the city??


    Let the public know the truth.

    Yup, I didn't think so.

    The silence speaks volumes.

  6. I have no affiliation with any of the large companies in Racine, but you can bet life would be VERY, VERY different here without their: jobs, involvement and continued generosity. Certainly we'd love to have additional industries here again, but in the meantime, it's probably unwise to antagonize the remaining ones.

  7. More BS envy from Racine's finest residents. The R&D tower is not and cannot be used for anything due to modern day regs and codes on fire protection. It's empty! These two building are world renown. That means no other city has anything like them. The Main building is only being used because it is an icon not because of its energy efficiency. It would be cheaper to level the Wright buildings and build something new than to continually maintain these historic jewels. Wouldn't that be nice.

    Some of you people including Dustin "the Flaming Liberal Gossip" Block need to understand that without these employers, Racine is sunk. Dustin is just trying to stir the pot to keep us reading his online rag and I must admit, it works. Thanks Dustin. How's that new career working out for you since the JT dumped your ass?

    For the life of me why do some of you people take issue with a local company that is successful globally? They didn't give themselves the exemption.

    To the owners of this online gossip column. Why don't you show your readers how much in local property taxes all Johnson enterprises pay like the Shoop Building, Bug Farm, Waxdale, Main Place, personal property, etc.? I would bet it is in the millions.

    Jwax gives far more than they take from this community. Heck, if they weren't locally owned the LOCAL owners would surely move to a state that doesn't have such high personal income taxes as Wisconsin's

    BTW, I am not a Jwax employee but smart enough to know of the unfreakinbeleiveable economic impact that company has on our town. Grow-up and show some respect. You too Dustin.

  8. JT Article on the Research TowerI remember reading that article. Could/would they open the tower for public tours?

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. J-Wax hasn't done sh*t for me pal. Last I checked, I paid my bills without their help for the last 50 years. You may not be an employee, but rest assured your mommy or daddy or grandpappy or spouse is. Get a life and the silver spoon out of your mouth. Who do you think your crappin'? The city would be a lot less arrogant if they left.

  11. To remain silent on this issue is doing a disservice to all of the residents in our community that don't suckle the Johnson Family teat.

    Speaking as a property owning business owner and taxpayer in our community I do not believe this is fair, nor right by any stretch of imagination.

    Does Governor Doyle's proclamation allow anyone who lives in a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home to the same exemption?

    Would the people who live in homes tied to the underground railroad be afforded the same opportunities?

    How about the citizens of West Racine, that live in Rubberville homes built during Cooper's hey day?

    We all have a duty to speak out when it comes to the injustices of sweetheart deals that benefit the few at such significant costs to the many.

    Our community is in desperate need of stewardship, not grandiose entitlements.

    I commend Dustin and Pete for their efforts, and wish to thank them for bringing this to our communitys' collective attention. Perhaps if they're able they could teach a class on journalism to those paid to do it professionally. It would seem that these two gossip columnists certainly have a better grasp of the tasks required than those receiving financial compensation for it.

  12. It was stated in the first paragraph above:

    "Spokeswoman Kelly Semerau clarified some numbers and noted SC Johnson's new buildings will contribute $166,942 to Uptown's TIF district."

    People, TIF stands for Tax incremental financing. It means the City will borrow money during the life of the TIF and THEN will reap the rewards of $166,942. A question to ask is how long until the Uptown's TIF district ends. 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? That is the purpose of a TIF. To defer tax income from the development until the end of the TIF hoping that in the end there will be more tax revenue had the TIF not existed.

    The JWax spokeswoman tried to make it look like it was going to pay this upfront. TIF's just do not work that way. Dang, another attempt to mess with us.

    Another aspect of TIF's that has been grossly neglected. Part of State Law states that any TIF must pass a "But for" test. That but for the creation of this Tax incremental finance district, the development projected to occur as detailed in the project plan:

    1) Would not occur; or 2) would not occur in the manner, at the values, or within the time frame desired.

    In creating the TIF this had to have been proved otherwise the TIF would not exist.

    So, is Jwax funding the borrowed money? Whether it did or not it is simply in Jwax's best interest and pushes out to the end of the TIF any revenue income for the City. And if for any reason the District doesn't work out, who do you think ends up holding the bag? The taxpayer!

    Manipulating the finances in this way really makes it difficult, if not impossible for the taxpayer to truly understand what is going on. We need things to be more transparent so people can even detect ethical or other wrong doing. However, municipalities all over the state are taking advantage of this State law.

    For some light reading on TIF's go to the following links:


    See what I mean about transparency?

  13. I will agree with one of the posters that Dustin does what he needs to to stir the pot.

    He tries to create controversy where none exists. Not just with this subject, but many others. It's also very obvious by reading his articles what side of the issue he is on. A true reporter would not show his true feelings on a topic but rather give the facts and let the reader decide.

    And what is his relationship with the fallen-from-grace former city administrator Ben Hughes?

  14. I'm curious, what do you consider flawed with the DRC's efforts and what belongs in their place?
    Lack of public input
    Lack of info to the public
    The Beer Tent and how they stuck it to the membership even after most of them wanted nothing to do with it
    The lack of trying to find minority business
    The Way the Red Shirts (should really change the color to black) treats young blacks/Hispanic kids doing nothing wrong
    how they claim ideas that others have come up with.
    How the manage TIF #1
    How 6th st is treated.

    Just a few

    A group of rats could run Downtown better and have more character.
    Again in IMHO

    I also see that J-Wax PR folks are posting gotta earn your pay I think Racine is on to you.

  15. Thomas Doolittle5/09/2009 7:26 AM

    I commend Pete and Dustin for this story. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. That is how Johnson's has always done business. Knowledgable sources have told me that potential new businesses to the area, after hitting roadblock after roadblock, decided they no longer wanted to settle in this area. The roadblocks were put up by Johnson's. While Johnson's has given to the community, it has always been at a price to the rest of us. Open your eyes people. It's about time our community puts Johnson's in their place. This isn't their city, it's ours.

  16. Anon 11:17 -

    "As a matter of fact, the incremental taxes for the new building of $166,942 will be assigned to the Uptown TIF for 14 years"

    That is $166,942 per year, or roughly $2.4M. In addition, that revenue goes over to the regular tax rolls when the TIF expires.

    SCJ does A LOT for this community. This looks like an example of more that they do. They could have built project honor in Caledonia or Mt. Pleasant next to the I to save money on taxes and have better access. Instead, they built it in the city to help out and bring people to town.

  17. Michael Kroes5/09/2009 8:39 AM

    Thomas Doolittle, have your knowledgeable sources offered any guesses as to why SCJ would put up roadblock after roadblock? It seems odd that a company would stand in the way of expanding the industrial/service base of an area that has seen an exodus/closing of several companies over the years. Can you cite the names of some of the companies that have been subjected to the roadblocks you mention? Were these companies direct competitors of SCJ? (I'm not saying that would be a valid reason to keep them from setting up shop in Racine) Thank you.

  18. Why do all the people I know who work at SCJ live in Caledonia or Franksville. Why don't your employees live near "Towerview". We have enough bulldozed grassy areas, like a moat all around the SCJ castle. They must have some security guards, janitors or low level employees that the neighborhood would be suitable for. Besides walking to work would be so good for the Environment and no train needed.

  19. Thanks Dustin and the post. It takes balls to run a story no one else would touch. Why shouldn't we talk about what some people are thinking? SCJ should be happy they have an opportunity to hear it and can respond. Racine never a dull moment.

  20. I think that J-Wax does not want to compete for the labor that comes from the temp pools. I fully belive that J-Wax would have proxies put up road blocks. I belive from talking with former J-T workers that each day the paper would be sent to Johnson Wax before being printed for an O.K.
    This is not Wisconsin this in West Virgina and we are in a one company town

  21. An Outraged, Over-Taxed, Tax Payer5/09/2009 10:03 AM

    Is Dickert going to investigate these claims?

    Is J.B. Vanhollen going to investigate these claims?

    How does the average taxpayer go about filing a complaint for someone to investigate this?

    I am sick of the under-handed crooked political BS that has ruined this city over the years.

    Dustin; do not let this story die, the taxpayers (including you) deserve justice in this case.

    Keep this as your top story until questions are answered; and not the BS corporate answers that J-Wax has provided you.

    Thank you

  22. What would this town be without SC Johnson? Think about it and be grateful for what we have. ... and for the many ways we have benefitted from the company and its contributions to the community. If nothing else, think JOBS.

  23. I wish Johnson's would get the hell out of Racine. Let's see if some other community would want them and all their baggage. Very few of their employees even live in Wisconsin! They hardly have any employees - mostly temps.

    Now we all get to pay more for water after Johnson's had that new pump put in and then pulled their factory. We are all left paying for that now!!

  24. No matter what the naysayers say Dustin and Pete, keep up the good work. I may not always agree with all of your articles but I do respect the what you both do. You put your stuff out there for the people to at least read about it. Pros and cons! The JT would never, ever print an article like many people to be beholden to. The JT needs to find out why they are a newspaper because the articles in it can not hold a candle to the many good and bad ones in the Racinepost. Please do not quit Dustin and Pete...this area needs you, Caledonia Unplugged and the Mount Pleasant Citizen to get the information out to the residents whether it is good or bad..there is not harm in knowing.

  25. So we have 20 or so disgruntled citizens out of 80,000 or so. Whine on, pissants.

  26. Thanks Dustin and Pete

    At a minimum this looked suspicious, so you reported it and then Johnson's got an opportunity to reply.

    I don't see what is wrong with that.

    Now, that company may not be perfect but you can't deny some of the benefit they bring to the community. People that said they want them to leave or that Racine would be better off are crazy.

    I remember what downtown looked like 10 years ago and it wasn't pretty. What I noticed since they put their building up was a marked improvement. They don't get all the credit but sometimes all you need is that catalyst to get things moving.

  27. Why are people demanding an investigation of something that is perfectly legal? Are we listening to the rantings of a few Jody voters and out of towners?

  28. 5:49
    I would like to thank J-Wax for IMHO:
    Giving us RUSD the way it has turned out
    The City Adim
    The City Grant Writer
    The Uptown Art Project
    Sweetheart City deals
    Oh joy Oh happiness

  29. Colt

    RUSD is J-Wax fault? Huh?

    Listen, I'm sure a company of this size and stature gets away with some stuff. That's business. If you look at the bigger picture though, I think they end up contributing overall.

    I just don't see Racine as a better place without all of the jobs and community involvement they have. Aren't they also listed as one of the top places in the United States to work for? This company is far from being all bad and ruining this town.

  30. Not to mention that J-Wax handpicks most of the RUSD school board members. What a highly intelligent group that is!

  31. Colt should be forever banned from commenting on all things Racine. He is a few bricks short of a load.

  32. Yes and I thought that India was a bit hash on Union Carbide after all look at the jobs they brought!

    Oh and 5:35 just for you check out something called Storm Racine soon to be Web TV show too. Go Colt Go!

  33. Instead of bashing SC Johnson Racinians should be grateful for their presence. Otherwise, Racine would be the midwestern version of Appalacia.

  34. But we are the Midwestern version of Appalachia,in large part due to J Wax I believe.

  35. You have to admit they employ some arrogant people! (I'm not talking about the temps.)

  36. Free Water Must Be Wonderful5/10/2009 9:38 PM

    I don't think J-Wax hires arrogant people, but I think they truly become arrogant because of being so spoiled and coddled by J-Wax over the years.

    Instead of turning arrogant, they should be appreciative and humble for the opportunity to work for J-Wax and be more compassionate for others who are not so lucky.

    They don't live in the "real-world" so to speak.

    The only people who defend J-Wax in here are the employees or relatives of employees.

    You know it's true, regardless of what they claim.

  37. Energizer to buy SC Johnson shaving cream business

  38. SCJ is also trying to screw us with paying for the KRM. I don't want my tax dollars to go to an inexpensive choo choo so their executives can all live in Lake County IL. They really dislike Racine but at least for now they are stuck with it.

  39. What in the hell is wrong with a lot of people blogging today. I think that Johnson's does a lot for Racine. More than people know. They are also working hard not to lay people off like other companies.And no I don't work for them. I do find it interesting that they got a tax exempt status for those buildings. There has to be a good reason why I just don't understand it. Also, as it goes for the DRC. I think that they do a wonderful job with the downtown. They have wonderful community events that wouldn't be possible without them. Thank you for the music in the summer! I am really getting tired of people complaining about be over taxed. I really don't think that our taxes are all that bad for what we get. Education, police, fire, garbage collection, parks, etc.. At least we can write off our property taxes. In some states they may pay less in taxes but their fees for everything else is outrageous.

  40. DRC does a wonderful job downtown?
    While the rest of the city has, or is turning into a slum?
    Where is the long term value in that??????
    Oh for the out of towners?

  41. Anon 1:26 They keep from laying off, by rarely if ever hiring full time employees and over using the temp services. How many jobs will go away with the sale of the edge line? Depends if you consider, the temps not being asked to return a job loss?

  42. Education? Some of the poorest schools in SE WI.
    Police? Look at all the crime in the area.
    Sounds like anon 1:26 is part of the government one way or another, taxes are not too high?
    Lost all your credibility with that post!
    Our president thinks, or says taxes are too high but you beg to differ?

  43. 1:26 - Is one of those rich SCJ F*cks that are under-worked & overpaid and doesn't have to worry about making ends meet. It's quite obvious.

  44. I wonder how this all ties into the article in the JT recently with SCJ sueing its former state tax manager (property taxes - wouldn't that fall under state taxes). If I recall the JT article, the former employee claimed that the company was trying to silence him for his knowledge of criminal fraud. I think this is just the start of this story and we are going to hear alot more about SCJ and their methods of doing business.

    Again, If I recall, the JT article quoted the former employee as saying that SCJ likes to project the image of a family company with the morals and ethics consistent with family values. If I understand how the property tax works, a tax exemption provided to one person means everyone else pays more. Can someone explain the family value behind a very profitable company requiring those of us living in Racine on the poverty level to pay more taxes so the Johnson's can get an exemption? IT seems to be welfare to the wealthy family company. No wonder they are wealthy.

    I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. Property taxes are public records and if one looks back over the history you will see the Johnson fought Mt. Pleasant to reduce its taxes on Waxdale and it fought Caledonia to reduce its taxes on its personal luxury resort (JMBA).

    Yup - thats a family company it just doesn't seem to have the family values.

  45. Was that $500,000 a bride to the child molster Becker to get him to go along with was Johnson was trying to do?

  46. 1:26 I think that others had to pay for your music if I recall right the DRC said it had no money to keep it going.

  47. Generally they say, 'follow the money', but in this case it's follow KRM!

  48. You cannot have it both ways. Either SCJ does have influence or it doesn't. You cannot take credit for RUSD but then not. We all know that the board members are hand picked. They are most of them worthless. Is it any wonder 30 or so pissants are on here posting? Let your execs ride the Coach bus or the Amtrak. I will keep my car, bike and good walking shoes. It is utter BS that without SCJ we would be nothing. Racine is a prime location. We just have the SCJ mafia at city hall making it hard on the small businesses.

  49. The good news is that SCJ will continue to make the edge here for a while??? Now what is the upside of selling a line but still manufacturing it you may ask? You can continue to have temps do all the work and continue to line your pockets. With the few actual employees in that area relocated to areas left short by attrition. Win Win for SCJ.

  50. FACT - If the City of Racine give a property tax exemption to SC Johnson - Then everyone else in Racine County (YES COUNTY) will pay more property tax. This is even more the case in the City of Racine. So a home owner in the City of Racine pays more property tax so SC Johnson can escape paying taxes on its property. At what point in time does the Johnson family finally have enough money and they can stop stealing from the workers of the City. Look at the sweet heart deal the city of Racine gave Johnson for the Building in Downtown. Gave Johnson prime real estate for free.

  51. Wow! Your opinions are very interesting--even enlightening. However, those who can't express themselves without employing expletives devalue their opinions. If I was the site administrator, I'd have removed more than one blog.Some others may want to try proofreading before pressing Enter. It's believe--not belive.I'm not defending SCJohnson, but you can't lay all the city's woes at their doorstep. Some places are slums because that's the way people choose to live. There's a lot of slobs that trash neighborhoods just for fun.RUSD is in deplorable shape, but they also face an uphill battle with teen pregnancy, truancy, gangs and drug use. Loss of family values affects all of society.

  52. You whiners are just lucky that SCJ does not up and move out of Racine. I'm not necessarily pro SCJ, but I'm all for supporting local companies and taking actions to entice them to stay in the city.

  53. Hmmm everyone here seems to miss the bigger picture. Your are worried that SCJ is getting a tax break and yours might go up. Where is the anger towards city and state government that makes living in Wisconsin and Racine a virtual tax hell.
    What do we get in return for all of this tax revenue generated. I know there are plenty of services I use and am happy to have such as sewer, water, police, fire, waste removal etc. The vast majority of property tax goes to our school system which "feel free to disagree" sucks. Please don't tell me they are underfunded we have been throwing money at them for years and with no improvements.

    SCJ has helped fund so many things in this city and to hear people whine about some tax breaks on an over taxed company "like all businesses are are" is just galling. While most companies hold corporate giving below 2 percent, SCJ has kept theirs at 5 percent, I would say giving generously wouldn't you. I realize some things are for their own good but they are also for the good of this community and others they interact with. I would say every person here has unknowingly benefited from their presence.

    The list is vast and I don't have time to research them all but here is some that I know they helped out on Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin Fresh Start Program, 21st Prep School, Cornell University, Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthplace Museum, The Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian, The Prairie School, Downtown Racine Corporation, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Racine Heritage Museum, Root-Pike Watershed
    Initiative Network, Opportunities Industrialization Center of Racine County, NGN Daycare, TechStar, Mayo Clinic Samuel C. Johnson Genomics of Addiction Program, Sustainable Racine, EAA’s Young Eagles program, United Way of Racine County

    You nay-saying fools.

  54. I left SCJ and Racine about 8 months ago and never looked back. I don't miss the "family company" propaganda and the politically correct culture AT ALL. I'm sure it works for most of my former colleagues but I finally had to come to terms with the fact that being an SCJ employee was just inconsistent with my value system. As for the tax breaks...that's just good business and I don't have an issue with that. I find the propaganda machine at SCJ to be much more objectionable. It's all about image with very little substance to back it up.

    That said, I wish all of my former Racine neighbors and my former SCJ colleagues well.