Public Finance Authority: 10 Years Fostering Economic Development & Public Benefits

By Allen Buechel

Many of you know me as the County Executive for Fond du Lac County, but I also serve on the board of an organization that has made our state a nationwide pioneer in economic development projects that have a positive impact across the nation, and Wisconsin.

Over 10 years ago, the Wisconsin Legislature authorized the creation of the Public Finance Authority by local governments, for local governments, to provide a means to efficiently and reliably finance projects on behalf of local governments in Wisconsin and throughout the country.

This was an innovation Wisconsin should be proud to have pioneered — an option that makes private-market, low-cost, tax-exempt financing available for local government and eligible private entity projects without any risk to the taxpayer or use of tax dollars for PFA’s operations. In the last 10 years, PFA has helped finance billions of dollars of public benefit projects across the country resulting in job creation, affordable housing, and infrastructure investment. The Public Finance Authority has worked to enable financing of a wide range of nonprofit and community-based projects from healthcare to education to community service organizations.

PFA’s contributions to the social and economic growth of our local communities has been impressive including a project in Green Bay for the Hotel Northland that residents of Fond du Lac County may have visited over its storied history. Here are just three examples demonstrating the public benefits that PFA’s financing provides to local communities across the country:

  • PFA’s financing assistance provided affordable access to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to fund energy efficiency improvements at the Hotel Northland in Green Bay. These energy efficiency improvements generate significant “green energy” cost savings to the Hotel Northland, which was first opened in 1924, once “served as the headquarters of the Packers,” and has been “the crown jewel of the city,” according to the historic hotel’s website. The energy efficiency improvements, cost savings, and other recent renovations will help this historic Green Bay hotel succeed for many years.
  • PFA’s assistance was requested by Life Link III in order to purchase six medical use helicopters and Life Link III has indicated that this financing would “[provide] new, state of the art medical helicopters to service communities in the State of Minnesota and the State of Wisconsin.” Created in 1985, the nonprofit Life Link III was “one of the first nonprofit consortiums in the country to transport critically ill patients by helicopter,” as noted by the organization’s website. Today, the organization has bases in Marshfield and Rice Lake, Wisconsin and seven locations in Minnesota that “cost-effectively share an air medical transport service.”
  • The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) requested PFA’s financing assistance in order to “…allow ICOM to fulfill its mission of providing a critically needed solution to acute physician shortages in Idaho.” ICOM is “Idaho’s first medical school” and ICOM is “dedicated to training high-quality osteopathic physicians prepared to care for people in the Mountain West region and beyond with an emphasis on rural, underserved areas.” This school is training the physicians of tomorrow.

Right here in Wisconsin, PFA has financed projects that have enabled expansion of businesses founded in Wisconsin. In addition, PFA has helped renovate buildings that play a critical role in the community. Finally, PFA coordinated the efforts of several local units of government to help expand a thriving electric cooperative and ensure access to electric power for rural communities. While PFA was pioneered in Wisconsin, its reach has spanned 44 states in the last 10 years. PFA looks forward to continuing to provide local governments with the tools necessary to create economic vitality through projects which provide public benefits without any risk to the taxpayer.

Allen Buechel is the County Executive for Fond du Lac County and serves as Secretary and Board Member of the Public Finance Authority’s Board of Directors. In 2021 the Public Finance Authority will celebrate over 10 years assisting in financing public benefit projects that provide local economic development, create jobs, produce state and local tax base, and meet needs of eligible borrowers state or local issuing authorities may not be able to serve.

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