The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is writing off a more than $1 million loan the agency made to now-bankrupt Green Box in northeastern Wisconsin.
The waste-recycling company and its owner, De Pere businessman Ron Van Den Heuvel, have been plagued by scandal for years, culminating in Van Den Heuvel earning a three-year prison sentence in January for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, while an additional case is still ongoing.
Agency spokesman Mark Maley said WEDC officials are charging off the $1.1 million loan “because there is little likelihood of collection on this debt.” Still, he emphasized WEDC “has aggressively pursued all options to ensure repayment of this loan, including legal action.”
Dems seized on the news, using it to cast doubt on WEDC’s ability to enforce the terms of the state’s deal with Taiwanese tech company Foxconn.
“If your agency can’t enforce a $1 million loan, why should Wisconsin taxpayers trust you with a $4.5 billion giveaway to a foreign corporation with a bad track record?” state Dem Party Chair Martha Laning said in a statement. “While Scott Walker and WEDC have been playing it fast and loose with taxpayer money, the needs of hardworking Wisconsinites have been left behind.”
But Maley noted the agency has changed since it first approved the loan to Green Box, adding “WEDC has made numerous changes to strengthen our award approval process and compliance procedures” in the following years. And he said writing off the loan doesn’t prevent the agency from collecting on assets discovered during the legal process.
WEDC’s $1.1 million loan to Green Box came in the agency’s early days in 2011. The agency had failed to realize Van Den Heuvel’s loan application omitted information about prior business lawsuits. The loan was provided in exchange for a commitment to create more than 100 jobs by the end of 2014, and was later restructured after the company stopped making payments.
WEDC in 2012 also had awarded the company a nearly $96,000 grant for employee training. The agency later sued Green Box in federal court seeking repayment of the loan and the grant, though the case was dismissed in 2017.