County Commissioners heard last week from county HRA/EDA Director Nancy Hoffman that nearly 390,000 square feet of new commercial, industrial and health services construction happened in the county in 2013. She ticked off a list of additions to existing enterprises like the Polaris Technical Center expansion, the 15,000 square feet added to Plastech in Rush City; as well as new incoming sites like the Chevrolet dealership in North Branch, Davita Dialysis Clinic under construction in Wyoming, Lindstrom’s new St. Croix Medical Center, Kwik Trip in Chisago City, and more.
Hoffman’s annual update on the county economy included her observations that Chisago County employment is “almost back to where it was in 2005-2006” and there’s a few projects to improve employment opportunities in development as well. There have also been 68 new home building permits issued throughout the county for 2013, according to a summary from the zoning department contained in the Board’s meeting packet. Commissioner George McMahon remarked that the two (housing and local job availability) are intertwined.
Half of all the new home permits have been for lots within Chisago City, he noted. Also on this subject of attracting economic activity, Hoffman reminded the Board of the return to Highway 61 marketing effort taking place among counties all along the historic route. Special signage has been installed and the highway is being promoted for its off-the-interstate appeal. The “Highway 61 Film Festival” happens October 4, 5 and 6 in Pine City. The first night there’s a special screening of Cathy Wurzer’s “Tales of the Road” at the Pine Technical College campus auditorium.
County commissioners are being specially invited to the third annual film festival. Details for the public can be found at www.highway61filmfestival.org. Hoffman reported that the county HRA/EDA assisted Lindstrom and towns along Highway 8 in trying to address cash flow concerns of business owners affected by detours and closures. Hoffman reported that only one Lindstrom business took advantage of an assistance program, and one loan was made to a Taylors Falls businessperson. The county HRA/EDA annual budget has decreased each of the last three years and is proposed at about $500,000 for 2014, another slight decrease, Hoffman said. “We are trying to keep costs down,” she promised. The county HRA/EDA offices are in North Branch and also house a regional Small Business Development Center.