11/7/2013 2:28:00 PM North Branch getting
industrial sites shovel-ready
by DENISE MARTIN
The state’s “shovel ready” program-- a special marketing tool for people involved in the industrial/commercial real estate sector-- should be highlighting a portion of North Branch’s ESSBY business park area soon. The city is in the midst of a process to have at least 10 acres certified into the state’s special shovel ready listing. The designation means site zoning presents no issues, the regulatory hoops have already been cleared, soils are okay and infrastructure is extended. The Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has sites listed in its shovel ready program inventory in Cambridge, Pine City and Isanti; so North Branch has competition in attracting development, financial director Richard Hill said. The City of North Branch is almost out of the woods on its ESSBY liabilities, as well, he added.
North Branch elected officials, about 10 years ago, were aggressively trying to spur job opportunities and economic activity in town. North Branch taxpayers were committed to future financial liabilities as the bill would come due for acquiring land and preparing redevelopment areas. The idea was that there’d be new business and industry in town, plus land sales proceeds and new tax base, that would make those efforts worthwhile and generate revenues. Then the real estate market debacle hit and the economic recession halted just about everything. In ESSBY just one business, Topline Automotive, set up shop and it is now defunct. Lakes Region EMS now in the North Branch industrial park east of #30, is in the midst of buying the Topline building. EMS Executive Director Aaron Reinert said the organization plans to be relocated into the Topline site in time for May 2014 EMS Week, and will announce details of a public event at that time. The only other structure in ESSBY is Chisago county’s HHS department satellite office. North Branch Financial Director Richard Hill said last week the city “plans to hit all targets” as it follows its plan to pay-off what it owes Chisago County, its partner in the ESSBY business/residential project. The principal owed by North Branch to the county is at $870,000.
North Branch has $175,000 budgeted for next year’s payment, and Hill says the goal is to “get the county out of the project” within a couple years. And, there’s recently been interest shown by developers in larger tracts of land, Hill added. He is hopeful he’ll be “releasing” ESSBY acres from the county-city portfolio soon. ***** According to the DEED Positively Minnesota website: the state of Minnesota was recently ranked 8th by Forbes in its analysis of “Best States for Business.” Forbes looks at factors like quality of life, labor supply and education level, costs to do business and the regulatory environment in doing its rankings. Wisconsin was number 41. South Dakota was 11 and Iowa was ranked 12th.