City paves the way for new business downtownAn engineering company is hoping to move into downtown Cloquet as soon as possible, Cloquet City Councilors learned Tuesday.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
An engineering company is hoping to move into downtown Cloquet as soon as possible, Cloquet City Councilors learned Tuesday.
The company, SpecSys, is a contract manufacturing company that does both engineering and design, then manufactures what it designs, be it farm machinery, industrial tools, etc. According to the city staff report on SpecSys, the company wants to locate five engineering and/or design jobs here immediately, with a goal of creating 10 well-paid design and engineering jobs here within two years. Manufacturing would take place at one of the company’s locations in southern Minnesota.
Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said the workforce in this area is an attraction for companies looking for educated, skilled employees.
“You know, 20 years ago 11 percent of the population had college degrees,” he said during the council work session Tuesday. “Now that figure [nationally] is up to about 17 percent. In this area, we’re between 44 and 46 percent. We have a great workforce. We need to build on that.”
The downtown building in question is the Royal Building, located at 1111 Cloquet Ave., currently home to Curves For Women fitness center and a small Ttek Assemblies, Inc. office. The city of Cloquet owns the building, having purchased it in 2010 to help facilitate the construction of the Carlton County Community Services Building and because city officials had identified the building as blighted.
In March, city councilors had approved a lease renegotiation with Curves, giving them three months free rent. The Cloquet EDA also voted to allocate $30,000 in re-establishment funds for Curves around the same time, as incentive for the business to move. At that time, it was unknown if the Royal Building would be torn down – as requested by Carlton County management staff because they felt it was an eyesore – or redeveloped, as SpecSys plans to do.
City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said Curves is moving at the end of this month to 1604 Cloquet Ave., a site most recently occupied by Mediacom, which has moved its offices to Pine Tree Plaza. Ttek will likely remain in its current location, Fritsinger said, noting that their lease is not up and SpecSys does not need the Ttek office space at this time.
During the formal meeting Tuesday, councilors and Ahlgren unanimously approved a building access agreement between the city and SpecSys property management branch, CMW Industrial Properties, LLC. The agreement will allow SpecSys to begin interior renovations – including repairing electrical wiring to establish proper phone, internet and computer connections – on the Royal Building to make it ready for staff.
City officials have been courting SpecSys owner Kevin Wald for some time. SpecSys also recently purchased land and buildings in New Ulm, Minn., and has existing sites in the Minnesota cities of Benson, Montevideo and Granite Falls. Current SpecSys employee numbers total 200.
As part of the incentive package to get the company and its high paying jobs ($45,000 to $70,000 plus benefits) to locate in Cloquet, the city is proposing to lease the Royal Building to SpecSys with an option to buy, plus offer two low-interest business loans, improve the parking lot and utilize commercial Small Cities Development Program grant funding to rehabilitate the exterior of the building.
“In other communities, he’s taken old buildings in downtown areas and rehabilitated them, so this kind of fits with his philosophy,” Fritsinger said.
The Cloquet Economic Development Agency and the Council will hold a joint business subsidy hearing on June 19 to decide whether the project is approved or not. Should they not approve the project, the city could be on the hook for up to $20,000 in remodeling costs incurred by SpecSys, according to the building access agreement.
In other business Tuesday, council members and the mayor approved the following:
+ Use of city parks for July 4th activities as well as street closures for the 11 a.m. parade;
+ An application for the annual July 4th fireworks from Pyrotechnic Display. The fireworks will be held along the St. Louis River as usual;
+ Painting a two-million-gallon steel ground storage reservoir located in West Duluth, which is part of the Lake Superior Waterline system but is owned by the city of Cloquet. The paint has been deteriorating so the city is having the floor sandblasted and repainted to prevent more severe corrosion. Estimated cost is $77,000 with the bid going to TMI Coatings.
+ Purchase of a new wide-format color plotter/copier/scanner to replace the city engineering department’s 18-year-old machine, which lacks adequate memory and is not compatible with modern software. Prices for replacement range from $11,280 to $20,100. Staff recommended purchase of the cheapest plotter.