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May 2010

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From Site Selection magazine, May 2010

Ready for Shovel Ready

Six Minnesota communities join state’s new shovel-ready program.


innesota unveiled its Shovel-Ready Certified Development Site Program last fall, and it's already proving to be a popular tool for businesses that want to locate and grow in the state.

Three Minnesota cities have sites that already have been certified as shovel ready and three more are expected to get on board shortly.

The program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and site location consultant Moran, Stahl & Boyer, sets high standards for providing general site information and for documenting ownership status, soil tests and site assessments, utility services and transportation.

Minnesota officials call it a blue ribbon program that takes the time, cost, unpredictability and risk out of the business location process.

"We think it's one of the best in the country because we went beyond what other states have already done," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy. "If a company would choose one of these sites, they could begin construction in 60 days or less."

Three cities joined the program last fall.

Brainerd, located in the central Minnesota lakes region, has 34 acres available in an industrial park that boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure, low costs and rapid permitting. City officials say they can process a sale and permitting requests in a month.

Rosemount, located in the southeastern suburbs of the Twin Cities, is partnering with developer Ryan Companies US Inc. of Minneapolis on a 52-acre site containing build-to-suit opportunities for light industrial, office showroom, warehousing and assembly.

Dayton, in the northwestern Twin Cities suburbs, is ideal for companies looking for a large tract of land. The site includes 628 acres with great interstate access for commercial and manufacturing businesses.

Three other cities are expected to be certified this spring:

Alexandria, located in western Minnesota, has several sites zoned for light industry in the city's Heritage Business Park, which has excellent truck/transport accessibility along with a fiber-optic network to meet business communication and transportation needs.

Cambridge, about 45 miles north of downtown Minneapolis, is developing the Cambridge Opportunity Industrial Park on a 107-acre site, primarily for light manufacturing.

Big Lake offers companies great transportation access, centrally located between the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the St. Cloud Regional Airport. The community offers employers a stop on the Northstar commuter rail line that connects to downtown Minneapolis.

Of course, the shovel-ready program is just one of many reasons that Minnesota is a good choice for site selectors and corporate real estate leaders.

The state has an outstanding business climate, including five micropolitan areas — shovel-ready sites Brainerd and Alexandria being two of them — that were ranked among the top in the country for new or expanded facilities in 2007. Minnesota has 21 Fortune 500 companies — more per capita than any state — and some of the country's largest private companies, including Cargill Inc. MarketWatch rated the Twin Cities as the fourth best metropolitan area in the country for business in 2009.

One of the advantages of placing a business in Minnesota is its central location. The state is positioned in the middle of North America, only a three-hour flight to either coast. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the 15th largest on the continent, serving 32 million passengers last year with nonstop service to 148 markets. The Port of Duluth on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota is the largest inland seaport in the country. The state's central location also provides for a low risk of extreme weather and natural disasters.

Minnesota also boasts lower operational costs, including competitive wage rates, no personal property tax, single sales factor (fully implemented in 2014), no sales tax on utilities, and electric and natural gas rates that are well below the national average. In fact, Minnesota's total business taxes are lower than those in 40 other states based on the ratio of taxes to total business profits, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

For more information on Minnesota and its shovel-ready program, contact the Minnesota Office of Business Development at 651-259-7436, toll free 1-800-657-3858.

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