Ross was asked to give an update to the Northfield Chamber of Commerce board regarding the status of the Comprehensive Plan revision process. The Chamber, as you might expect, seemed most concerned with the Economic Development and Transportation chapters of the Comp Plan. Since I was fresh off the previous day’s meeting with the Land Development Code advisory group, I offered to tag along and report on that as well.
As an EDA member during the process, I was able to watch TIP Strategies in action, and they did an excellent job of viewing our economic development situation in both a regional and global context. I believe their recommendations are solid. From the Plan:
Because of the city’s interest in preserving its character and the competitive environment in the region (see box, page 14), we recommend that a site of not more than 120 acres be considered. Large-scale developments, such as the mixed use project planned along I–35 in Rice County, would not be in Northfield’s interest for a number of reasons. First, a project of this size would likely fall largely outside the city limits (due to land constraints). In such a case, Northfield would realize little of the direct fiscal benefit, but would still experience negative impacts associated with major developments. These impacts include traffic congestion, as well as increased pressure on the local labor force and housing supply.
The box referenced in the previous paragraph reads,
The competitive environment
• Minneapolis/St. Paul. Like much of the US, the Twin Cities have experienced significant declines in manufacturing in recent years. While the outlook is improving, the region’s more than 19 million square feet of vacant industrial space (Grubb & Ellis 3Q2005) suggest that a significant number of industrial jobs could be accommodated in the metropolitan area before Twin Cities firms would need to look elsewhere.
• Existing projects. City-owned industrial property in communities like Farmington, Cambridge, Monticello are just a few of those that would compete with Northfield. Cheaper land (as little as $1/SF for “qualified businesses” is being touted by Monticello) may provide these developments with a cost advantage.
• Planned projects. Rice County’s plans to rezone a major mixed use commercial/industrial complex on Interstate 35 paints an entirely new picture for the area. Any Northfield project must be undertaken with a complete understanding of the nature of this
development and its target market to avoid competing head-to-head.
These caveats do not mean Northfield should not consider an industrial development. Rather, they present the case for developing a product that is targeted to a specific opportunity (such as health sciences) or that is not currently available in the market. (emphasis mine)
If the Chamber is recommending a different approach, I’d be interested in learning why, and I’d also like to be sure that the City/EDA and the Chamber can continue working together on mutual goals, rather than having this turn into yet another schism.