Whither SpeechGear and the promise of jobs?

SpeechGear In 2005, SpeechGear moved from downtown Northfield into the old Montessori school building on Hwy 19 (across from Malt-O-Meal) under the state’s Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) program, promising to create up to 35 jobs in exchange for tax breaks.  There’s now a ‘building available’ sign in front. Things still sounded rosy in this March Nfld News article, 2009: Funding for SpeechGear held up by government. Anyone know what’s happening?


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve emailed SpeechGear president Robert Palmquist, asking for an update.

    Some background: Growth and Justice, July 2008, Getting it done? JOBZ draws mixed reaction.

    SpeechGear President Robert Palmquist, who signed the agreement with the city, said the job creation projections were overstated by a former employee. How the company’s failure to live up to the agreement plays out isn’t yet known. Palmquist, an ardent supporter of the program who this week endorsed JOBZ to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said he wants to remain a participant. “If we don’t, we leave,” he said. And though he’s willing to be flexible in renegotiating or revising the agreement, he wouldn’t be specific about his ability to bend.

    The city, too, isn’t sure how to handle its agreement SpeechGear. City officials said they are waiting on recommendations from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, which administers the program. Among the options: Non-compliant companies can be removed from the program and forced to repay incentives.

    In two years, according to the Rice County auditor’s office, SpeechGear has received nearly $20,000 in tax breaks, just by being enrolled in JOBZ.

    May 15, 2009
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    The most recent SpeechGear-related info I could find on the City of Northfield’s site was this in the Aug 2008 EDA minutes:

    Nash gave a summary of the Speech Gear JOBZ status. She indicated that Speech Gear did supply a letter to the City the day before asking DEED for an extension to December 31, 2008, for compliance. She indicated that the Mayor also signed a letter to DEED supporting Speech Gear’s request for an extension. It was noted that DEED is still in the process of formulating their program guidelines and hope to have this done soon.

    May 15, 2009
  3. Charlene Coulombe-Fiore said:

    Just as an FYI, Speech Gear only needed 5 jobs to qualify for the JOBZ incentive. Previous staff mentioned in this article, (comments/minutes) is not me. I simply brought (the errors) to everyone’s attention and tried to fix a mess that was created by a series of other people. NOT DEEDS Fault. Not Clients Fault either. Just as a side bar before anyone starts pointing fingers or whispering in the wind.

    May 16, 2009
  4. Charlene Coulombe-Fiore said:

    I hope also people talk about the jobs SpeechGear created, the investments they made in the community and the awards they received. Technology based firms is what Northfield wanted. They should assist and support their businesses and get them through the red tape and not make it harder.No finger pointing here…just help them stay in Northfield.
    If the building is up for sale, then (IMHO)there may be a few reasons, (one) the building cannot support 35 people to begin with and (two)they have struggled finding and keeping labor and three, without JOBZ, they will leave. The very reason JOBZ is provided.
    It is very important the EDA step forward and help the businesses that are here already, before giving money to new firms, as they may end up in the same situation. I say this because I care and always have about Northfield and any community I have ever served. I also provided a detailed list of the many ways this issue could be fixed. Mr. Palmquist is very approachable and a life long resident of Northfield.

    May 16, 2009
  5. Charlene Coulombe-Fiore said:

    what happened to my posts Griff?

    May 17, 2009
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Charlene, your comments were held because you inadvertently changed your name to ‘Charlene F’ instead of the one that the system knows you by, ‘Charlene Coulombe- F’. Spam prevention!

    All three held comments are now posted.

    May 17, 2009
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    I heard back from SpeechGear CEO Rob Palmquist. He explained that they don’t own the building. The owner of the building wants to sell the property. He declined to say how many employees they have (they’re privately held) but did say that some good news was soon to be released. I’ll post it here as soon as I hear.

    May 20, 2009
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is putting money into SpeechGear. See this SMIF news release sent to me by SpeechGear CEO Rob Palmquist.

    Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is partnering with SpeechGear, Inc. in their efforts to remove the language barrier. SMIF is providing working capital to help SpeechGear promote their products which instantly translate anything you see, hear, say, read, write or type.

    May 21, 2009

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