“Behind the Scenes” Weekly Meeting Update 3 – Update to Chamber of Commerce Board

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.

It came as a surprise to me to learn that the Chamber is proposing a 320-acre business park rather than the 120 acres recommended by TIP Strategies in the Economic Development Plan.

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.


  1. Charlene Coulombe-Fiore said:

    I have been asked numerous times to comment on this particular subject matter and I still hesistate to do so.
    My concerns lie in the transfer of data and how this information is communicated to others. I often hear comments about these blogs and would like to see more positive things written and communication transferred in a polite way. Not everyone has to agree, nor is the world of development so black or white. I have worked with trucking and distribution firms who rarely congested the streets of the community it lived. Truck routes were re-routed as to not disrupt any residential neighborhood or tear up any streets. I see substance in both plans because when you discuss this with the Chamber, who knows there are various distribution operations seeking sites in the 100-120 acre range, what would be left if that was all the City was willing to look at? This is why they prefer to look at a larger site. If you work with 320 acres, you can have perhaps a medical or bio-tech park with adjacent smaller buildings within a nice setting (fountains) that could easily accommodate higher paying jobs and higher priced homes as well as the cost of infrastructure. Diversity is the key and planned smart growth development can occur in various sizes.

    I have worked with many large and small parcels which created strength and diversity in the community without changing the character. The development can be made to adapt to the community.

    What is most important is that everyone work together to find development projects that compliment the community and the growth that does occur.

    Timing is everything and development does not wait for anyone.
    Right now I think we need to be open to growth in a positive way while still working with the businesses that are here.

    The EDA and the plans that have been developed shows the community that there is thought being placed into the future of Northfield. Let us dwell on the positive and move forward.

    November 1, 2007
  2. Larry DeBoer said:

    Setting aside more land for industrial/commercial development is a basic first element for our growth. But even more important is to develop a “business friendly” attitude within the entire framework of Northfield.

    Next Saturday, in Lakeville, is the grand opening of one of their newest ice arenas – named Hasse Arena, as a tribute to Glenn and Tim Hasse of Ryt-Way Industries. They contributed $125,000 to the city’s arenas. Why did the Hasse’s abandon Northfield? Wouldn’t have been nice if their contribution would have gone to one of Northfield’s needs? Northfield needs to ask why one-tim established businesses leave our city and become so happy with one of our nearby neighbor cities. Hasse’s were quoted as saying, “Nothing could have been better than our business relationship after 19 years in Lakeville.”

    November 3, 2007
  3. Lisa Guidry said:

    The Hasse’s left Northfield, because of all the run around the city gave them. The city of Lakeville pursued them, and rolled out the red carpet and they continue to do so.

    Glen Hasse had me deliver a message to the city of Northfield that should the city decide to develop the 19.43 acres I have for sale on the corner of Armstrong Rd. & Industrial he will donate $500,000 towards a new ice irena.

    November 3, 2007
  4. Lisa Guidry said:

    I am not sure where the chamber is getting their comp. sales on land. I have a comp. on Hwy. 3 in Farmington that just sold that tells us a different story about land value.

    3 acres on Hwy. 3 sold just recently for $1,300,000 if you do the math you will find that it sold for $9.95 per sq.ft.

    I hoping to provide comps. for the city this week if my schedule allows.

    November 3, 2007
  5. Tracy Davis said:

    Lisa, does Glen Hasse mean that if the City purchases his 19.43 acres at Armstrong/Industrial, he will donate money for the ice arena? Or did you mean something else by “should the city decide to develop”?

    November 3, 2007
  6. David Ludescher said:

    The Chamber developed its resolution for 320 acres more than 2 years ago. It was the Chamber’s thought that, given the speed of the processes in Northfield, that smaller amounts, such as 120 acres, may be sufficient for the immediate future, but would create another shortage of land in a very short time.

    By the way, the Chamber is not proposing a “business park”. We are requesting that the City plan for at least 320 acres that could be developed/zoned for commercial industrial land.

    November 3, 2007
  7. Lisa Guidry said:

    If the city of Northfield purchases the land he will contribute $500,000 towards a new ice arena.

    November 3, 2007
  8. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave, I really appreciate the clarification, that’s an entirely different animal. I may have misunderstood the point. Does the Chamber think that the acreage needs to be contiguous?

    November 4, 2007
  9. David Ludescher said:

    The Chamber hasn’t ruled out any possibilities. If Northfield isn’t amenable to commercial/industrial development, the Chamber may have to consider other options, including Dundas, and I-35. Right now, we have decided to support the Sorem-Fink land.

    November 4, 2007

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