Luring Microsoft, Yahoo, and Intuit to Northfield

MillDam 002.jpgMy colleagues, Tracy “Queen of the Dark Fiber” Davis and Griff “Ultra High-Speed to my Condo” Wigley, have been suggesting, loudly and vigorously, for sometime that the key to economic development in Northfield is high-speed internet access. Northfield has the potential for this high-tech utility they say, and we only need to harness the potential in order to lure the companies, and jobs, of the future to our community.

Based on an article in the March 7th Wall Street Journal, there might be another important feature in our potential utility infrastructure that we should harness in order to lure future economic development.

According to “One Tiny Town Becomes Internet Age Power Point”, Microsoft, Yahoo and Intuit are building new computer-data centers in Quincy, Washington. The quality of life of an area with unspoiled natural beauty is one attraction, as is the availability of reasonably priced housing, and the community, thanks to a state program, is making a $100 million investment in a fiber network that certainly is important to these businesses. However, the biggest draw was the two municipally owned dams that generate electricity for the town.

Now, Northfield is further from Seattle than Quincy, and the Cannon River is not quite the Columbia River, but would it be possible to generate sufficient energy to power a “micro business park” on the west side of downtown?


  1. Christopher said:

    I think development along these lines would be fantastic. And we sure don’t need Seattle companies; there are plenty of Twin Cities (or Chicago) high-tech firms that should be interested in a workforce and location like Northfield’s. I mean, think of the first-year-out-of-college hires they could make!

    March 19, 2007
  2. Robert said:

    Northfield unfortunately has a reputation as a town that high-tech firms leave versus join. Some efforts are being made to attract such firms, but the reality is GearWorks, ViA and others have all left to move closer to Mpls after starting up operations here in town. One of the key issues in their leaving town is that first-year-out-of-college hires want to leave Northfield, not stick around. It’s difficult to recruit people to come to Northfield. Why? I’m not totally sure. Any ideas???

    March 20, 2007
  3. Ross Currier said:


    They want a nightclub…

    …I blogged about it a year ago:

    I think Grezzo Gallery is doing what they can to fill the need and Ally, Jessica and Linda’s Pardi Gras certainly was a nod in the direction of the younger segment of our business leadership. We need to continue to support these efforts.

    Thanks for your comment,


    March 20, 2007
  4. Anne Bretts said:

    I like the creativity but I thought the discussion about the dam was about how to remove it, because it is old and interferes with the river’s natural state. And no way would you be able to make enough power, even if there were room or the money to build a plant.
    Maybe there could be a wind turbine farm, feeding a green industrial park. Maybe St. Olaf could use some of its extra land, although it would be nice to get something that’s on the tax rolls.
    You never know. And as for young people leaving, that’s what they do. We should want them to explore the world. Maybe the focus should be on 40-somethings and older people who have money and expertise and can come back and start businesses.

    March 20, 2007
  5. Philip Spensley said:

    I hope the damn is not removed…I think it is a point of interest and pleasure for the city that just the river flowing through would not have. Plus, it puts the right kind of ions into the air that waterfalls do — why people have fountains in their houses and gardens — and I think they contribute to good feeling one gets when one goes to Bridge Square and downtown generally.

    Is today’s turbine technology not advanced enough to be able to harness enough power there to run a small (how much power are we talking about, anyway?) generator, but one large enough to support the wireless access Griff was talking about? It doesn’t strike me as being that needful of a large amount of power. A eally quite small emergency generator can provide quite a lot of power in effect, as we know.

    Installing several small turbines, perhaps, would undoubtedly require rebuilding parts of the damn, or restructuring it, but something has to be done to it anyway to keep it (or do away with it, let’s hope not).

    And Ames parkneeds to be used for something other than geese poop and getting flooded now and then, and the old Ames Mill is a wonderful sight for “community” development. I’ve heard (grape-vine rumors abound) that Malt O Meal might be willing to sell it.

    I like the imagination behind the idea, Griff.

    March 21, 2007

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