Fairmont witnesses investment

FAIRMONT — Fairmont, like almost every other community in the country, has an aging population, courtesy of the massive number of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, but this has not meant there is no growth in the city.

As the country heals from the economic downturn, Fairmont likewise has experienced some significant additions.

Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development director, is quick to list the projects that brought millions of dollars of investment to the city.

In 2015, construction began on the renovation of the state-of-the-art Emergency Department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, while the “triangle corner” at Albion Avenue and State Street was completely transformed with the new Graffiti Corner and Commodity Services buildings.

More than $6 million was invested in commercial property in 2016 with Gold Cross building its new headquarters next to the hospital and Ingleside Assisted Living adding a new wing.

Last year, Zierke Built began renovation on the former US Foods (Draper Warehouse) in order to move to Fairmont from Winnebago, bringing with it about 40 jobs, with the anticipation of an additional 30 jobs over the next three years. After doubling its workforce by adding 200 jobs in 2015 and 2016, Fairmont Foods began a multi-million dollar expansion for a raw meat processing area which would add an additional 20 jobs.

On the housing front, Ken Krueger spearheaded the construction of the City Center Townhomes, seven three-bedroom units at First Street and Prairie Avenue.

Building permits for new residential housing were fairly stagnant for several years, but five new permits were issued in 2017, about the equivalent of the total of the previous three years.

And it looks like the progress will endure.

“For 2018, I’m optimistic, very optimistic,” Preuss said. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to see that high level of activity continue.

“There’s lots of planning going on already. A number of new houses have been discussed, businesses expanding. Now’s a good time to plan because contractors like to have their summer work set.”

She points to Whitetail Ridge, Fairmont’s newest residential development that resulted from a city/school district collaboration. With 20 prime lots available near the soccer fields and the high school, six already have been sold, the most recent on Wednesday, and interest has been expressed from potential buyers of the remaining lots.

Combining the residential and commercial building permits for 2017 almost hits the $10 million mark.

“These numbers, although they’re good with $10 million invested in commercial and housing last year, that does not include the equipment that the companies are investing in their businesses as well,” Preuss said.

Nor does it include the finishing and furnishing of the residential construction.

There’s no way to monitor the number of jobs impacted by the new construction, Preuss said, but somebody needs to build the homes and somebody needs to run the equipment.

“The economy all over Minnesota is doing well,” she said. “There are more companies that are looking at automation, but they can’t find the workforce. Not everything is wonderful.”

Providing quality, affordable housing; child care; and job-skills training are challenges that face Fairmont as well as other communities, but there are jobs available. Almost 250 jobs in the area are listed on Minnesotaworks.net

“You could walk in almost anywhere and get hired,” Preuss said.