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CHS plans $100 million project in Fairmont

FAIRMONT — The Martin County Economic Development Authority heard some big news Monday from Fairmont economic development coordinator Linsey Preuss, who presented them with a proposed $100 million project at the CHS soybean-processing plant in Fairmont.

The authority approved a motion to recommend to county commissioners a 10-year tax abatement for the project.

According to information from Brandon Nordstrom, CHS plant manager in Fairmont, CHS plans a major renovation and investment at its soybean-processing plant to improve plant safety, operating efficiencies and overall capacity. Specifically, five additional buildings/storage bins will be built, and two existing buildings will be modified.

With the proposed expanded production capabilities, CHS will increase the bushels of soybeans crushed annually from area farmers, and process those beans into soybean meal sold to area livestock producers.

Project construction and related costs are expected to be about $100 million, with completion expected in late 2021.

Six new positions will be added to support the project, based at the CHS corporate headquarters in Inner Grove Heights.

According to Preuss, the project is contingent on tax abatements from the county, school district and city of Fairmont, as well as application to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“We are still in the research phase, so we don’t know what that exact dollar amount is going to look like,” Preuss said. “From the information that I have initially, it looks like the dollar amount for Martin County would be $42,393 for 10 years, which would equal approximately $423,930.

“This is for the sustainability of CHS, and it’s going to be huge for regional farmers. It’s a huge capital investment.”

EDA member Wes Anderson suggested that given the lack of local job creation, it seemed like Martin County was not getting much of an exchange.

“I totally disagree with that statement,” Preuss said. “It’s a $100 million construction project, so there’s going to be tons of contractors that are busy on this job. There’s also going to be outside contractors that are going to be staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants.

“Just knowing that they’re making an additional investment in Fairmont is huge. They chose us out of other locations that they could have done this in.”

In other news, Preuss presented the authority with a proposal for tax abatements for multi-family housing complexes in Fairmont.

“The most recent apartment building that was built in Fairmont was built in 1989, aside from the town homes built near the Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “We’re finding that there’s a major shortage in workforce housing right now, so I had a meeting with [county coordinator] Scott Higgins and Superintendent of Fairmont Area Schools Joe Brown and asked if they would be in favor of this abatement.

“This is something that other communities like Worthington and Austin, to name a few, are doing. We’re just hoping to entice a developer to come in and build either some duplexes or an apartment building to just help out with the housing shortage.

“This is just an idea, just a proposal and it’s not anything that we can’t change. I wanted to make this a starting ground to get people to look at building housing in Fairmont and Martin County.”

The proposal is for a 100 percent abatement for the county, city and school district. The authority approved a recommendation to support Preuss, but members noted they would like to see something that helps all of Martin County, not just Fairmont.

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