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Investigation: Austin Misses Out on Distribution Center

Created: 02/12/2014 7:01 PM KAALtv.com
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It’s a business development that could shape the economy of an entire region.

But now, we’re learning that the “region” was almost on the other side of the state line.

“Disappointing, in some respects," is how Austin community development director Craig Hoium describes it.

"The initial phase would have been a 350,000 square foot distribution center. There was a potential for a phase two which would have involved a 440,000 square foot facility addition," Hoium explained.

There's still a confidentiality agreement in place, so all we know is that the project was proposed by a Fortune 100 company.

"The jobs were in excess of 160 full time positions,” Craig Hoium told us. “The salary range was right around $40,000 per year with benefits on top of that.

For the city of Austin, it's a project that began last fall.

"We met with them out at the Cook Farm industrial park and they had interest in 35 acres of that facility," development director Craig Hoium said.

From an original list of 5 or 6 communities around southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, the list was narrowed to Austin and Clear Lake. Last week, the nod went to Clear Lake.

“They indicated that actually the incentive program that was offered by the city of Austin was greater than what was offered by Clear Lake" Craig Hoium told ABC 6.

“As it was explained to us it had to do with the location in proximity to the major freeway system."

The project consultant also cited what it called the "long term viability of the project".

"You can go a lot of different direction with that, and they didn't really give a crystal clear picture of what that was related to," Hoium said.

Local groups including the city of Austin, Mower County and the Hormel Foundation got help from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in putting together Austin's incentive package.

"They offered what they had available," Hoium told us. “A lot of times we're a little bit behind in that if you look at the five state region, some of those other states may have more incentives that what we have to offer. We exhausted every possible option that we could have as far as making it happen here."

The Clear Lake City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday on the city’s development agreement with the unnamed company.

If all goes according to plans, ground for the project could be broken this spring.