This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.9 million grant to the city of Grand Rapids to extend water and sewer infrastructure to attract new industry and support the expansion of existing businesses. This EDA project, to be matched with $1.9 million in local funds, is expected to create or retain nearly 200 jobs and generate $36.4 million in private investment.

“President Biden is committed to helping communities grow and diversify their industries to build strong and resilient regional economies,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment in Grand Rapids will spur business growth in all of Itasca County by creating shovel-ready industrial sites for new employers and space for existing employers to expand.”

“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support Grand Rapids as they seek to diversify the region’s economy,” said Susan Brehm, Director of EDA’s Chicago Regional Office. “This project will support expansion of the local industrial infrastructure to accommodate new and existing businesses and create jobs for Minnesotans.”

“We’re grateful to President Biden and our federal partners for their commitment to delivering jobs and infrastructure improvements to Grand Rapids and communities across the State of Minnesota,” said Governor Tim Walz. “Investments like these provide the foundation for our communities to thrive.” 

“As we round the corner of this pandemic, it’s critical that we support our communities’ infrastructure and economic development needs,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

“This investment in the Grand Rapids area does just that by expanding the water and sewer infrastructure to create jobs, attract new businesses, and generate opportunity for Minnesotans,” added Klobuchar.

“Water and sewer management systems are essential infrastructure,” said Senator Tina Smith. “If they’re not up-to-date, then communities can’t grow. It can even put our health and public safety at risk. This federal funding will help Grand Rapids update its water and sewer infrastructure to attract new businesses and create economic opportunity. I’ll keep pressing for real federal dollars to support Minnesota priorities.”

Project Overview

The Grand Rapids/Cohasset Industrial Park Infrastructure (Project) is a joint undertaking lead by the City of Grand Rapids in partnership with the City of Cohasset to extend infrastructure to a 216 acre, manufacturing site, most recently operated as the Ainsworth oriented strand board (OSB) manufacturing plant until 2006, explained Grand Rapids Director of Community Development Rob Mattei. The former manufacturing site straddles the two adjacent cities.

“The redevelopment of the former Ainsworth OSB plant, which permanently closed in 2008, has been a challenge, in part, because of the large scale of the vacant facility,” said Mattei. “Opportunities to locate single industries that require that much space are very limited.  The extension of sewer and water to the site will allow for a feasible redevelopment approach, proposed by the new owner Voyageur Capital, which accommodates multiple industries on the site.”

According to Mattei, the project involves the construction/extension of approximately 7,400 ln. ft. of sanitary sewer main, one sanitary sewer lift station, 12,500 ln. ft. of watermain and 1,000 tons of asphalt pavement.  The sewer and water infrastructure will connect to existing infrastructure owned and operated by the City of Grand Rapids, with the planned service to the City of Cohasset provided through a cooperative agreement.

The total estimated cost of the project is $3,921,213. The EDA funding award is $1,900,060, which is 50% of estimated eligible construction and engineering cost.  Local and State of Minnesota sources will fund the remaining cost. 

When complete, the project will serve three industrial parcels in the City of Grand Rapids covering a 156-acre area. The project will also serve six proposed industrial sites, within a 60-acre area in the City of Cohasset owned and offered for industrial development by the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).

Grand Rapids Mayor Dale Christy commented, “This project, through the Federal EDA grant and support from our local, state and regional partners, will reposition our efforts to bring jobs and increased tax base back to the former plant site. I want to thank the Federal EDA and all of our partners that have and will make this critical infrastructure project happen.”

“The Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority is excited to move forward on this project with the assistance of the Federal EDA,” added Sholom Blake, GREDA President. “This infrastructure project will enhance the viability of the former Ainsworth site and should assist not only GREDA, but the city of Cohasset and IEDC, as we work together to redevelop this industrial area in order to provide long-term employment opportunities in the Grand Rapids area. I would like to thank city staff and our elected officials for their hard work and assistance in obtaining these federal grant funds.”

Project Description

Following a previous layoff and downsizing of the Blandin Paper Company in 2003, the EDA provided Economic Adjustment assistance that contributed to the completion of the 2005 Target Industry & Industrial Park Plan, prepared for the Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority (GREDA).  A key conclusion of the study was that the county had a very limited supply of fully improved industrial sites with access to rail.

The site of the former Ainsworth OSB plant provides the large industrial site(s) identified as a need within the plan to attract target industries.  Rail, high-voltage electrical, high-speed telecommunication, high-pressure natural gas service and heavy haul roadways connecting ground transportation to US Highway 2 all serve the site.  

The principal site deficiency, however, is that neither the Voyageur Capital property (Grand Rapids) nor IEDC property (Cohasset) is presently served with sanitary sewer and water utilities, explained Mattei. To position the entire site for development opportunities, the project will extend sanitary sewer and water infrastructure from its nearest available source at the intersection of US Highway 2/County Road 63.  The utility extensions will cross the Mississippi River as they extend west along County Road 63, requiring the construction of a sanitary sewer lift station.  The utilities would then turn south and parallel the existing private entrance road to the site.  The sanitary sewer and water would then extend west under the rail spur, in the vicinity of the former Ainsworth plant, where both utilities would extend north and south laterally to provide service to the IEDC owned industrial property in Cohasset.  The City of Grand Rapids water utilities would continue south and east to a connection with existing water infrastructure along County Road 76, providing a looped system that can feed the industrial park areas from two directions.  

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