Albert Lea Officials Discuss Failed Bid for Hy-Vee Distribution Center

September 25, 2017 11:25 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Albert Lea City Council and economic development leaders discussed the city's efforts to attract a proposed Hy-Vee distribution center and how it can move forward with similar projects in the future.

At Monday night's city council meeting, Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Ryan Nolander shared his disappointment with coming in second to Austin, but highlighted the benefits the region would see as a whole.


Nolander also addressed several misconceptions about the effort that he had heard from community members regarding the size of the offer and overall taxes being higher in Albert Lea than in other communities.

"Our package was not just a couple dollars, it was tens of millions of dollars, and for people out there in the community, I think it's important that they know we put a very large package together for this project," he said.

On Sept. 15, Hy-Vee announced it was considering a 150-acre site on Austin's west side for a 1 million square-foot or larger distribution center. That site, annexed into the city weeks prior, is located between Interstate 90 and Oakland Avenue.

At Monday's meeting, Jeff Rossate, the business development director for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, speculated on possible reasons why Austin won out over Albert Lea.

"The site being reviewed in Austin right now has great visibility from the interstate, and there are folks that put value on being able to put their name on the side of a building and get essentially that free advertising," he said.

Another possible factor could be the Austin site's proximity to an existing freeway interchange, he said.

Rossate and Nolander said the city had been in discussions with Hy-Vee since last October, one of 12 communities hoping to land the grocer's distribution center. The city was taken out of consideration in March, but came back to the table with another offer that Nolander called "aggressive," bringing them back into the top two.

And while Nolander said he was disappointed, the region as a whole would benefit. Rossate added that when the next big opportunity arises, Albert Lea has shown it's open for business.

"This community does not give up, this community will put its best foot forward and that it is open for business," Rossate said.

Last week, neighbors of the site under consideration shared their concerns with the Austin city council. At that time, Austin Mayor Tom Stiehm said the deal was site-specific, and that if the city loses that site the project will likely leave the community.

Hy-Vee has said it hopes to break ground in 2019.


Logan Reigstad

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