Eco Park Updates

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The first quarter of 2012 was an exciting time at the Itasca Eco Industrial Park (IEIP), with several significant decisions made by the IEDC Board of Directors to fine-tune and solidify plans for returning this remarkable site back to productive, industrial use. These actions represent a continuation of the bold leadership shown by the Board since IEDC first acquired the former Ainsworth OSB plant in 2009.

At that time, when most looked at the shuttered mill as a problem, the IEDC Board and executive leadership saw an asset and an opportunity to position Itasca County to usher in a new generation of wood product development. As stewards of this property, IEDC has ensured that the property would remain a dynamic industrial site and an ideal location for the production of value-added goods made from the region's abundant timber resources. Our mission is to help create quality jobs, both at the plant site and throughout our region's logging and transportation industries.

So where are we today? IEDC is pleased to report that plans have been finalized for the environmental remediation, building repair and equipment removal work that will be required prior to any new owner taking control of the site. These plans have changed significantly since 2010, when IEDC secured a grant from the Federal EDA and drafted plans for demolishing certain buildings and reconstructing others as a multi-tenant leasable property for heavy and light industrial operations.

However, the 2010 process ultimately proved the cost of the demolition project and subsequent build-out of individual lease spaces exceeded the budget afforded under the EDA grant, and the commitment required of IEDC to remain the owner of that property for the next several decades threatened to push the organization beyond the bounds of our core mission as an economic development corporation. Plus, in 2011 IEDC was pleased to have executed a detailed memo of understanding with a wood processing company interested in purchasing the existing buildings and much of the surrounding land for their own use.

These factors combined resulted in a decision in early 2012 to return the Federal EDA grant and revise the scope of the site preparation project. Rather than conducting a full-scale demolition as proposed in 2010, IEDC staff and leadership have instead focused on the core actions required to address the environmental issues at the site and prepare the interior of the buildings for a new company to take ownership and build out their own operations.

Under this revised plan, all buildings will remain standing and the IEDC has sought to broker the sale of existing equipment into used equipment and scrap metal markets. By leveraging the revenue generated from the equipment sale, combined with generous grants from the Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), IEDC will succeed in completing the required environmental remediation and building repair work at little or no cost to the organization.

Plans call for this work to begin in May and to be completed by October 31, 2012, during which time IEDC will work simultaneously to negotiate a proposed purchase agreement with the industrial wood processing operation mentioned above, based on the terms and the timeline specified in the 2011 MOU. If successful, this project will have a tremendous impact on the regional economy, with at least 50 direct jobs created at the plant and countless other employment opportunities in the region's logging sector and related industries.

We thank our supporters and project stakeholders for their ongoing commitment and support for our work with the Itasca Eco Industrial Park. If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the project in greater detail, please contact Jeff Borling at (218) 326-9411.

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