KENYON -- It’s never easy starting from scratch on a building project.
There’s finding the best -- and most affordable -- piece of property. Then planning out infrastructure costs including roadwork, utilities and how many lots you want to have.
It’s a massive project that seems never ending. The city of Kenyon has gotten a little bit of help moving its business park forward thanks to help from the state of Minnesota.
A $672,096 Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development grant was given to Kenyon earlier this summer. The grant will ease those infrastructure costs that can add up quickly.
City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said the grant will go toward placing a roadway to the 30-acre property the city purchased in 2017. As part of Phase 1 of the construction, a street and some utilities will be covered.
Just those project costs alone will equal about double the grant funding the community of about 1,800 received.
Construction won’t begin on the business park located off of County Road 12 until Spring 2020, but this project has been in the works during Vahlsing's almost seven-year tenure as city administrator.
Finding a large enough parcel is an incredibly difficult task, Vahlsing said. Developing the 30-acres into three-four lots for a business park was always the city’s priority from its inception. The city wanted to have the business park near another development off of County Road 12 near the middle/high school. However, because of the wet and low land areas, it’s hard to find the perfect spot.
Luckily, the location they have now does connect to other city land.
The late Kenyon Mayor Mike Engel -- who died in July -- knew the property owners and helped broker a deal.
So now with a grant helping fund major costs of the business park, what kind of business is the city expecting will purchase those lots?
Similar to another business park in town: Vahlsing said he expects it to be manufacturing, warehousing or storage.
Vahlsing knows all too well about the struggles of attracting businesses to town. It’s difficult in today’s age of technology, with buildings all over communities being on the market, opting for an online presence to keep their operating costs down.
Vahlsing has been involved with economic development for years around Minnesota, saying times have changed for communities. It’s not cost effective to spend copious amounts of money to try lure new businesses. The city will market the properties to everyone they can, but the reality is most local business is done by residents already in the community.
“They are much more likely to invest in sites and take a risk and things like that because they know the area,” Vahlsing said.
Having the option of expansion is important for a city to offer its business owners, he added.
Vahlsing said the city is in a good position, with houses old and new selling quickly, and an influx of metro and Rochester citizens moving there. Adding this business park will not only bring more opportunity to Kenyon, but put the city in a competitive position for years to come.