By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
After much rumbling in the rumor mill about Formative Engineering Corp. (FEC) leaving Lester Prairie, those rumors were put to rest last Monday.
The announcement at the Lester Prairie City Council meeting by Dale Woodbeck, owner and president of FEC, that the company will stay and expand in the city was met with applause by the audience.
Woodbeck said his plastic injection molding company is planning the construction of a new, approximately 21,000 square foot facility.
His preferred site is property he is negotiating on at the corner of Central Ave. and Co. Rd. 9. If Woodbeck does purchase the property, it would be annexed into the city.
The company has arranged financing through Park National Bank in Minneapolis and through the State of Minnesota Agricultural and Economic Development Board. Woodbeck expects the building to be ready by mid-1998.
New jobs will be added at FEC as the facility is completed and occupied.
Additional assistance is coming from the city. Council member Galen Hochstein, who is in charge of the city's economic development, is working on setting up a tax increment financing district.
Woodbeck said he had offers from two other cities to move his company there.
"This wasn't playing one (city) against the other. Galen and I have been working on this for about a year and a half," Woodbeck said. He added he was impressed with the effort and persistence by Hochstein in finding a way for FEC to stay in Lester Prairie.
On a smaller scale, Integrity Tool, located in the old Schwartz building, received a resolution from the city supporting its application for a State of Minnesota Challenge Grant.
The grant would enable the owner, Diane Wood, to add two new jobs to her company.
Funds to rebuild McLeod Co. Rd. 1 (old Highway 261) are in short supply for 1998, but the project is a top priority at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) for 1999.
"The turn back fund is broke for 1998," said Rick Kjonaas, McLeod County highway engineer, "but it does look very good for 1999."
He said if the city is ready for the county to start construction this year, which it is, Kjonaas will start pursuing funding more aggressively. During road construction, the city would install storm sewers to alleviate drainage problems in town.
Kjonaas said Mn/DOT has a four year backlog of turn back requests, and has its own bill at the legislature, requesting some of its funding be used for the turn back projects.
County Commissioner Ray Bayerl suggested requests to Rep. Tony Kielkucki and Sen. Steve Dille to use part of the state excess for turn back projects.
This part of the local project started last year with Highway 261 from Winsted to Highway 7 being reconstructed. The entire road up to Highway 212 was renamed Co. Rd. 1 and turned over to the county.
The next stage of rebuilding would stretch from Highway 7 to "Krants' Corner," where Co. Rd. 1 turns south at Co. Rd. 22.
Turn lanes would be built on Highway 7. Kjonaas said 90 percent of the needed easements have been acquired, and the plans have been approved and are awaiting funding.