Sept. 25, 2006

Businesses moving, expanding in Cokato

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The City of Cokato has seen many changes in the past two years with new businesses and expansions booming.

The boom started with Paisley Consulting, a software design company when it moved its offices from downtown Third Street to Highway 12 in the former Abelcon building in 2003.

Paisley Consulting grew from 60 employees to more than 100 with more square footage.

In 2004, Coldwell Banker Saber Realty moved into its new office complex on Highway 12 giving it three times the space as the previous building.

“It gave us a state-of-the-art office complex to provide the best surroundings for our agents and the best equipment to service our customer needs,” said Roxanne Wessman, broker and owner with partner Steve Nelson.

Last year, Faribault Foods added 27,000 square feet for production and office space at its Highway 12 location.

Soon after, Advanced Process Technologies, APT, added 10,000 square feet for the expansion of its warehouse on County Road 3.

Currently, Olsen Chain and Cable is working on a new 47,000 square foot facility in Industrial Parkway and will be moving from its First Street buildings by November.

“This will allow us to get all of our manufacturing processes under one roof,” said David Camp, vice president of Olsen Chain and Cable.

The new building will also allow for the expansion of some of its manufacturing capabilities as well.

Action can be seen along the railroad tracks as well with the redevelopment project of Centra Sota.

Centra Sota is consolidating its operations from Watertown and Buffalo into one facility in Cokato.

Phase I of the redevelopment is the building of a 15,000 square foot agronomy building. Soon, Phase II will begin with the removal and rebuilding of maintenance shops for approximately 6,000 square feet.

“The railroad played a big part,” in consolidating its facilities to Cokato, commented Mayor Bruce Johnson.

The new buildings will offer more capacity and be more productive for its customers, explained Don Levens, city administrator.

Dollar General is coming to town and is in the process of building 9,000 square feet next to the Dairy Queen along Highway 12.

“This helps to add more goods and services on Highway 12,” Levens commented.

Cokato Hardware will soon be moving out of its downtown location and bringing its goods and services to Highway 12.

The more than 8,000 square foot expansion will be consolidated with the already existing Cokato Salvage.

Owner Kurt Dahlin hopes the increase of traffic and the increased visibility will double his profits, he said.

There has been more than $4 million in new commercial and industrial valuations in Cokato, according to Levens.

“This is a significant amount,” he said.

Levens attributes businesses and residential growth and expansion to Cokato’s “good quality of life, community pride, committed civic leaders, a strong faith community and an outstanding education system.”

“If these features weren’t prevalent in the community, businesses would look elsewhere,” Levens said.

Other business expansions and developments include Stonelake Title Company moving from Millard Avenue to Third Street. Saber Controls then took over Stonelake’s previous building, moving in from Long Lake.

Also, Ben Franklin opened this past year and Cokato Manor will soon have a makeover with extensive remodeling to its interior and conversions, according to Levens.

Assembly of God, north of Highway 12, also recently expanded its fellowship hall.

The South Broadway project will be a “prime component” for any future industrial and commercial additions.

“If the community is not progressing, business will not progress,” Levens said.

Some of the challenges the City of Cokato faces is downtown revitalization, including the existing buildings on Millard and expansion of the Cokato Library and museum.

In order for this to happen, more capital investment is needed which the Broadway project has depleted.

“Funds are hard to come by, especially with Broadway,” Johnson said.

In order to face such challenges, public and private sectors must work together, Levens said.

Another challenge is the intersection of Highway 12 and Broadway.

“There are possible growth opportunities for properties on Highway 12 and County Road 3,” Levens said. But with the properties being privately owned, it is dictated on marketing conditions.

Now, the city’s goal is to continue to stimulate industrial and economic growth and revitalization efforts, according to Levens.

The city looks forward to continuing the expansion and development in Industrial Parkway.

Residential decline

There are three approved and active subdivisions where development is occurring in Cokato including Field Crest, Klarbacken, and TrailStone but, only five new houses have been constructed so far this year. This is down 30 percent from last year, according to Levens.

“However, overall building permits for remodeling and repairs are up,” Levens said.

There have been 125 permits issued this year for remodeling and repair along with industrial and commercial developments.

What has also helped with business expansion is the Highway 12 upgrade.

“You have to have safe highways,” Levens said.

He also said the bypass lane in Long Lake will affect Cokato’s future in a positive way as well.

D-C MEADA and the new police advisory commission are also “important ingredients to the success of the community,” he added.

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