2004 fueled business optimism

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Albert Lea and Freeborn County have a reason to be optimistic. Economic development announcements in the last 14 months have been more than facility upgrades. Local and regional companies are choosing to make significant capital investments in our community which translates into more jobs, more profits and a stronger, more diversified economic base for our area.

There is no better time in history to choose locating to Albert Lea. A number of companies have made the decision to do just that through relocations and expansions. More than 500 new jobs are expected to be created in our community in the next 18 months based on 2004 industrial activity.

The job opportunities and capital investment of nearly $70 million by our industry base in 2004 will be enhanced with the recent announcement by our largest employer, the Albert Lea Medical Center-Mayo Health System of 130 new jobs and capital investment of $15 million to their campus. These new jobs have the opportunity to generate future medical services and capital investments to serve the needs of a changing population, of which Albert Lea will be affected.

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A majority of these projects have been local and regional initiatives signifying the importance of &uot;Economic Gardening,&uot; compared to &uot;Elephant Hunting,&uot; as suggested in the Feb. 9, 2005, edition of &uot;USA Today.&uot;

This is not to suggest recruitment of industries should not be a priority, but it’s to emphasize that long term sustainable growth will come from the companies which have already chosen to make Albert Lea their home.

How we respond to the needs of our local companies may in turn affect their desire to continue placing major capital investment in our community.

The Albert Lea Economic Development Agency continues to position itself with the tools essential to support to the demands of recruitment and retention.

In recent months over 70 acres of land has been purchased for industrial development. The state tool called JOBZ (Job Opportunity Building Zone) will continue to provide us with a competitive advantage when seeking out and responding to the needs of business.

The 2004 year is history and it can be bookmarked as a year which fueled our business optimism.

Expectations are high for 2005.

With growth comes change. How we choose to respond to change will affect future business expansion and relocation opportunities.

(Pam Bishop is the executive vice president of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.)