Job parks remain viable in Albert Lea after success

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, March 1, 2009

Business in Albert Lea’s industrial parks has remained relatively stable during the last year, with a few new businesses moving into the parks, one business getting a new owner and another moving in where one closed.

Jobs Industrial Park

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Director Dan Dorman said in the Jobs Industrial Park there really weren’t many new tenants during the last year because the park is out of space.

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“That’s why we built a new park,” Dorman said.

The one new tenant in the Jobs Industrial Park is Rainbow Play Systems Inc., a Brookings, S.D., manufacturer of swing sets and other playground equipment and accessories.

The business replaced Universal Tire Warehouse in January of this year, bringing its workspace to 466,000 square feet. Plans call for a workforce of 100 people to eventually be employed, according to a Tribune article in October.

The first 30 to 35 workers will staff the freight distribution facility, and 70 to 75 workers will staff the light assembly, kitting and boxing operation.

The swing sets the company makes are primarily built out of cedar, redwood and cunninghamia. These are naturally decay-resistant materials, similar to those used for building decks and siding. Rainbow also uses Plastic Encapsulated Lumber in building swing sets.

Universal Tire Warehouse had less than a dozen employees.

Also in the Jobs Industrial Park, Cargill became the new owner of what had before been known as Schweigert’s Foods.

Dorman said Cargill is a company that will bring more stability to the marketplace than there has been in the past.


In the ALEDA park, he said, a spec building, oftentimes good for starter businesses, was planned to be bid out in January or in early February and then to be built in the spring.

“We have to make sure we’re in a position to give people space for jobs,” Dorman said.

Albert Lea Business Development Center

In the Albert Lea Business Development Center, Granicrete Minnesota and Hanson Truck Lines are the new tenants.

Granicrete Minnesota, owned by Tom and Jean Eaton, is a business in the Albert Lea Business Development Center incubator that sells ways to recover surfaces to look like stone, marble, granite, flagstone, travertine, slate and wood for half the cost of the natural product.

In a Tribune article in June, Jean called it “affordable elegance.”

She said it offers people endless colors and designs, allowing for a customized and unique product. It’s lightweight — the concrete-based overlay is only one-eighth of an inch thick — and goes on in two to four days. The application is durable, seamless, bacteria resistant and eco-friendly, Jean said.

The process can be applied to nearly every surface. Popular options are countertops, flooring, showers, patios and garage floors, the article stated.

Hanson Truck Lines, which was started by a man out of Austin, also started in the business development center during the last year.

Dorman said the business development center is a way to help get businesses started so they can move on to bigger things.

In the center there is also a commercial kitchen available for people if they want to try their hand at a business that involves cooking. For the kitchen, people can either lease the whole thing, lease it out on a daily basis, or lease it out on a reduced rate of four days a month. It’s not set up for something longterm or permanent.

I-35 Business Park

Also last year, the Hartland Property officially became the I-35 Business Park.

Dorman said there have been a few inquiries about that property.

“The good news is we haven’t seen a lot of people exiting the market in our area,” he said.

In other business-related events from the past year, he pointed out that Freeborn Lumber opened on Plaza Street in September. He hopes that other complementary businesses will locate there as well.

While his office had been getting a lot of inquiries about retail developments or hotel chains, those have died out some because of the economy, Dorman said. He’s confident, however, that the area can get out of the economic slump.