It's a safe bet that many Crookston residents, when they read the headlines last week that transit bus manufacturer New Flyer of America was embarking on a major expansion of its facility in St. Cloud, Minn., thought to themselves how nice it would have been for the expansion to be at New Flyer's Crookston final assembly plant instead.
Well, that was the plan.
"We had a great proposal," said Craig Hoiseth, executive director of the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA).
So great that the expansion project, which will total just under $5 million in St. Cloud, appeared to be on its way to Crookston, Hoiseth said. Hoiseth said the expansion and the 134 new jobs that would have accompanied it would likely have taken place at Crookston's New Flyer plant, until outside forces intervened.
The City of Crookston's proposal involved partners including both CHEDA's and the City of Crookston's revolving loan funds, Crookston Jobs, and $500,000 through the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Minnesota Investment Fund. The expansion would have brought a new line of medium-duty, low-floor "midi" bus production to the Crookston facility.
But, according to Hoiseth's understanding, a DEED grant of $1 million, double the amount included in Crookston's proposal, was added to St. Cloud's package.
"That's what brought it to St. Cloud," Hoiseth said during a discussion with the CHEDA Executive Committee, at which some committee members expressed concern that it might appear to Crookston residents that Crookston leaders didn't actively seek to land the New Flyer expansion here.
"The problem is that in St. Paul, St. Cloud and Crookston are both considered to be in Greater Minnesota," Hoiseth said. "That's somehow seen as a level playing field, which in reality isn't that level."
A call to Lee Miller, DEED business development specialist for Minnesota's Northwest Region, which includes Crookston, had not been returned by press time.