State didn't kick Crookston when it was down, but seemed to provide St. Cloud a boost it didn't need.

CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth, as he’s discussed New Flyer of America’s decision to expand in St. Cloud instead of Crookston, has stressed that he doesn’t want to come across as a “sore loser” afflicted with a case of “sour grapes.”

    Well, the same goes for the local newspaper. But it’s at least worth questioning why the State of Minnesota, through the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Minnesota Investment Fund, felt it necessary to double the amount of DEED grant money, to $1 million, in the St. Cloud proposal to New Flyer, while the DEED money in Crookston’s proposal was left at $500,000.

    New Flyer President/CEO Paul Doubre, in an interview with the Times, made absolutely valid points in explaining the decision to expand in St. Cloud. Less construction is needed in St. Cloud compared to Crookston because an assembly line is already essentially ready there, he said, meaning the company will be able to launch the new line of smaller “midi” buses by the end of the year. Plus, he thinks, it’ll be easier to find the 130-plus new workers from the larger workforce in and around St. Cloud.

    Well, if St. Cloud had all that going for it to begin with – and anyone who knows anything about Minnesota knows that St. Cloud has a lot going for it – why did the state feel compelled to double the DEED money in their proposal?

    Doubre is happy that New Flyer is growing its Minnesota operation. DEED officials, too, are glad that the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based bus manufacturer decided to expand in Minnesota, as opposed to, say, expanding its facility in Elkhart, Indiana, or Winnipeg.

    Certainly, it’s better for Minnesota that New Flyer is expanding in Minnesota. Anything good for New Flyer has to be good for Crookston, too, obviously, considering that the company has a bustling final assembly plant here. Who knows? Maybe the company will continue to expand, and Crookston will benefit directly somewhere down the line.

    But forgive Crookston leaders and citizens if we’re not exactly dancing in the streets. Greater Minnesota faces an almost constant uphill battle for relevance and influence against the growing Twin Cities and surrounding seven-county metro area. And when we’re supposed to believe way up here that St. Cloud, barely a half-hour drive from Minneapolis and home to around 70,000 people, is a Greater Minnesota community just like us, well…that’s simply not the case.