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IEDC Announces Purchase Agreement for Itasca Eco Industrial Park

On behalf of our board of directors and our many stakeholders from throughout the region, Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is pleased to announce the successful execution of a purchase agreement with J.M. Longyear, L.L.C., regarding the sale of 121.5 acres of land and all existing buildings at the Itasca Eco Industrial Park in Grand Rapids.

"We are thrilled with this most recent outcome of our negotiations with J.M. Longyear, as the Company works to invest in Itasca County and create much needed jobs in our region," stated Mark Zimmerman, IEDC President & CEO. "While our thanks go out to the staff and management at Longyear for helping to produce an agreement which satisfies the needs of both parties, we extend our deepest gratitude to the community and business leaders of Itasca County for their ongoing support as we work to redevelop this vital community asset."

Based in Marquette, Michigan, J.M. Longyear operates a number of upstream and downstream natural resourcebased businesses in Michigan, Minnesota and Canada, including owning and managing over 165,000 acres of timberlands, mineral rights on over 160,000 acres, and downstream forest product and mineral processing businesses.

"We look forward to working with IEDC, APEX and our many economic development partners from throughout the state, as we strive to develop this ideal property into a sustainable industrial project to create value-added opportunities," stated Steve Hicks, President & CEO of J.M. Longyear. "We are grateful to the IEDC team for its outstanding efforts in guiding and supporting the process to ensure a mutually beneficial transaction." The purchase agreement executed this month serves to formalize J.M. Longyear's commitment to taking ownership of the anchor property at the Itasca Eco Industrial Park by the end of 2014.

"This is a big step, but it is still just one more step on what we've always known would be a long journey," stated Zimmerman. "If past success is any indication, I am confident we will continue to hit our benchmarks and achieve a successful closing, but there is no doubt we will rely on the community's continued support to make that possible." The Itasca Eco Industrial Park is a 223-acre integrated development campus owned primarily by IEDC, located at the former Ainsworth board plant on the border of Grand Rapids and Cohasset. The site once employed as many as 190 fulltime workers and produced over 390 million square feet of oriented strand board (OSB) each year, before Ainsworth suspended operations in 2006 and permanently shuttered the facility in 2008.

With generous support from the local community, IEDC stepped in and purchased the property in late 2009, after it became clear the facility would never again be used to produce OSB. With an eye towards next generation wood products, IEDC has worked since 2009 to shepherd this site back into productive use for the hard working citizens of Itasca County. This latest development comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Cutsfoth Products, which plans to build a 9,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility on a parcel at the Park owned by the City of Grand Rapids. Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in 1981, with a mission of helping create quality jobs. Support for IEDC comes from the Blandin Foundation, Itasca County and several local units of government, as well as from numerous private individuals and businesses from across Itasca County.


Itasca Economic Development Corporation Announces New President & CEO

Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is pleased to welcome Mark Zimmerman as its new President & CEO. Zimmerman will begin his leadership on August 1, 2012.

"IEDC is thrilled to have Mark join the organization," stated Mark Glasnapp, IEDC Board Chair. "Mark brings a new perspective with his strong IT background, rounding out our expertise in IEDC's three focus areas: Forest Products; Mining and Manufacturing; and IT/Computer Science. His experience with marketing and sales and his strong business development and project management background will add tremendous value to IEDC's current projects, including the Itasca Eco Industrial Park."

Zimmerman comes to IEDC with a degree in Math and Computer Science from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA in Finance from George Washington University. Most recently, he served as Vice President of Product Management and Strategy for SunGard Higher Education in Malvern, PA. He has an extensive business background and was instrumental in the creation of business partnerships that enhanced SunGard's solutions for customers and prospects.

Born in Saint Paul, Zimmerman has strong ties to the Itasca County area where his family has vacationed at their cabin north of Grand Rapids for many years. It was this history that led the Zimmerman family to permanently relocate to Itasca County in 2011.

"I'm excited to live in the area that has so many wonderful memories attached to it, and even more excited to be involved with IEDC," Zimmerman stated. "As an organization that strives to help create quality jobs that allow people to live in this area, I feel passionate about the work IEDC is engaged in and look forward to leading the organization into its next phase of success."

Zimmerman will take the reins from Jeff Borling, who has served as IEDC's Interim President & CEO since Joe Broking's departure in March of 2012. Going forward, Borling will continue to serve as APEX's Director of Itasca Business Development, working as part of the IEDC team in Grand Rapids.

Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in 1981, with a mission of helping create quality jobs. Support for IEDC comes from the Blandin Foundation, Itasca County and several local units of government, as well as from many individuals and private businesses.


Broking Resigns/Borling Takes the Helm

On February 7, 2012, the IEDC Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Joe Broking, President & CEO, and voted unanimously to name Jeff Borling as Interim President & CEO. Joe informed the Board of Directors and IEDC Investment Partners of his plans to resign, after accepting a new role as Chief Financial Officer for Magnetation, Inc.

During the past 18 months, Broking has served as an invaluable asset for IEDC, leading several new business expansion and attraction initiatives on behalf of the organization and its partners from throughout the region. Although he will be missed, we know that he will continue to have a positive impact on the local economy through his work with Magnetation, a long-time IEDC client, and we wish him all the best in his new position.

Jeff Borling has served as Director of Itasca Business Development for APEX and IEDC since February, 2010 and has led countless initiatives on behalf of the two organizations under a collaborative agreement. Borling assumed the President & CEO role on an interim basis beginning March 2nd.

An Executive Search Committee has been formed and interviews are now being conducted. The Board anticipates hiring a permanent replacement in Q2 2012.


Eco Park Updates

The first quarter of 2012 was an exciting time at the Itasca Eco Industrial Park (IEIP), with several significant decisions made by the IEDC Board of Directors to fine-tune and solidify plans for returning this remarkable site back to productive, industrial use. These actions represent a continuation of the bold leadership shown by the Board since IEDC first acquired the former Ainsworth OSB plant in 2009.

At that time, when most looked at the shuttered mill as a problem, the IEDC Board and executive leadership saw an asset and an opportunity to position Itasca County to usher in a new generation of wood product development. As stewards of this property, IEDC has ensured that the property would remain a dynamic industrial site and an ideal location for the production of value-added goods made from the region's abundant timber resources. Our mission is to help create quality jobs, both at the plant site and throughout our region's logging and transportation industries.

So where are we today? IEDC is pleased to report that plans have been finalized for the environmental remediation, building repair and equipment removal work that will be required prior to any new owner taking control of the site. These plans have changed significantly since 2010, when IEDC secured a grant from the Federal EDA and drafted plans for demolishing certain buildings and reconstructing others as a multi-tenant leasable property for heavy and light industrial operations.

However, the 2010 process ultimately proved the cost of the demolition project and subsequent build-out of individual lease spaces exceeded the budget afforded under the EDA grant, and the commitment required of IEDC to remain the owner of that property for the next several decades threatened to push the organization beyond the bounds of our core mission as an economic development corporation. Plus, in 2011 IEDC was pleased to have executed a detailed memo of understanding with a wood processing company interested in purchasing the existing buildings and much of the surrounding land for their own use.

These factors combined resulted in a decision in early 2012 to return the Federal EDA grant and revise the scope of the site preparation project. Rather than conducting a full-scale demolition as proposed in 2010, IEDC staff and leadership have instead focused on the core actions required to address the environmental issues at the site and prepare the interior of the buildings for a new company to take ownership and build out their own operations.

Under this revised plan, all buildings will remain standing and the IEDC has sought to broker the sale of existing equipment into used equipment and scrap metal markets. By leveraging the revenue generated from the equipment sale, combined with generous grants from the Minnesota Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), IEDC will succeed in completing the required environmental remediation and building repair work at little or no cost to the organization.

Plans call for this work to begin in May and to be completed by October 31, 2012, during which time IEDC will work simultaneously to negotiate a proposed purchase agreement with the industrial wood processing operation mentioned above, based on the terms and the timeline specified in the 2011 MOU. If successful, this project will have a tremendous impact on the regional economy, with at least 50 direct jobs created at the plant and countless other employment opportunities in the region's logging sector and related industries.

We thank our supporters and project stakeholders for their ongoing commitment and support for our work with the Itasca Eco Industrial Park. If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the project in greater detail, please contact Jeff Borling at (218) 326-9411.


ICC - Skogforsk

In early March, it was announced that the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, Skogforsk, will enter into a joint collaboration with Itasca Community College (ICC) to develop an applied research program focused on developing effective methods, systems and technology within the forest-based bioenergy supply chain in Minnesota.

This is a result of the ongoing work IEDC is engaged in with its partners at ICC and the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota (BBAM), with an objective of building out the forestry and engineering program curriculum to train future workers on the latest forest management and combustion engineering technologies being utilized in the international forest biomass supply chain.

ICC is developing a campus strategy that in a first phase seeks to integrate more components covering biomass to energy measures as well as creating workforce development and training programs in the bioenergy sector. The collaboration with Skogforsk will help to further develop ICC's ambitions through the leveraging of established capabilities and knowledge developed by the Institute. In a future phase, ICC also plans to demonstrate the effective use of woody biomass as a fuel source through the enhancement of its already existing wood-fired boiler that serves the campus district heating loop.

"We see a great opportunity for cooperation around education, technology and innovation to increase efficiency and quality in the biomass supply chain. The conditions in Minnesota are similar to those in Sweden, and there are good opportunities for fruitful exchange of experiences" said Tomas Johannesson, researcher at Skogforsk.

Skogforsk (the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden) is the central research body for the Swedish forestry sector and is financed jointly by the government and the members of the Institute. Skogforsk pursues demand-driven applied research in a wide variety of fields, including forest technology, raw-material utilization, environmental impact and conservation, forest tree breeding and organizational structures. Please visit for further information.

"A partnership with Skogforsk is a tremendous opportunity for Itasca Community College", stated Bart Johnson, Instructor and Wood Boiler Project Lead at ICC.  "The benefits of this partnership position ICC to better meet the educational needs of our region, especially in the woody biomass field.  Through this project, ICC is working to help strengthen the wood products industry in Northern Minnesota."

The educational collaboration is supported by the bioenergy partnership between The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota (BBAM) and the Swedish Bioenergy Association (SVEBIO). The bioenergy partnership is made possible by the Swedish Energy Agency, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and the Blandin Foundation as well as Itasca Economic Development Corporation and the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion.

To learn more about the project, please contact Jeff Borling at (218) 326-9411.


Broking's Transport

In late 2011 and into early 2012, IEDC provided business planning and consulting support for Broking's Transport, as the Company developed plans to acquire Figgins Transport, its primary competitor in the Grand Rapids area. Through this agreement, Broking's has taken title of the Figgins fleet of 35 trucks, 85 trailers and 15 owner/operators, thereby expanding its capabilities in service to a wider array of customer needs.

Broking's Transport has been in business for over ten years. They bring to the new operation more than 35 existing employees and a transportation fleet consisting of 30 trucks and 45 trailers.  With a strong customer base in the beverage and paper/pulp industries, Broking's Transport is a secure business poised for growth.

IEDC was eager to engage in this project, as it presented a unique opportunity to provide an exit strategy for one set of company owners, while helping another find a path for future expansion. In doing so, the Grand Rapids area maintained its leadership position in regional shipping, with Broking's assuming control of the Figgins site in La Prairie and with most of the Figgins employees remaining a part of the team. By providing a successful exit strategy for ownership to transfer to another local company, IEDC was pleased to see these jobs and related investment activities remain in the area.

Going forward in 2012, IEDC will focus its efforts on working with Broking's Transport, the City of La Prairie, and our partners at Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to secure funding and connect the property to City utilities, in support of further growth and expansion.

Please join us in congratulating Broking's Transport on this successful milestone!

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"With significant growth forecasted by several customers, MNSTAR found that increased opportunities can also present major cash flow challenges.  IEDC's consulting services were instrumental in our ability to address these immediate challenges and form a strategy for managing our long-term growth and stability.  IEDC is not just about starting a business! It is a resource for sustainability in these difficult times. Seeing IEDC's capabilities and services for ourselves, makes it a valuable local resource."

Mike Rhodes, MNStar Technologies, Inc.

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