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St. Croix Business Park continues to thrive

Two Cemstone trucks unload concrete for the enormous paved apron that will surround the Uline distribution center. The building is 14.7 acres in size, with 14 acres of warehouse space. The facility will be used to distribute the company's extensive line of shipping and industrial supplies to customers in a seven-state area.1 / 2
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While it technically doesn't lie with the boundaries, the massive Uline distribution center under construction on the southeast side of Hudson is the crowning achievement of St. Croix Business Park.

When it opens next year, the 640,000-square-foot facility will provide about 150 well-paying jobs and around $400,000 a year in local property tax revenue.

Roughly half of the money will go to the Hudson School District, a quarter of it to the city of Hudson, and the remainder will be split between St. Croix County, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and the state.

The Uline distribution center is rising on 63 acres on the southwest side of the Hanley Road and State Hwy. 35 interchange. The site is bounded on two sides by the business park. It is served by streets and water and sewer mains that were built with tax increment financing provided by the park.

"Rock Street. Heiser Street. (The) water and sewer. It's all that same system," said Dennis Darnold, the city's director of community development.

Darnold has been a key player in the business park since the St. Croix Business Park Corp. was formed in August 1994.

While the modest Darnold is reluctant to boast and quick to credit others for their contributions, the success of the business park is a source of pride for him.

The 304-acre park is now home to 73 businesses, three state offices and a non-profit organization.

The land and buildings in the park had a 2012 total assessed value of $82.1 million, which generated roughly $1.38 million in revenue for local taxing districts. The city's share was about $340,000.

The Uline distribution center is expected to add about $25 million to the city's valuation.

Four years ago, a survey of companies showed 900 people working full-time in the business park.

After a drop in employment during the recession, Darnold believes the number of jobs is back to pre-recession levels, if not higher.

A change in state Department of Natural Resources rules on the spreading of sludge from municipal sewage treatment facilities served as a catalyst for starting the business park.

The city owned 200 acres of land east of O'Neil Road that it was using for sludge disposal that it suddenly didn't need.

With the city's two other business parks (Hudson Industrial Park and St. Croix Ventures) nearing capacity, then Mayor Jack Breault proposed using the city land for a third park.

The city purchased an additional 120 acres west of O'Neil Road for the park from Bill Loughney.

There were two basic purposes for establishing the park -- to add to the community's tax base and to create jobs.

The St. Croix Business Corp. is a partnership between the city of Hudson and Xcel Energy (then Northern States Power Co.), which provided the loan to establish the park.

The park is operated by a three-member board. The current president is Trudy Popenhagen of Xcel Energy. State Rep. Dean Knudson is the city of Hudson's representative on the board, and Hudson Mayor Alan Burchill is the at-large member.

Johnson Controls built the first factory in the park in 1996.

The city also established a tax increment financing district for the park and a neighboring area on Carmichael Road.

The establishment of the TIF district allowed the city to use the increased tax revenue resulting from construction in the business park to pay for the infrastructure. That, in turn, allowed the business park to reduce the sale price of the land.

Not that it gave away the land. The early price was $1.10 per square foot, or $47,916 per acre.

The development sites west of Hwy. 35 are now priced at $1.35 per square foot, or $58,806 per acre. The lots in the new St. Croix Business Park East, on the east side of Hwy. 35, sell for $1.40 per square foot, or $60,984 per acre.

Darnold said St. Croix Business Park's proximity to Interstate 94 and the Twin Cities, along with Wisconsin's friendly business climate, makes it attractive to prospective businesses.

The park's covenants requiring masonry construction and limiting outside storage make it a visually attractive place.

Darnold said there are about 40 acres of developed building sites still for sale in the park.

Another 14 acres or so could be built on if water and sewer was extended to the sites.

Darnold said inquiries from companies thinking about locating in the business park have picked up again after slowing during the recession.

Procentive, a computer software company, has a new facility under construction St. Croix Business Park East.

Ten companies have relocated to the business park in the past couple of years. They include Sittab, 2733 Harvey St.; National Nut Co., 2737 Harvey St.; Stevenson & Associates, 2910 Enloe St.; Marriage & Family Health Services, 2910 Enloe St.; Mikan & Migisi Therapeutic Programs, 2910 Enloe St.; Preco Inc., 2251 Willis Miller Drive; Catalyst Training, 2305 Willis Miller Drive; Larsen Physical Therapy, 2305 Willis Miller Drive; Servpro, 3450 Yoerg Drive; and Home Electronics Specialists.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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