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Medtronic Expansion

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Medtronic expansion could add 2,000 jobs

BY JIM McCARTNEY

Pioneer Press

Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. is talking to government officials with the city of New Brighton and the state about an expansion that eventually could add more than 2,000 jobs in a development the size of a dozen Target stores.

The focus of talks is the east side of a 100-acre New Brighton site called the Northwest Quadrant, located on either side of Old Highway 8 just north of Interstates 694 and 35W.

"Discussions are in the early stages," said state Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-New Brighton. "My understanding is that Medtronic and the city are talking about a major expansion that has the prospect of adding a couple thousand jobs."

The company employs 6,500 workers in the Twin Cities and moved into a sprawling world headquarters complex along I-694 in nearby Fridley three years ago.

Medtronic spokesman Bob Hanvik confirmed Wednesday that the company is looking at further expansion but declined to discuss specifics.

But one concern is that the company may consider bids from other states.

"The state is interested in bringing the players to the table to get this job done," said Kit Borgman, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. "Medtronic is a fabulous Minnesota company and we want to keep them and help them expand in our state."

She said the department has assigned a staff member to handle talks between Medtronic and various government agencies related to the development. They include the city of New Brighton, the Metropolitan Council, the state Pollution Control Agency, the state Department of Transportation and Ramsey County Public Works.

An expansion project likely would take place in stages, with the first phase consisting of a 500,000-square-foot building and a work force in the hundreds, according to officials familiar with the development. Eventually, the project could total 1.5 million square feet.

Medtronic apparently wants the city and state to help with costly cleanup of the land where complex would go, according to city officials.

Last month, the state awarded a $50,000 grant to New Brighton to investigate and assess 14.3 acres in the Northwest Quadrant. The site was used as a dump, and heavy machinery storage and maintenance likely have caused petroleum, solvent, and dump-related contamination, according to the state.

The company also may need state money and help to address transportation issues, including access to the site.

Hanvik wouldn't comment on whether Medtronic was looking outside the state for expansion, but he said, "the Twin Cities is our first choice for any expansion."

New Brighton officials are skittish about talking publicly about the deal.

David Black, the city's assistant community development director, said, "There are a number of companies poking around on that site, but none that I can talk about now."

Clearly the city has aggressive plans for the Northwest Quadrant. It's banking on development to boost the tax base of the site from under $15 million to more than $250 million. Last week, officials unveiled plans for a 753-unit housing development for the west side of the site.

The Medtronic project would be the largest expansion move yet for the Twin Cities' growing medical technology sector.

The growth has been driven largely by the development of new devices to treat various diseases, such as stents to keep arteries open and electrical devices to keep hearts pumping.

Earlier this week, Massachusetts-based Boston Scientific, which has a Twin Cities-based business that employs some 3,000 workers, announced a $50 million, 131,000-square-foot expansion at its divisional headquarters site in Maple Grove. That project could add another 600 jobs here over the next several years.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis-based medical device manufacturer Guidant Corp. has aggressive expansion plans for its Arden Hills cardiac rhythm management division headquarters, adding hundreds of jobs last year.

A host of smaller medical technology companies also are growing and expanding.

What's more, these firms are adding high-skill, relatively high-wage jobs to the state's economy, which has been rocked in recent years by recession and a recovery that has generated only modest job growth.

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