Company says ‘no’ to Austin

Published 12:24 pm Saturday, July 25, 2009

A large home furnishings company that had been interested in bringing jobs to Austin won’t be coming, according to officials.

The company, going by the project name “Magnolia” for competitive interest reasons, has stopped searching for a site in Minnesota or anywhere else, John Garry, executive director of the Development Corporation of Austin, said in an e-mail.

Garry said he had been notified by Kevin Kelleher, who was coordinating the project for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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Garry said Kelleher did not know the identity of the company or why it had ended the site selection process.

“It is disappointing that the project was stopped,” Garry said in his e-mail. “Austin and Mower County have a lot to offer and I think we did a good job presenting that to these folks.”

The project had been in the works since fall 2008, Garry said. At that time, the DCA was contacted by the state about the possibility of landing the company.

In September of that year, site selectors from the project visited the Austin Business Park, formerly known as Cook Farm, along with at least eight other sites in the state. Garry said the company had left impressed with Austin.

In early 2009, Garry and community development director Craig Hoium gave a presentation to site selectors. In May, Garry said they were notified they were among four or five finalists, with Albert Lea being another.

The company was projected to bring 100 jobs to Austin initially and up to 300 when in full operation, Garry said.

Hoium said the site would have consisted of 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 25,000 square feet of office space at first. These areas were planned to double in size within three to five years, he said.

Other city officials had expressed interest in landing the mystery company.

City administrator Jim Hurm said previously that just being a candidate during a rough economy was a victory for Austin.

“Yes, it would be wonderful if the city would be chosen,” Hurm said in April.

Hoium said the end of the Magnolia project is likely a result of the down economy, as many large retailers are putting plans on hold, such as a Menards, which pulled out of an Austin deal about a week before the city council was set to grant final approval in 2007.