Brooklyn Park and Lakeville, historically Twin Cities bedroom communities, have led similar-sized suburbs in job growth for the past two years, state employment records show.
From September 2010 to September 2012, the two cities each saw an 11.5 percent increase in jobs, according to the latest state quarterly jobs report. That was almost four times the metro average and is the largest percentage increase among 14 cities with populations of 50,000 or more.
Blaine placed third with a 7.9 percent job gain, followed by Minnetonka and Edina.
Officials in Lakeville, Edina and Brooklyn Park attributed the upward trend to handy freeway access, reuse of existing business space, and city financial incentives to help local firms expand and to attract new businesses.
An 11.5 percent jump is “pretty impressive growth,” particularly when compared with the 3 percent jobs gain in the seven-county metro area over the same period, said Kyle Uphoff. He is regional analysis manager for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which produces the quarterly jobs reports.
Edina gained the most jobs in actual numbers, adding 3,285 workers in the past two years. It was followed by Minnetonka with 3,257 jobs, Brooklyn Park with 2,769, and Eagan with 2,768. Lakeville added 1,555 jobs.
Egan Companies is one reason for Brooklyn Park’s job growth. But a few years ago, the commercial builder and fabricator almost moved its 200-employee headquarters elsewhere, said Greg Koetz, Egan’s facilities director.
Koetz said he had been fighting City Hall over zoning rules against outside storage for about eight years. Two years ago, he hired a real estate broker to find Egan a new location that allowed outdoor storage.
The broker told Brooklyn Park officials that more companies might rent vacant buildings in business parks if the city allowed outdoor storage in business park zones, where Egan’s plant is located.
“The city moved from a position of holding its ground to listening and being cooperative and trying to figure out a solution,” Koetz said. “Together, we came to a solution that worked for both of us.”
City staff proposed a rule change, approved by the City Council almost a year ago, to ease the restrictions. The rule allows any business park property of at least 5 acres to have outside screened storage space of up to 15 percent of its building footprint, with a 125-foot setback from the road. That gave Egan 17,000 square feet of outdoor storage, Koetz said.
“We are trying to build a better business climate and remove some barriers,” said community development director Jason Aarsvold.
The city’s current daily workforce of 26,756 jobs is a new high, he said. The 2,769 jobs added in the past two years mostly filled existing space, he said, although Target is currently building two nine-story towers on its Hwy. 610 campus.
“We were able to reuse a lot of existing buildings,” Aarsvold said. “The density of jobs increased in existing buildings.” For example, a warehouse was turned into a manufacturing facility with a gain in jobs, he said.
Brooklyn Park’s biggest gains in the past two years were in the health care and social assistance sector, with 940 jobs, said DEED’s Uphoff.
The city of about 77,000 people also saw roughly 500 jobs gained in each of three other sectors: manufacturing, construction and corporate management.
Aarsvold said major freeway improvements in recent years, such as the new Devil’s Triangle interchange on Hwy. 169 and the Hwy. 610 extension, also helped attract new businesses. The city has loan funds available for start-ups and businesses that remodel vacant buildings, he said.
Gains in Lakeville
Some of Lakeville’s gains were linked to the County Road 70 interchange that opened in 2009 on Interstate 35, said Dave Olson, community development director for the city of 56,440.
A new Wal-Mart sprang up nearby, bringing 300 full- and part-time jobs to town, Olson said. The city helped ImageTrend expand and add 46 jobs since 2009 by selling city land at a steep discount to the software developer, he said.
Uphoff noted that Lake- ville’s biggest gains were 475 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry and 419 in manufacturing.
Edina’s big job jump of 3,285 was paced by more than 1,900 new jobs at insurance companies and 1,100 in health care, Uphoff said.
Edina’s medical district around Fairview Southdale has added jobs at small and larger firms in recent years, partly to serve an aging population, said Bill Neuendorf, economic development manager. He noted that the recent remodeling of Southdale Center also created hundreds of jobs.
While Edina is fully developed and has several thousand more jobs than its 49,000 residents could fill, most residents in Brooklyn Park and Lakeville go to work in other cities, officials said.
“Our goal,” Olson said, “is to create more quality jobs so people can live and work here.”