A Japanese medical technology company with operations worldwide is a step closer to opening a $35.8 million manufacturing plant in Brooklyn Park that could eventually employ as many as 350 people.
Olympus Surgical Technologies America, working with Ryan Cos., plans to consolidate operations from five locations in Maple Grove at a new Surgical Innovation Center to be built at a site near Hwy. 610. The site is one of four finalists emerging after a national search. If Olympus gives final approval to the Brooklyn Park site, which could come in the next few weeks, construction could begin in early December and the 180,000-square-foot innovation center would open next September. It would be home to 268 employees, with plans to add another 100,000 square feet and nearly 100 additional workers within the next couple of years.
"This building will be built almost as quick as humanly possible," said Casey Hankinson, vice president of development for Ryan Cos.
Brooklyn Park and the state of Minnesota are pledging up to $2.25 million in assistance to Olympus to help improve infrastructure and prepare the site, just south of Hwy. 610. The city would extend Louisiana Avenue to the north to provide the "front door" to the site. According to a preliminary agreement, the company will receive up to $1 million from Brooklyn Park in installments and an equal amount from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, aid that is tied to job creation.
The $1 million city subsidy will come from excess tax increment financing funds reserved for economic development. As part of the subsidy, the company has agreed that the jobs there would have an average wage of $21.75 an hour. The department's $1 million grant, which comes from the Minnesota Investment Fund, is linked to creating about 100 new jobs within two years of the plant's opening that will average $23.80 an hour.
Officials said the development would be expected to make an immediate impact on tax revenue. The vacant site currently generates about $37,000 in taxes; after the development is complete, that number would rise to $625,000.
City Council signs off
On Monday night, the Brooklyn Park City Council unanimously approved a building site plan for the project. Ryan Cos. will build and own the facility, with Olympus leasing the space for 15 years. The same evening, the council, sitting as the Economic Development Authority, voted 6-1 to approve a term sheet including key terms to be covered in a final development contract with Olympus, said Amy Baldwin, business development manager for Brooklyn Park.
Mike Sable, the city's acting community development director, said final city approvals are expected within a few months.
"This is a very exciting time for Brooklyn Park. It positions us really strongly in the medical manufacturing industry," Sable said. The city already has about 30 medical device and life-sciences firms. In fact, Minnesota's place as an international hub for medical technology was a reason Olympus considered putting its consolidated operations here, said Tim Stone, project manager for Olympus.
The site will be home to marketing, research and development, engineering and manufacturing, he said.
Final decision expected soon
The deal is not final. Brooklyn Park is one of four final sites being considered by Olympus, said Ann Marie Woessner-Collins, a site-selection consultant for the company. The others are in the Boston, Memphis and Cleveland areas, she said, adding that Olympus expects to make its final decision in the next few weeks.
Some in the community have questioned the city providing subsidies to such a large, worldwide entity with no attached minimum requirements for minority hiring. Minority residents make up about half the city's population.
The city "is giving them lucrative subsidies and the citizens in Brooklyn Park don't seem to be benefiting," said Wynfred Russell, a city Planning Commission member and head of African Career, Education and Resources.
Russell and others have been critical of city subsidies without requiring some hiring of city residents. Similar concerns were voiced when the city agreed to reduce Target's property taxes by millions on two major office towers being erected on its North Campus on Hwy. 610. Target has agreed to transfer more than 3,000 jobs to the new buildings from its downtown headquarters.
Target has been meeting with leaders of a coalition called the Northwest Community Collaborative and has discussed setting up training programs at local colleges to equip students for its high-tech jobs, Russell said, adding that Olympus should follow suit.
"The benefits are not trickling down to the vast majority of the people," Russell said.
Brooklyn Park recently landed another big medical products maker, with the help of a subsidy from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Baxter International, a medical device and drug manufacturer, is remodeling a vacant drug-production plant near Hwy. 610.
Olympus develops technologies that let physicians see inside the human body to fight cancers and diagnose illnesses. Ryan's Hankinson sounded confident that Olympus will see that the Brooklyn Park site has everything it needs.
"To Olympus, this will not be just another building," he said. "This will be a shining star for them."