Good jobs starting to flow in to Brooklyn Park

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2012 - 9:35 PM

City credits decades of collaborative work to improve business climate.

Brooklyn Park is talking jobs.

Businesses -- finally -- are listening, based on the most current jobs figures from the state.

From mid-2010 to the first quarter of this year, the city added 3,459 jobs, a 14.4 percent uptick. That's more, by percent and in raw numbers, than the city's suburban neighbors to the north and west, including Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Plymouth and Coon Rapids.

There's no serendipity here, city officials say, noting that the city is cashing in on decades of deliberate planning and more recent work to engage companies in shaping the business climate.

"Looking at the big picture, I think it does support this long-term vision that the city has held and the City Council has held that they wanted to turn Brooklyn Park into less of a bedroom community and more of an employment center," said Jason Aarsvold, Brooklyn Park community development director. "We're starting to see that come to fruition, particularly with growth in employment."

While job counts fluctuate each quarter, the city continues to see new records, hitting another high of 27,500 in the most recent quarterly report.

Many of those new jobs fall into high-pay sectors including manufacturing, health care, management and administrative jobs.

The city of nearly 77,000 persistently has one of the metro area's higher unemployment rates, at 6.4 percent, according to government data.

City officials expect the job growth to continue. One of its biggest conquests: the new Target corporate office, expected to add 4,000 technology jobs.

Mayor Jeff Lunde said there was a philosophical shift in the mid-'90s, when the city demolished several apartment complexes on the city's south end.

"We weren't going to go with what was the fad; that's how we ended up with all the apartments," he said. "At one time, Brooklyn Park was the place to be. We took anything people brought to us, and now hindsight is always 20-20, and we've decided to set different standards for how we go about getting people to come who want to be here as well."

Now the city has 1,500 acres of developable land in its north end, divided by an expanded Hwy. 610. Enthusiasm for the Target project and the potential for a "third downtown" in the adjacent area is contagious; the city hopes to nearly double the number of jobs along Hwy. 610, to as many as 50,000, Lunde said.

As development opportunities come forward, Aarsvold said, the city is more likely to approve projects that are job-rich, such as office buildings and manufacturing plants. What officials don't want are businesses that consume a lot of real estate but create few jobs, such as self-storage or distribution warehouses.

The city also has worked to improve communication with businesses to ease startup, expansion and relocation. Recent initiatives include Open to Business, which offers coaching and business plan assessments to fledgling firms. Next month, the city will celebrate one year of Business Forward, a program that asked owners to create a report advising the city on how to improve the business climate.

Out of Business Forward came a permanent advisory board to react to city actions and weigh in on new ideas.

"We try to be very aware that jobs are created by businesses," Lunde said. "What we can do is facilitate those efforts by making sure that even as we ask for stuff we're not being onerous or too overbearing."

Brooklyn Park air and water filtration manufacturer Diversified Plastics recently increased its employment by 10 percent. Vice President Annette Lund was a member of the first Business Forward group.

"They listen to us, that's absolutely what it is," she said. "That gives loyalty to the city itself. It means to me that they are listening to our frustrations, they are trying to make it better."

Over the summer, Metro Mold and Design, a plastics molding and precision manufacturer, brought 80 jobs to the city. Brooklyn Park staff served as a liaison as the company navigated through the complexities of city and state regulations and aid, Chief Financial Officer Greg Heinemann said.

"The city helped quarterback what we did with the state," he said. City staff, he went on, are "very responsive and knowledgeable in terms of what the city can offer and helping business evaluate which community to move into."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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