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Continued: St. Paul takes step to lure supercomputer company

  • Article by: CHRIS HAVENS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 13, 2009 - 1:05 AM

The St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority will vote Wednesday on whether to approve a $400,000 forgivable loan for Cray Inc. to move into a downtown building.

Cray, a global supercomputer company based in Seattle, is considering moving about 200 employees from its Mendota Heights operation to 48,000 square feet of space in Galtier Plaza, 380 Jackson St.

The company hasn't signed a lease, said spokesman Nick Davis. "We are exploring our options for potentially moving," he said.

One of those options is downtown St. Paul, he confirmed, and the company is doing its due diligence. St. Paul has good access to transportation and business amenities for Cray employees and clients, Davis said.

According to HRA documents, the company could move into the Galtier space by October. Nan Hynes, general manager at Galtier, declined to comment.

There might not be a signed lease yet, but hopeful city officials are working to make it happen.

Mayor Chris Coleman said bringing Cray downtown is a top priority. "I have been personally engaged to ensure that this company has what it needs to do business in St. Paul, and we will continue to make every effort to get this deal done," he said.

The recent departure of Educational Credit Management Corp. to Oakdale meant the loss of more than 300 jobs to downtown St. Paul.

The five-year loan, to be used for furniture and equipment, would come from the HRA's Strategic Investment Fund. The interest rate would be 4.25 percent.

Each yearly loan payment would be forgiven if Cray maintains 200 full-time downtown employees and pays a livable hourly wage, which is defined by the city as $13.78. The average Cray employee makes $48 per hour -- about $100,000 a year -- and the company is expected to grow in coming years, according to an HRA staff report.

The company would pay about $1.5 million of its own money for relocation costs, according to the report.

The loan is a responsible use of public money, according to HRA documents, because it would create local business and maintain the tax base.

"Clearly, it's a wonderful thing and exactly what we have that fund for," said Council Member Dave Thune, who also is chairman of the HRA. He represents the Second Ward, which includes downtown.

Matt Anfang, president of the Greater St. Paul Building and Managers Association, said Cray would be a welcome addition to downtown. The company's relocation, he added, would show confidence in St. Paul and likely attract other businesses.

Cray Inc. was formed in 2000 when Tera Computer Co., based in Seattle, acquired Cray Research, which was based in Eagan, and changed its name to Cray Inc.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148

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