The two cities each gained 11.5 percent in jobs over the past two years, state stats show. Edina added the most jobs: 3,285.
Greg Koetz, facilities director of Egan Companies, faced a hurdle with the Brooklyn Park City Council about outdoor storage space for the commercial building company. But the city revised its business park zoning rules to permit a certain amount of outside storage. Egan had begun to look for a new location before the city altered its storage regulations.
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.
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