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3M, in the middle of a global expansion, is planning to add a research lab on its campus in Maplewood, with completion targeted for 2015.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

3M grows here, too, with lab in Maplewood

  • Article by: DEE DePASS
  • Star Tribune
  • September 26, 2012 - 10:20 PM

In a nod to Minnesota, 3M Co. said Wednesday that it will build a state-of-the-art research facility on its Maplewood headquarters campus.

Construction of the research labs will start next summer and should finish in early 2015. The facility, projected to cost nearly $150 million, will be built near the corner of McKnight Road and Conway Avenue and will house about 700 existing 3M researchers and scientists, 3M spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry said.

Officials lauded the investment as an example of its ongoing commitment to global research and development.

The move also emphasizes 3M's commitment to Minnesota, which CEO Inge Thulin has said will continue to be 3M's base even amid the company's global expansion.

Environmental approvals and possible tax-increment financing commitments from the state and Maplewood are still being worked out, city and company officials said.

More than 66 percent of the company's $30 billion in annual revenue now comes from other countries. About 61 percent of all employees were outside the United States in 2011. The company just launched new initiatives in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Nigeria.

3M, known for its Scotch tape, Post-it Notes, bus advertising wraps and myriad other products, spent nearly $1.6 billion in research last year. But a good chunk of that was spent in Minnesota, officials said.

Berry noted that the announcement regarding the new Maplewood research labs "reinforces the importance of 3M Center [in Minnesota] as an essential R&D hub for 3M" and marks the "latest in a series of investments in R&D around the world."

It is unclear what will become of 3M's older labs in the central and north part of the campus after the new research center rises and employees are relocated, Berry said.

Maplewood Mayor Will Rossbach said he learned of 3M's new project last Wednesday.

"The city, of course, is very excited because they are going to move forward with a new building," Rossbach said. "It gives some assurances that when they are pumping more money into their campus that they are intending to hang around for a while. And we like that."

The new labs could cost two to three times Maplewood's normal construction budget. The city issued $53 million worth of permits last year and $41 million in 2010, Rossbach said.

3M's new R&D center is the latest in a long line of local improvements.

The company is undergoing a major renovation to the public spaces inside four administrative "quad" buildings on the south end of Maplewood campus. That project involves renovating lobbies and cafeterias, installing computer kiosks, and building better "hub" meeting spaces that spur employee discussion and collaboration, Berry said. She declined to say how much money was being spent.

In 2003, 3M spent nearly $10 million renovating the exterior face of administrative Building 220. It is one of the four quad buildings now being renovated internally.

Other investments include the 3M Innovation Center the company built six years ago on the north end of campus.

Such projects give Rossbach hope that 3M will remain a local powerhouse. He insisted that in addition to providing tax revenues for the city, 3M is "a very good partner" on a lot of projects the city is involved in.

Regardless, the commitment question is one that Thulin has said that he gets regularly. Thulin frequently tells shareholders, employees and retirees that 3M is a Minnesota-based company, and that there are no plans to change that.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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