PaR Systems of suburban St. Paul, a global manufacturer of robotic equipment, has broken ground on a manufacturing facility that will drive employment on its Shoreview campus from 150 jobs to 250 jobs over the next several years, its president said Friday.

Brian Behm said the new facility, about half the size of a small Target store and boasting a 65-foot-high roof, will accommodate construction of a huge robotic arm -- or "tensile truss" -- that PaR will build to help clean up the damaged nuclear plant at Fukushima, Japan.

Behm said, "This equipment, which functions like a crane with more lateral force, is well-suited" to removing the radioactive debris that fills the spent-fuel pool in Reactor 3.

The building, which will cost less than $10 million, and likely add-on facilities, would total about 50,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space.

PaR Systems, founded in 1961, specializes in designing complex engineered systems that include the world's largest "Super Gantry Crane" for construction of the Olmsted Dam on the Ohio River. The company also makes equipment for the nuclear and materials-handling industries, industrial manufacturing and the life sciences sector.

Andrew Borene, executive director of Robotics Alley, a trade group within the Minnesota High Tech Association and general counsel of fast-growing Recon Robotics of Edina, calls PaR's expansion "a visible expansion in robotics-related physical and human capital in the Twin Cities."

Robotics Alley, which represents several dozen Upper Midwest companies and research initiatives, wants to establish a robotics research center in the Twin Cities and aims to make Minnesota a hub.

PaR, which does not disclose revenue, has about 450 employees globally, including 175 manufacturing and headquarters workers in Shoreview.

PaR Systems has been owned since 2008 by MML Captial Partners, a Connecticut-based private equity firm.

Under MML Capital, PaR has made three acquisitions, including OakRiver Technology in June and Georgia-based Marine Systems Technology in April. In 2011, PaR acquired South Africa-based SDI Lasers.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144