After a 21-year absence, West once again will be publishing law school books in downtown St. Paul — albeit as a much smaller entity than the giant company that pulled up stakes in the 1990s for a suburban location.
City officials announced Wednesday that West Academic will be moving to the UBS Plaza building this fall, bringing with it a staff of 60 employees that's expected to increase by 25 in the next year.
The company, which was sold in February by Eagan-based Thomson Reuters to Eureka Growth Capital of Philadelphia, publishes textbooks, study guides and other materials for law students.
"We share roots with St. Paul, we love the energy of St. Paul … and it's a good place to recruit business," said Chris Parton, West Academic's CEO.
West Publishing Co., a major publisher of law books that was founded in St. Paul and had operated downtown for more than 100 years, took its 2,100 employees to a new corporate campus in Eagan in 1992.
West Publishing was acquired by Thomson Corp. of Canada in 1996 for $3.4 billion. Five years ago, Thomson merged with Reuters Group. Thomson Reuters will continue to publish materials for lawyers and judges.
The departure two decades ago from St. Paul of West, downtown's second largest private employer at the time, was a significant blow to the city. West Academic can't make up for that loss, said St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer.
"But there is some degree of poetic justice that West, which had its heart here for all those years, is back in St. Paul," he said.
Kramer added that West Academic represents the kind of specialty companies now drawn by downtown St. Paul's amenities and transit options. "It's where the cool kids are," he said.
Parton said that the opening next year of the light-rail Green Line, which will run between the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was a factor in their decision to move.
Next week, the City Council, sitting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, is expected to vote on an $80,000 strategic investment fund loan that West can use to buy furniture and equipment. The loan will be forgiven after five years if the company remains in St. Paul and maintains a staff on site of at least 80 employees.
West will occupy 18,000 square feet on two floors of the USB building. The downtown staff will include editors, account managers, technology experts, marketers and financial people, Parton said. West's books will continue to be printed in Eagan by Thomson Reuters, he said.
Mayor Chris Coleman hailed the move, saying in a statement that it was another example of new developments downtown. "I couldn't be more pleased with West Academic's decision to come back home."