A public-private redevelopment initiative in Winona announced Thursday that Fastenal Co. will erect a major new office building on the city's downtown riverfront that eventually may house up to 600 employees.

Fastenal started with a handful of investors in Winona in 1967 by offering prepackaged nuts and bolts through vending machines. The business model drew little interest, and the company pivoted to offering fasteners over the counter. It was earning $20 million in revenue by the time it went public in 1987 and has continued to prosper. Fastenal now brings in about $22 million a day, said Dan Florness, president and CEO.

The company's new office building was designed by Kubala Washatko Architects, based in Cedarburg, Wis. It will be built at 2nd and Washington streets next to the recently rebuilt Hwy. 43 bridge. C.D. Smith Construction, a general contractor based in Fond du Lac, Wis., expects to break ground next spring and complete the project in fall 2021.

Fastenal has nearly 22,000 employees in 25 countries, about 1,800 of whom work in Winona. Of those, 1,050 do office work, and about 400 employees will move to the new building. They work in information technology, accounting, product development, supply chain, human resources and school business sectors.

Florness said that when he joined the company in the mid-1990s, it had 2,000 employees companywide. He said he expects the company to continue growing and that the new building would help with recruitment.

"We have a bunch of people scattered across a bunch of buildings [in Winona]. Let's just say it's cozy," Florness said. "We need to expand our footprint to be able to house the employees we have, as well as the people that we'll continue to add."

If President Donald Trump's trade war with China is resolved, Fastenal would likely grow even more, Florness said.

"Over 50% of the steel that's produced on this planet is made in mainland China," he said, adding that steel tariffs have "definitely impacted" the company.

Florness praised "Opportunity Winona," a four-year-old public-private partnership that aims to help redevelop the community by creating jobs, adding housing and stimulating commercial activity. The organization has four goals: strengthening the connection between downtown and the riverfront, expanding economic activity, improving connectivity and beautifying the downtown streetscape. Previous projects have resulted in $40 million in private investments and $6.5 million in city spending.

Winona Mayor Mark Peterson said the Fastenal project will bring a key part of downtown back to life.

"This is an absolutely great day for Winona," Peterson said in a statement.

Christie Ransom, president and CEO of the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce, said that by adding hundreds of employees in the new Fastenal building, the project would help draw new businesses and support those already operating downtown.

"Our challenge now is to keep working together to build on the momentum," Ransom said.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493