1720 Cannon Road, Northfield, Minn.

Type: Industrial distribution center

Size: 89,000 square feet

Cost: $4.1 million, plus $1 million in renovations

Opening: Spring 2008

Details: In the real estate theory of relativity, the definition of a "big deal" depends on the perspective of the community involved, and for Northfield, it was a big deal when Cloquet, Minn.-based Upper Lakes Foods chose the Rice County city for its third distribution center, a deal worth slightly more than $5 million and 40 new jobs.

"I've heard it's the best deal the city's seen in years," said Charlene Coulombe-Fiore, Northfield's economic development director.

Steven Nilsson, a vice president with Bloomington-based NAI Welsh Companies, represented Upper Lakes in its purchase of an 89,000-square-foot distribution center on Cannon Road. His colleagues at Welsh, Senior Vice President Bill Ritter and associate Ryan Krczmarzick, represented the seller, College City Beverage Inc.

Upper Lakes paid $4.1 million for the property, with $1 million more committed to building improvements. City officials say the deal will help Northfield's job situation and tax base, but it also helps heal a bit of the civic pride that was bruised when College City moved its operations out of the city to nearby Dundas, Minn. The old building has been empty since.

Coulombe-Fiore admitted that she can't take credit for recruiting the buyer, noting that Nilsson called her in December and initiated discussions about the site. But Nilsson noted that Northfield officials moved quickly to get everything in place so that Upper Lakes could stay on schedule with an aggressive timetable.

"[Upper Lakes is] continuing to take on more business," Nilsson said. "They just were running at capacity at their Cloquet facility. We started the process about 12 months ago. We came down to two buildings, one in Hopkins and one in Northfield. It was the fact that they can own, the fact that they can expand and the fact that the coolers are in place."

The location also works well for the company, enabling it to cut down on transportation costs and time from Cloquet.

The six-acre site, which has been on the market since 2006, includes refrigerated warehouse and office space, with 20-foot clear ceiling heights, five docks with levelers and bumpers, two drive-through bays and maintenance space. In promotional material for the site, the lease rate was quoted at $4.50 per square foot net.

Upper Lakes is a family-owned food distributor, the largest in Minnesota, and among the top 30 in the United States. According to its website, the company has more than 375 employees at its main location in Cloquet and at a distribution center in Rhinelander, Wis.

Coulombe-Fiore confirmed that current employees will be given the option of relocating, but some positions are expected to be filled locally. The deal includes state JOBZ tax credits for creating jobs.