A fast-growing Minneapolis technology company says it's itching to break ground on a five-story office building and data center along Interstate 494 after receiving the go-ahead from the Bloomington City Council for its plans.
Open Access Technology International, or OATI, indicated it will break ground as soon it can line up the building permits for its 110,023-square-foot building at 7901-51 Computer Drive. The council approved the project last month.
The new building will be along the north side of the freeway near its intersection with Hwy. 100/Normandale Blvd., a spot that will give the company a much more conspicuous presence. Up to 300 employees will ultimately work in the new building.
OATI was founded in 1995 by five veterans of Control Data Corp.'s energy management division, which was sold to Siemens Energy Management and Information Systems after the supercomputer company's breakup in the early 1990s. Its CEO and president is Sasan Mokhtari, a University of Minnesota graduate.
The company's main area of expertise is the exploding field of "smart grid" technology, in which utilities employ software to control the flow of power across their transmission systems and to integrate scattered sources of generation, such as wind and solar installations.
OATI posted revenue of $66.8 million in 2013, up from $42.9 million in 2010, according to Inc. Magazine. It outgrew its 22-acre headquarters in a former Honeywell facility in northeast Minneapolis only five years after purchasing it.
Calls to the company seeking comment about the project weren't returned. David Heim, OATI's general counsel, told the Bloomington City Council last month the firm is anxious to begin construction as soon as possible.
"We have 400 employees in our Minneapolis campus now, and we're bursting at the seams," he said. "We hired 60 over the summer alone."
OATI purchased the Bloomington site in 2012 for $1.5 million, according to Hennepin County records.
The parcel is just south of the Seagate Technology campus. For many years, it was the site of Vaughn Communications, a videotape and CD duplication company. The two nondescript, one-story structures left over from that era were razed last year.
Heim said the new data center would host the "mission-critical" Web applications used by its hundreds of power utility customers. Because the company is subject to the same security requirements as utilities, it would require the installation of an 8-foot perimeter fence.
OATI also revealed the building will include its own source of renewable power: a rooftop solar array as well as wind turbines, with possibly more solar panels perched atop carports over some of its parking stalls. The bulk of the construction work would begin in spring and is expected to be completed a year later.
Bloomington Community Development Director Larry Lee said the coming of the company will give the city a rare new office development at a time when the office market remains in the doldrums.
"Not much office being built in Bloomington nowadays, so it's nice to see one come along occasionally," he said.
Since the start of the recession, the only other build-to-suit office project in the city has been Toro Co.'s $25 million addition, which opened in July.
The South/Airport submarket, which Bloomington is part of, had an office vacancy rate of 17.6 percent this summer, or about 1 million square feet of empty space. It saw little in the way of new leasing activity in the first half of the year, Cushman & Wakefield/Northmarq reported in July.
Don Jacobson is a freelance writer in St. Paul and former editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal.