It looks like optimism and federal stimulus program money are paying off for the CEO of a St. Paul produce distribution company who has been planning an $8.5 million expansion.

Jim Hannigan, president and CEO of J&J Distributing, welcomed political officials to his North End business Friday morning to show them how he plans to boost his business, increase jobs and cut back on energy with the help of $3.3 million in local, state and federal money.

It's a three-phase plan. In the first, the building, at 653 Rice St., will be renovated with new electrical, lighting and refrigeration systems. In the second, a 20,000-square-foot expansion will be built to house processing equipment. In the third, a new greenhouse will be built with an expectation of turning out 220,000 pounds of hydroponic tomatoes and other produce each year.

The J&J expansion is part of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's "Rebuild St. Paul" initiative, which looks to use public and private money to get projects done around the city. "With this initiative, we are tapping into a variety of tools to help this company complete their project and, in the process, creating jobs and becoming a model of energy efficiency," Coleman said.

Currently, J & J employs 140 full-time workers and 100 part-time and temporary workers. The expansion could add up to 200 jobs, Hannigan said, depending on how business goes.

Here's how the project breaks down:

• $1.3 million energy conservation loan from the St. Paul Port Authority for high-efficiency lighting and refrigeration systems. The money comes from a larger pool of U.S. Department of Energy stimulus funding.

• $1.5 million comes from excess tax-increment finance district revenue that the city was recently allowed to use by the Legislature. It will go toward the building expansion.

• $500,000 in federal stimulus grant money will go toward the greenhouse construction.

The greenhouse will likely use renewable energy sources and reuse water. Composting would take care of waste and aid in creating energy. Hannigan has said the local greenhouse would cut fuel costs and use by not having to transport food from thousands of miles away.

"The strength of our nation is tied to the strength of our energy economy," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who visited the business. "This project demonstrates that by investing in energy efficiency projects we can create jobs."

Construction on the building expansion should begin within months, and the energy upgrades could be complete by next spring. Greenhouse construction is set to begin next year.

"For me, St. Paul is a fabulous place to grow a business," Hannigan said.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148