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Austin could get plant with 300 jobs

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Austin remains on a short list of Midwest communities being considered by a major company looking to create 300 jobs in five years.

A representative for Austin will be part of an in-person interview March 10 with site selectors for the unidentified company that manufactures household goods, said Kevin Kelleher of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. It will be a chance to discuss the project more in-depth, he said.

"I don’t know that we’ll know who the company is," Kelleher said, "but I think we’ll have a much better idea of what they’re gonna need in terms of, say, job training for their people and this type of thing."

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Officials also should learn what the company — code-named "Magnolia" — expects for financial incentives from state and local entities, he said.

The interviews will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because it was deemed by the site selectors as a central point given that communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois are being considered, he said.

Austin is one of four Minnesota communities in contention for the company, Kelleher said. The other cities are Albert Lea, Faribault and Lakeville, which all are along Interstate 35.

Kelleher doesn’t know which company is looking at sites or much more details on it, except that it doesn’t have a Midwest facility. He also doesn’t know when the company might make a final decision on a site or how many communities in Iowa and Illinois are on the list.

Each city needs to send a person who’s familiar with its community and with what resources might be available to the company, such as a revolving-loan fund, Kelleher said.

City Administrator Jim Hurm on Tuesday said he didn’t know yet who will represent Austin at the meeting but local officials are pleased the city remains on a short list of communities for the company.

"We have a lot of offer here in Austin," Hurm said, adding the city will work hard to attract the company.

Site consultants for the company visited late last summer with Austin city leaders.

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