North metro brands itself as ‘technology corridor’

The Corridor is situated along I-35 with abundant fiber, water and power access. Along with project sites between 20-250-acre parcels. The area consists of the cities of Centerville, Columbus, Forest Lake, Hugo and Lino Lakes, Minnesota. This corridor is close to the urban core of the Twin Cities, within 20 minutes of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

A public/private partnership to attract technology businesses to the north metro is officially underway.

Officials from Anoka and Washington counties are spearheading the effort to brand the stretch of Interstate 35E near five north metro cities—Centerville, Columbus, Forest Lake, Hugo and Lino Lakes—as the future home of the Minnesota Technology Corridor.

The partnership has been in the works for about a year. It began with meetings between county officials and Connexus Energy, which had been approached by tech companies looking for areas with fiber access, high energy capacity and undeveloped land near the airport.

The partnership has now grown to include the five cities and other energy and fiber providers, including Xcel Energy, Comcast and CenturyLink.

This summer, the Minnesota Technology Corridor rolled out its new website (mntechcorridor.com), which provides detailed information about the region and highlights its benefits to large tech businesses. Following a launch party Aug. 1 at Running Aces Casino & Racetrack in Columbus, marketing efforts have officially launched.

Partners will spend the next several months “aggressively promoting” the Minnesota Technology Corridor, said Bruce Sayler, principal of Community and Economic Development at Connexus Energy. “In the past, we were waiting for the phone to ring …. Now, we are promoting this region both nationally and internationally.”

The area, officials say, is primed for business development. The corridor’s website highlights its fiber availability, electric and utility capability, proximity to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and buildable lands, including five sites that range in size from 10 to 250-plus acres.

The website also details various tax incentives. Among them is the data center sales tax incentive offered through the state, whereby companies that build data or network operation centers of at least 25,000 and invest $30 million can qualify for sales tax exemptions for 20 years on technology and energy equipment and pay no property tax.

Officials say that the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro is already a technology hub, as it’s home to more than 136,000 tech jobs. However, its growth is not keeping pace with other tech hubs of its size. Chris Eng, economic development director for the Washington County Community Development Agency, also said that Anoka and Washington counties are losing talented workers to jobs outside the region: 52% of Anoka County’s workforce and 77% of Washington County’s workforce commute to jobs located outside county borders.

“We want to give them the opportunity to stay in our counties and work in our counties,” Eng said.

For more information, visit mntechcorridor.com.

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