Local and state economic development leaders converged on the city of Crookston, the home of the Ag Innovation Campus (AIC), in late June to discuss ways to continue improving the business climate in a local economy that depends on agriculture. On June 20, the city of Crookston, Minnkota Power Cooperative and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), hosted the leadership visit that included a tour of the AIC and a presentation from acting CEO Tom Slunecka.
The AIC is just one of the several economic development wins and projects that the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Association is celebrating. Other projects in the works include future housing developments for new families, building a day care facility to meet the demand of today’s workforce and redeveloping the winter show building to become a regional staple of the equine industry.
Since the AIC’s inception, the CHEDA has been a great partner in helping meet the needs of the operation, Slunecka said. Along with building up infrastructure needs such as water and sewer, CHEDA has assisted AIC in acquiring a $430,000 grant from DEED to develop a new road to access the facility on the city’s east side.
“Every step of the way on this journey, the city of Crookston has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Slunecka said. “And while challenges still exist – such as transportation, finding workforce and potential housing issues – they’ve listened to our needs and are examining ways to solve them.”
With the addition of the Campus, Crookston is slowly becoming a hub for ag and ag-tech in northwest Minnesota. American Crystal Sugar, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), and the University of Minnesota Crookston and its reputable ag program are just a few of the other examples a strong ag industry.
Acting AIC CEO Tom Slunecka speaks about the completion of the crush facility’s first phase during a meeting with Crookston-area economic leaders. A grand opening ceremony for the AIC is set for Thursday, Sept. 14.
“We are so excited to have (the) AIC as part of our community,” said CHEDA Executive Director Kari Kirschbaum. “Through just phase one, they are bringing several well-paying jobs to our community and adding value to agriculture throughout the region. The next two phases are going to bring even more innovation to the area as well.”
The AIC’s first phase is nearly complete and will feature a 16,000 square foot crush facility capable of crushing 240 tons of soybeans daily. Phases 2 and 3 of AIC will include AURI office space, research labs, a “Crushwalk” and meeting space. A grand opening celebration for AIC is set for Thursday, Sept. 14.
Along with touring Ag Innovation Campus, participants in Tuesday’s program also visited the Valley Tech Park, the Winter Showgrounds and examined the housing developments throughout Crookston. Presentations were also given from representatives from DEED and the Northwest Regional Development Commission.
Learn more about the AIC online at www.aginnovationcampus.org.