The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 10, 2013

Our View: Wal-Mart project just one plus for area

The Free Press

— Some years are better than others when it comes to charting the area’s progress.

This year is suddenly looking lots better. Wal-Mart this month made the long-awaited announcement that it will open a new multi-million dollar distribution center in Mankato in late 2015. Although that’s a couple of years away, groundbreaking could begin this year. And with that will come construction work, and after that, hiring of about 300 full-time employees.

The center will store and distribute perishables to Wal-Mart stores in the Upper Midwest. The news has been a long time coming. Wal-Mart bought land for the center in 2005 and said it was scheduled to be opened in 2008, then pulled back when the recession hit.

City officials, who did a great job courting the giant retail company, say the center will be a huge boost for our economy and are no doubt relieved a timeline is finally in place.

Beyond that good news, the local area still had a lot of positive things going for it in the last year. Among them, the area manufacturing industry continues to thrive and contributes greatly to overall economic growth, said Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth.

About 18 percent of the primary sector is manufacturing in the Mankato area, and that pool is extremely diverse, he said. The Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area saw a 6.63 percent annual gain in gross domestic product from 2010 to 2011. The area also had a 10-year gross domestic product gain of 57.8 percent. Both figures are the highest of any of Minnesota’s five MSAs as well as in the state and nation.

In addition to the area’s strength in manufacturing, The Free Press Progress 2013 special section explores many of the reasons why Mankato has become a strong regional hub in Minnesota. Expanding medical facilities, innovative school programs, expanding manufacturing facilities, new stores, strong community fundraisers and popular tourist attractions all contribute to why people want to live here.

And the area should gain more clout as GMG intensifies its lobbying efforts, making sure decision makers are aware of us in south-central Minnesota.