— Those in the home and apartment construction trade had a good increase in business locally last year. But those who specialize in building large industrial and commercial buildings were sitting on their hands.
A look at 2012 building permit reports locally shows mixed results. Construction of new homes and apartments in Mankato shot up 51 percent last year compared to 2011. They were up 68 percent in North Mankato.
But new construction of industrial or commercial buildings stalled, falling 46 percent in Mankato and down 96 percent in North Mankato.
Slow business construction was attributed to a variety of things: uncertainty over the presidential and congressional elections, uncertainty about whether Obamacare would be the law of the land, fears of European economic disasters, and a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing the last half of 2012.
Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said that while commercial development may have been lackluster last year, he thinks it will grow significantly this summer as the city has seen strong interest from developers in recent months.
“Last year was the year of the apartment, restaurant and strip center,” said Hentges of the areas that saw growth.
“I would hope this year is the year of Wal-Mart and industrial growth. And all indications are that we’re seeing an uptick.”
The reference to Wal-Mart is the long-anticipated announcement by the company that it will begin construction on a massive distribution center on land it has owned for several years on the east side of Mankato.
The project would bring investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, numerous construction jobs for years, hundreds of permanent jobs and a variety of spin-off development.
Hentges said there is already increased interest in land around the distribution center site and more interest in land in general.
“I haven’t seen the amount of interest in industrial investment before that I’ve seen this past year. The economy is rebounding and the workforce development is there,” he said.