Mid America Steel to occupy new digs by year's end

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FARGO—Mid America Steel's new home is taking shape in north Fargo, but it may be the end of the year before all of the company's operations move to the new site.

That's according to CEO Lee Holschuh, who said that for now the company is leasing its old home on NP Avenue from the city of Fargo, which bought the property two years ago to accommodate a floodwall.

Mid America has operated at the downtown location since 1905.

Its new fabrication plant, which is being built at 1501 19th Ave. N. in Fargo, is expected to cost about $40 million.

Holschuh said there is no set time when the company must vacate the NP Avenue location but he said Mid America will likely start to move office workers to the new plant around November, with most production workers moving to the new plant by year's end.

For a time the company may do production work at both facilities as they work on the transition, Holschuh said.

Mid America has about 120 workers in Fargo and another 20-30 employees at a branch location in Bismarck.

Mid America is partly owned under an employee stock ownership plan, with 80 percent of the company owned by employees.

Holschuh said one thing that complicating the timing of the transition to the new facility is reconstruction of 19th Avenue North in the area of the new plant.

"We're going to miss it down here, it's a beautiful spot except for the flooding," Holschuh said, referring to the NP Avenue site.

Despite its location next to the river, Holschuh said the plant itself is on relatively high ground and never had serious water issues.

He said the site could be sold to investors, though only 40 percent of the property, most of it on the western side of the site, can be built on.

Holschuh noted another consideration for potential buyers: railroad tracks run through the property, which has its own railroad crossing arms.

And when it comes to tracks, Holschuh said the Mid America site includes remnants of a bygone era.

"It's like going back in the 1940s, there's still, like, cablecar rails down there in one of the shops," he said.

Once Mid America vacates the NP Avenue location the city will likely send out a request for proposals asking developers for ideas on ways the land can be used, said City Administrator Bruce Grubb.

He said some ideas that have been discussed include: a performing arts or convention center; commercial development; and housing.

Grubb said one possibility would be to develop the site akin to how a city-owned parking lot became Roberts Commons in downtown Fargo.

That project, which includes elements of parking, housing and commercial storefronts, involved the city partnering with Kilbourne Group, a company focused on downtown redevelopment.

"I would envision something similar on the Mid America site," Grubb said.

"Because of its location along the river there are just tons of possibilities," he added.