Economic development booming in West Fargo
Like most everything in West Fargo, economic development is booming.
A concern, he admits, is that West Fargo may eventually run out of room.
That depends on construction of a proposed flood diversion project around the city’s west side.
If the Fargo-Moorhead area flood diversion project moves forward, the city would gain land in its north region for future development, Mattern said.
The current development forecast is quite different than in 2003, when the late Dorinda Anderson was hired as the city’s first business development director.
“We needed somebody to be a pitch person for us,” said Mattern. “Dorinda filled that bill. She got the ball rolling for us.”
Anderson, who died in 2011, had to beat the bushes to sell new businesses on moving to town.
“She was very passionate about West Fargo,” Mattern said.
She made the pitch for West Fargo to secure state Renaissance Zone funding, a funding source vital to re-energizing historic pieces of cities.
One of the first projects to receive that funding was truck trailer manufacturer Trail King Industries, said Mattern.
Its 160,000-square-foot plant opened in 2007 at 2130 3rd Ave N.W., in the Butler Industrial Park, located north of Main Avenue and the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.
Trail King has since become surrounded by new trucking, manufacturing, construction, communications and other types of commercial businesses.
The city’s northeast sector, near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Ninth Street North, also started to blossom, said Mattern.
That area is home to Integrity and Infinity Window production plants, Midland Garage Door and nearly a dozen recently built buildings containing an array of commercial businesses.
Growth has also occurred in the Sterling Industrial Park, east of Ninth Street North and Seventh Avenue East.
A mix of business ranging from auto shops and construction companies to a truck parts complex and indoor gun shooting range are also located there.
On the south end of town, where Ninth Street South/Veterans Boulevard connects with I-94, another hub for retail/commercial businesses has popped up.
North of the Interstate, Blarney Stone Pub, Cambria Suites and Conference Center, Titan Machinery, Highpointe Network and several other businesses have settled in.
Costco’s 152,000 square-foot retail center, which opened in 2012, anchors the area south of the Interstate. A senior living center, hotel, liquor store commercial office park are planned for that area
Not everyone supported the city’s decision to expand south of the Interstate, Mattern said.
“It was taking a chance,” the mayor said. “We all felt that taking that risk was worth the effort. Looking back today, it certainly was.”
Matt Marshall, West Fargo’s new economic development and community services director, says he’s always looking for new development possibilities.
“But currently, no, I don’t have to go out and beat the bushes, because there’s so much going on” he said.
“My priority now is maintaining the businesses we have,” Marshall said. “They have growth needs right now.”
Marshall replaced Mark Vaux, who joined the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Commission in March 2013.
Although businesses are coming in, Marshall would like to see more retail growth and commercial office space.
“I have people call looking for office space and have to show them retail space which is typically more expensive,” he said.
Discussions are ongoing about where the next industrial park is going to be located, Marshall said.
“The one issue we have to address is available land,” he said.
“I think in a couple of years you will see a real strong interest in redevelopment in the city,” Marshall said, especially in older, historic sectors.
While businesses want to start up and grow in the city, land availability is not the only obstacle they can face right now.
“The employment environment is very difficult right now,” said Marshall.
Companies have told him they would double in size if they could find employees.
“Workers are very hard to find. There are some sectors that are better than others, but in general it’s tough to find workers,” Marshall said.
Incentives like family amenities, good schools and flood protection have attracted new business, Marshall said.
“It’s a great business climate,” Marshall said.
And West Fargo’s youthful age demographic is playing a role, he said.
“The age group that’s here, bringing in families, is truly unique when you look at communities our size in the Midwest,” Marshall said.
“We don’t have an aging demographic,” he said. “All those things indicate longer term growth as opposed to a spurt.”