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Who’s behind ‘Project Polly II’ in Chanhassen?

Karlee Weinmann//June 5, 2015

Who’s behind ‘Project Polly II’ in Chanhassen?

Karlee Weinmann//June 5, 2015

The Bernard Group, a maker of retail signage and other fixtures, appears ready to expand in a $3.57 million move that would shift nearly 400 employees from Chaska to a former Supervalu facility in Chanhassen.

An expansion would allow the company to add 240 jobs over three years, bringing its total employees at the new location to 625, according to redacted documents filed with the city of Chanhassen. The company cited “facility and land limitations” at its current site, a 47,936-square-foot slice of 102 Jonathan Blvd. N. in a Chaska industrial park.

The Chanhassen property, Supervalu’s former regional office at 19011 Lake Drive E., would provide 156,333 square feet of leased space for starters, but owner CSM Corp. says that a tenant could increase the footprint to 253,000 square feet. The facility, built in 1982, has 804 parking stalls and access to Highway 212, Highway 5 and Interstate 494.

A spokesperson for the Bernard Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on ThursdayIn the city filing, the expansion is referred to as “Project Polly II” with identifying details, like the company’s name, blacked out. Still, the information is clearly visible on copies of the documents.

The Bernard Group, working alongside regional economic development organization Greater MSP, said in the filing it would make unspecified leasehold improvements at the Chanhassen site, including $1 million in renovations and another $1.95 million in infrastructure.

Other costs include $429,000 for equipment relocation and $188,000 for furniture, according to the filing. The Bernard Group plans to ask for the state’s help to cover expenses tied the move.

The company did not divulge how much it would request from the Job Creation Fund, a state Department of Employment and Economic Development job stimulus program that doles out up to $2 million at a time for expansions aimed at opening up new jobs.

The average wage of the Bernard Group’s employees is $24 per hour, according to the filing.

The Chanhassen City Council on Monday will consider whether to throw its weight behind the request, a requirement for fund allocation. Chanhassen officials declined to comment.

The Bernard Group is firming up its moving plans after years of discussions with Chaska officials over how to keep the company planted. Proposed incentives included tax abatement and sustainable energy rebates, plus support for state funding, Chaska Assistant City Administrator Jeffrey Dahl said.

But talks stalled out when the company wouldn’t budge on one thing Chaska couldn’t provide after nearly a dozen expansion projects in the same industrial park in recent years.

“Ultimately, they were looking to move into an existing building that would facilitate their growing operations and, quite honestly, there just wasn’t that facility available in Chaska,” Dahl said. “That’s why they’re [considering] moving to Chanhassen.”

The job drain stings, but the Bernard Group’s arsenal of 385 Chaska employees is much smaller than some of its neighbors in the industrial park. Medical device makers Lake Region Medical and Beckman Coulter each have more than 1,000 employees, Dahl said.

Plus, given recent growth, the city is confident it can draw in another tenant that brings well-paying jobs.

To line up state aid for its proposed expansion, the Bernard Group needed a letter of support from Chaska. The city sent one.

“It’s not like it was one incentive package versus another,” Dahl said. “It was just a matter of the facility, and we’d rather keep them in Chanhassen than them going to Iowa or Wisconsin.”

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