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Mystery company wants $1M to create new jobs in St. Paul

A mystery employer that already has operations in St. Paul wants to bring 330 new jobs to Minnesota’s capital city, and the St. Paul Port Authority board on Tuesday pushed for $1 million in state aid to seal the deal.

The forgivable loan, provided through the Minnesota Investment Fund program, is aimed at sweetening the unnamed company on expanding in St. Paul. The subsidy would support leasehold build-outs and outfit a new space, according to the Port Authority.

“MIF is necessary to convince the company to create the jobs here,” Port Authority CFO Laurie Hansen wrote in a memo to board members. “As an alternative, the company could locate in another state. Without the inducement of MIF, these jobs may not be created in St. Paul or anywhere in Minnesota.”

The national outfit is in talks with several other cities across the U.S. and plans to remain anonymous until it makes a decision, according to the memo. The company expects to settle on a location by the end of October, the Port Authority said, and a public announcement is likely within a month.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which administers the MIF program, will identify the company if it approves the application. In addition, the state is offering up $400,000 in grants that would support job skills training.

Job skills funding frequently supports manufacturers but can also be used to fund management training and other initiatives, said John Shoffner, a business development representative at DEED.

To nail down the $1 million funding package, the company would need to create at least 250 jobs within two years that pay $13 per hour or more. If it falls short, the company would have to repay the $1 million loan.

Port Authority documents detail plans to pay all 330 new workers at least $13 per hour, plus benefits.

The Port Authority is basing its support on a review of the company’s annual financial statements dating back to 2012. The company posted profits each year and “does have the financial capacity” to repay the MIF funding if necessary.

Both the company and DEED approached the Port Authority to be a conduit to state funding. The MIF application process requires approval from a local government agency, and though the city of St. Paul has been at the table, the Port Authority was a natural fit.

The agency formerly owned the site that the company could expand into, Shoffner said. He declined to identify the property, but confirmed the Port Authority had a hand in developing it.

Pearson Candy was the last company to tap the Port Authority for help with a MIF application. Last year, the agency helped the confectioner get $200,000 in MIF backing to bring its Bit-O-Honey line to St. Paul and open up 40 factory jobs.

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