“We don’t just plop down and bring people in from out of state. We hire local people, and we’ll continue to very aggressively invest…,” said Tower Investments Senior Vice President Alex Marks.
But Marks wasn't talking to the Post-Bulletin about his plan for the planned Elk Run biobusiness park in Pine Island. Rather, this quote comes from a Tennessean newspaper article about the after-effects of a quarrel and resulting court case in Nashville.
The Marks family (which includes Alex Marks, his dad and siblings) has "become ensnarled in an eminent domain battle with Metro government over land it purchased in 2007 that the city wanted for a new convention center. The city offered Tower $14.8 million, which is roughly $20,000 more than Tower paid for it three years earlier. But a Circuit Court jury decided the land was worth more than twice that. The Metro Development and Housing Agency has appealed," Tennessean reporter Bobby Allyn writes.
His article is headlined "Developer's dreams may hinge on making up with Nashville officials."
Likewise, the Great Recession and Tower's failure to actually build anything in Pine Island has left locals here in Minnesota miffed about the lengthy development process.
Capital investment firm Burrill & Company recently announced closing multi-million-dollar capital funds in excess of $1 billion from which some Elk Run investments might be made if the right biotechs come along. Biotechs accepting investment from those funds will be encouraged to locate at Pine Island's Elk Run.
Tower Investment also says Burrill & Company is raising a separate $1 billion fund. If a biotech accepts investment from that fund, it will be required as part of the deal to set up business at Elk Run.
Keep in mind, though, that information coming from Tower about Burrill plans is a little, well, uncertain.
Burrill and Company CEO G. Stephen Burrill emphasized to the Post-Bulletin in August that Tower's local contract representative "Geoff Griffin does not speak for Burrill & Company."
"Skeptics" in Tennessee sound much like Minnesota critics of Tower's development proposals.
Allyn writes that "skeptics say the Marks family flies under the radar because they haven’t achieved much here — at least not so far."
But "we all look for opportunities and, depending what the deal is, we divide and conquer," Allyn quotes Marks as saying.
Perhaps that sounds familiar too.
Development projects take time. Pine Island City Administrator Abraham Algadi, for example, has pointed to the Walgreens in central Rochester, Minnesota as an example of a project that took years to come to fruition.
And, early on, Tower officials had suggested that the whole biopark would not somehow magically spring from the ground that first year but would rather take 20 years to become a biotech powerhouse.
That's not much comfort to critics, though, who last year (and the year before — and the year before) were promised a first biotech building or buildings.
So far, the only structure on the Elk Run site is geologic.
Of course, should construction begin and companies start opening, Elk Run's potential might become a little less foggy — especially since construction of the Elk Run interchange on U.S. 52 is underway.
One doesn't have to look far to see development projects that were gee-whiz when announced but floundered over the ensuing years. But Tower has, indeed, invested a couple of million dollars for water and sewer infrastructure in Pine Island. That makes the community construction-ready as the nation slowly works its way out of the after-effects of the recession.
So the potential for a construction boom exists. The question is, will Tower and Burrill lead that effort?
[A "space available" sign that has graced the planned Elk Run site for three years. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Copyright.]
Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the PostBulletin.com, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel