Rosemount, Minn., May Get New Air Cargo Facility

For months, the city of Rosemount has been like a good student doing homework and having the right answers in case called upon.

So when a legislative bill was proposed to build an air cargo facility, Rosemount raised its hand.

"It fits in with Rosemount's vision for growth and jobs," Mayor Bill Droste said. "We are close to the airport and have a significant amount of land."

The city has been looking for ways to increase the number of businesses as well as jobs in the area. An air cargo facility, which would serve as a regional distribution center for processing and trucking international freight to airports, could create as many as 30,000 to 38,000 jobs.

The proposal for the facility was introduced last year and is currently waiting for hearings in both the Senate and House. The bill's author, Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said the proposal has gained momentum and could be approved this session. In his State of the State speech last month, Gov. Tim Pawlenty supported building a regional air freight distribution center for Minnesota companies to ship products faster and more efficiently.

Droste said the city has identified the southeast corner of County Road 42 and U.S. 52 as an ideal location to build such a facility. The area encompasses 750 to 770 acres of privately owned farmland. City administrator Jamie Verbrugge said landowners in the area have been looking to sell their land. "I don't see this being a contentious issue," he said.

Steve Anderson, administrator for the Greater Metropolitan Foreign Trade Zone said cities that have inquired about having an air cargo facility include International Falls, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud. However, Anderson said Rosemount has shown the most interest and the legislative bill specifies that the distribution center would need to be within 60 miles of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"I think (Rosemount's) location is a natural fit," he said. "It's not far from the airport, and there is land available for development but there is nothing in the legislative bill that says where it would be yet."

Anderson said details are still being worked out, but the center could potentially cost tens of millions of dollars and funding is expected to come from private companies. Features could include an industrial park, freight building, truck terminals and warehouses. The legislative bill also calls for a 500- to 1,000-acre campus.

Dick Saunders, board member of the South Metro Airport Action Council, a nonprofit citizens group that works on airport noise and environmental issues, said the group is concerned that building a distribution center would increase noise in the area.

The demand for a central facility to process and transport international shipments has increased in recent years.

Currently, products shipped to other countries must be transported by about 50 freight trucking companies scattered throughout the state.

"As companies become more global and the demand for getting products to the market more quickly increases, it's become a problem," Anderson said.

Anderson said in addition to efficiency, homeland security issues in recent years also have increased the need for a centralized hub so that freight can be inspected in one place.