Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
In important displays of confidence in our central cities, two companies recently announced projects that will add jobs, green space and an image boost for Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Ion Corp., an Eden Prairie-based aerospace engineering and manufacturing firm, will invest more than $30 million to build a 113,000-square-foot plant in north Minneapolis. The modern, almost space-age-looking building will rise on the former BJ's Liquor Lounge site, another commercial building and a parking lot along W. Broadway.
Ion CEO Wendell Maddox graduated from Minneapolis Central High School and said he wanted to invest in the area because he was raised in the neighborhood. His company started in 1984 and now has 80 employees. The firm is working with RiverNorth Development Partners on the North Side project.
During a news conference, Maddox said he expects the development to create more than 100 jobs with a payroll of more than $10 million. Many of those jobs will go to high school graduates who will be trained as airspace technicians to work with engineers. The company hopes to break ground this fall and open the plant in early 2025.
Maddox said that although Ion has been in business for decades, many local residents may be unfamiliar with it because it doesn't have many customers in Minnesota. The firm provides public and private customers with scientific, engineering and custom manufacturing services. Ion specializes in testing high-tech electronic flight and ground support equipment and has worked on satellites and communications systems for NASA.
A more familiar corporation announced a welcome project in downtown St. Paul. As part of marking a century in business, Ecolab and its foundation are donating $2 million to create what essentially will be a small downtown park. What is now mainly concrete and asphalt in front of the company's headquarters between the Landmark Center and the Hamm Building will be transformed into 26,000 square feet of green space.
Ecolab will start construction on phase one of the project, turning over phase two to the city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Conservancy. The company owns part of the site, while several city departments own the rest. The park should be open to the public in early 2024.
Ecolab started with two people selling a carpet cleaning product in 1923. Today it produces sanitation and water purification products, operates in 170 countries and has about 47,000 employees.
Kudos to Ion and Ecolab — and their leaders and employees — for investing in the Twin Cities.