Started by Bemidji businessmen in 1962, the Bemidji Industrial Park continues to grow more than 45 years later.
"It grew from nothing," said Dave Landgrebe, a current member of the Bemidji Development Corporation's Board of Directors.
In August 1962, the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce's New Industry Committee organized the Bemidji Development Corporation. The BDC, which is made up of volunteers and continues to administer the industrial park today, sold capital stock to local businessmen to start the industrial park.
Initially, the BDC bought about 10 acres of land to start the industrial park, said Martin Sathre, BDC secretary.
The same year the BDC was organized, the first business moved into the industrial park - Northern Culvert Company. It was located where Paul Bunyan Transit stands today."It is a small, but successful operation that manufactures culverts," notes a history of the BDC.
At the time the history was written, the company employed directly eight-10 people. The history adds that "indirect employment and income is received by independent truckers, who haul and distribute the culverts throughout northern Minnesota and North Dakota."
The purpose of the industrial park, Landgrebe said, is to create jobs by having land available for businesses to come to the community.
Along with the arrival of new businesses, some businesses already in Bemidji have expanded to the industrial park.
Some have even moved within the industrial park.
A study completed in February 2007 by Bemidji State University's Marketing Assistance and Research Solutions shows the industrial park's impact on the local economy. The study indicates that businesses in the industrial park employed more than 1,200 people with a yearly payroll of more than $28 million. Also, it shows that businesses paid more than $380,000 annually in property taxes.
Since the industrial park opened in 1962, it has expanded several times.
"It's grown in five steps," said Sathre, who has served on the board since 1965.
Sathre said the first step was the property where Northern Culvert Company was located. The second step, he said, was an expansion that included a group of lots along state Highway 197. The third and fourth steps were expansions southwest of these lots.
Sathre said the plans for the fifth step - the current expansion - began in 2004. He said the BDC had received a request from a company wanting to buy a large site in the industrial park. At that time, the industrial park was nearing capacity. In early 2008, Sathre said, the industrial park ran out of lots.
The current expansion will add 58 lots south of Carr Lake Road Southeast and east of the new North Central Door plant.
Vision for future
The late Charlie Naylor had the vision to buy land for the industrial park long ago for future expansion, Landgrebe said. Naylor, who was elected BDC president in 1968, served until his death in October.
"He left it with ... 58 lots available," Landgrebe said. "That should take us well into the future."
Landgrebe said the future of the industrial park is bright because the land is there.
"There's plenty of room out there for many years of future growth," he said.