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ODC purchases former Itasca Bemidji Inc. building

The 24,000-square-foot former Itasca Bemidji Inc. building in the Bemidji Industrial Park has been sold to the Occupational Development Center for an expanded manufacturing facility.

The purchase will allow the ODC operation in Bemidji to have all its activities under one roof. The ODC also will have additional space for new equipment that will allow it to produce new items for many of its 300 customers.

Itasca Bemidji Inc. began in 1987, doing wire harness assembly work with Arctic Cat as its primary customer. IBI was purchased by Fargo Assemblies in 2005 and was shut down by the parent company in December 2009 during the height of the recession. The building has been vacant since that time.

ODC has 30 staff members at the Bemidji operation providing meaningful employment for 50 contract workers. The organization has nine operations spread across northern Minnesota. Its mission is to create work opportunities for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

Financing for the building's sale was provided through a participation loan from the Joint Economic Development Commission, Headwaters Regional Finance Corporation and Northwest Minnesota Foundation. Each organization provided $100,000 as part of the gap financing package. HRFC will be the lead agency on the administration of the loan.

ODC President/CEO Peter Lavalier said the building purchase will give the ODC the space that they need to offer more job opportunities to its clients as well as provide additional goods and services to its customers, many of whom are in the greater Bemidji area. It will further provide a centralized point in the state for staff to meet on a regular basis.

Larry Young, executive director of the JEDC, said he was glad to see a new business go into the former IBI building as it is one of the newer large buildings in the Bemidji Industrial Park.

"This facility will allow the ODC to significantly expand its operation and product mix," Young said in a news release. "A number of local companies, including Potlatch and American Garage Door, are already customers of the ODC, and hopefully new and regional businesses can be added with their expanded operation. The JEDC board saw this as a good opportunity to put the IBI building back into housing a thriving operation."