BEMIDJI -- Driving along U.S. Highway 71, Delta Dental's new building is hard to miss, as the tinted glass walls glimmer in the sunlight.
On Thursday, a group of officials from cities across Minnesota and some state officials took a look inside Bemidji's newest Technology Park tenant. The tour, taking place as construction crews continued working on finishing touches inside the operations and technology center, was part of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities' three day summer conference.
Delta Dental's $11 million Bemidji facility is expected to be completed in September, with full operation expected to start in December. In all, the company expects to have 150 employees in Bemidji.
"In the time between then, it will be a mix of hiring and training," said Joe Lally, Delta Dental vice president of government relations. "In that training process, we'll be doing mock calls and performance tests, so we can see how things are progressing."
Along with call center representatives, Lally said the building will also be home to some of Delta Dental's financial staff.
Along with CGMC attendees, staff from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, also were on hand. Steve Grove, Minnesota DEED commissioner, said the new information center "proves you don't need to be in the Twin Cities to have a good paying job or a job involving technology."
The Bemidji project received a $1 million DEED loan from the Minnesota Investment Fund. Of the amount, $900,000 will be forgiven because of the project's economic impact.
"It's good news for Bemidji and it's good news for Minnesota," Grove said. "You have a company wanting to grow, you have a university nearby with BSU turning out the type of graduates this company needs, and you have the state government playing a role. I think when you have those working together, special things can happen. So this is a model for the rest of the state."
"We're excited about the energy in the city, and we've had good conversations with Mayor (Rita) Albrecht and other members of the City Council," Lally said. "We're going to be doing more community work with our foundation, too."
Based in Minneapolis, Delta Dental of Minnesota is the largest regional provider of dental benefits to small businesses and larger companies alike. Nationwide, Delta Dental serves more than 4 million members.