Thorson to lean on business experience if elected Bemidji Mayor
BEMIDJI -- Mark Thorson, a lifelong Bemidji resident and business owner, has joined the race to become the city's next mayor.
President and owner of Mark Sand and Gravel, Thorson believes his business experience is essential to meeting Bemidji's current needs.
"The city has saddled itself with a heavy debt load -- with the past building of a new public works facility, the event center and most recently, the new liquor store," Thorson said in a release. "The problem is, that it's been funding these projects through increased taxation, annexation and by borrowing, which is not a sustainable model. Additionally, the city is shy on cash reserves, has no rainy day fund and if it doesn't construct a fiscal plan with a change in direction, it will be headed for financial difficulty."
The event facility mentioned is the city-owned Sanford Center, managed by the Ames, Iowa-based company VenuWorks. On an annual basis, the city invests hundreds of thousands of dollars into the center for operations, with the amount coming to $450,000 in 2019. The facility is also in need of nearly $750,000 for capital improvements on a yearly basis.
The 193,000 square-foot facility opened in 2010. Containing a 4,373-seat arena with attached conference space, the building is home to BSU's hockey programs.
The new store, meanwhile, is the 16,300-square foot First City Liquor. The city-owned liquor store opened last summer to replace the 50-year-old Discount Liquor, which was demolished. The project was approved in 2018 and was built at a cost of $4.1 million. The store is one of two in the city's municipal liquor operation, with the other being Lakeview Liquor.
Profits from both stores are used to reduce property taxes and fund special projects annually. Annually, the profits reduce property taxes by an estimated 8%, or $451,000. Across the state, 190 Minnesota cities own and operate 223 liquor stores.
Another priority for Thorson is dealing with issues he sees in the city's downtown area.
"There has been an ongoing increase in loitering, vagrancy, public drunkenness and panhandling," Thorson stated. "Obviously, many of us would like to avoid this subject because it's politically touchy. But this problem needs to be addressed and resolved. Our downtown should always be a welcoming environment for our citizens and their children, as well as for other visitors, customers, vendors and tourists."
Thorson's education background includes attending Concordia College, the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and Harvard Business School in Boston. Outside of his business, the release stated that Thorson is a supporter of the Bemidji Community Theatre, Bemidji Community Arena, Bemidji Boys and Girls Club, Lakeland Public Television and the Concordia Language Villages, among others.