Tower Economic Development Authority reorganized

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2018 — Members of the Tower Economic Development Authority (TEDA) met on Thursday, February 1 to organize the city’s development organization for the upcoming year. There was a shake-up of the organization in January when Tower Mayor Josh Carlson moved to remove Marshall Helmberger from TEDA and instead placed Stephen Peterson, Jr. in his place. Helmberger had been serving TEDA as its president, leaving this top office vacant.

Every member of the new TEDA was present, and the development authority is now comprised of father and son, Stephen Peterson, Sr. and Stephen Peterson, Jr., Marit Kringsted, Joan Broten, Victoria Meloche, and representing the city council, Brooke Anderson, Brad Matich and Deputy Clerk Terri Joki-Martin. With a full slate of TEDA members in attendance it was impossible for the authority to easily appoint an absent board member to fill the required positions. The group entertained a lengthy discussion on offieres and ultimately determined that Steve Peterson, Sr. will serve as President. Broten will serve as Vice President; Anderson as Treasurer; and Joki-Martin as Secretary. TEDA set its regular meeting time at date at 5:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. The next meeting will be held on March 1.

City Clerk-Treasurer Linda Keith provided an update on that project for TEDA. The city is near finalizing the specifications for the building which will be a steel building, with a steel roof and fronted with LP® siding of manufactured wood and a stone facade. There have been delays in vacating a spur of the snowmobile tail which crosses the building site and the city continues to work on having the trail vacated, according to Keith. The city and Lamppa Manufacturing continue to fine tune the proposal for IRRRB funding with details regarding the size of the facility still being considered. Former TEDA President Helberger encouraged the city to build a larger facility than one which simply meets Lamppa Manufacturing’s needs, providing space for a future, currently unknown, tenant. Keith reported that the city is currently considering leaving the additional space completely unfinished, until the specific needs of any future tenant are determined.

Orlyn Kringstad, Tower Vision 2025, the developer working with Tower on the Harbor project, reported that glamiTec AS, a Norwegian company is very interested in establishing a manufacturing facility in the additional space which will become available upon the completion of the building in Tower’s industrial park along Highway 135. Lars Hanstad, manager of glamTec AS, is a 50 percent owner of Tower Vision 2025, according to Kringsted. Plans are underway to utilize glamiTec AS glass products in the construction of his proposed harbor condominium project, Kringsted told TEDA. Kringsted said that they plan on shipping the glass manufacturing equipment, necessary to establish a manufacturing business in Tower, along with the finished glass product to be utilized in completing the first phase of the condominium development. TEDA reviewed the progress on the upcoming new Lamppa Manufacturing facility to be built in Tower. It is anticipated that Tower will build the facility, with financing help from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, and in turn, lease the property to Lamppa Manufacturing.

The city will need a letter of intent from glamiTec AS, according to Clerk Keith, so it can consider the Norwegian Company’s requirements for the facility before construction plans are finalized. Kringsted said that he will meet with glamiTec AS to develop a letter of intent.

Tower Vision 2025 is also working on helping a buyer purchase the old Peyla Arrowhead Garage, currently vacant of any business, and owned by Ron Abrahamson, Kringsted told TEDA. Plans are also underway to develop a 40 unit hotel on lands adjacent to the Marjo Motel and Kringsted reported that he has requested that the city acquire land from St. Louis County, along Highway 169, by the county garage on Marina Drive. This will be necessary to create access to the existing, and future business plans being entertained by Tower Vision 2025, according to Kringsted. At this time, no formal proposal regarding the land acquisition has been submitted to the city.

TEDA also discussed the status of proposed demolition projects at the Tower marina. Bid requests for the project have already been published in The Tower News and are due to the city on February 9. Your Boat Club principal Luke Kujawa, new owner of the marina, hopes than he will be able to bid on the project, according to Keith, however the city needs to review this potential before any final decision on the self-bid is made. Keith also cautioned TEDA, that should bids come in at a figure over $100,000, the city will be forced to follow a different bidding protocol and issue a new call for bids.

Joan Broten gave a short report on the anticipated upcoming activities of the city’s Main Street committee and reported that there has been a lull in committee activity over the winter. However she anticipats the committee will soon become active again and look towards its spring plans to improve the Main Street community.

This reporter, speaking during Public Input on the agenda, urged TEDA to encourage the city to post an immediate call for proposals from vendors interested in establishing recreational rentals at the Tower Harbor. “Bike rentals, canoe rentals, hydrobike rentals, kayaks, whatever vendors can think of, would vitalize the Tower tourism economy,” Anthony Sikora said. Thousands of new visitors will be coming to Tower for the first full-year of operation of the Lake Vermilion–Soudan Mine State Park, according to Sikora.“We have 110 days before it opens—before the fishing opener,” Sikora said, “I am sure Ely is thinking about this and we should too.” Sikora also encouraged TEDA to expand the existing farmers market up onto the Main Street and to seek craft and other vendors to rent space on Tower’s Main Street, in the many newly created empty lots. “Create a festive atmosphere and the people will come,” Sikora said, “they will be looking for experiences and places to spend money.”

It is vital we provide interesting opportunities for the vacationing public to spend part of their vacation time in Tower, according to Sikora. The city has been working on the harbor project for nearly 25 years, Sikora reported, and by removing the boathouses and boat landing it has severely restricted traffic in town. “The Main Street businesses are suffering because of this,” Sikora said. “Access—a boat landing, places to park and for boats to dock, should be our highest priority, following the Lamppa Manufacturing project,” Sikora concluded.

These suggestions received a mixed reception from TEDA. Some members of the development authority believed these ideas were better suited for other organizations to tackle. Others seemed receptive to the ideas presented. It remains to be seen if TEDA takes any role in encouraging commerce on Tower’s Main Street in anticipation of the traffic at the new state park.