Sarah Barrett

Barrett Petfood Innovations Vice President of Operations and Quality Sarah Barrett speaks to the Little Falls City Council during its meeting on Monday, May 17.

A project that will bring more than 50 new jobs to Little Falls is set to move forward.

The Little Falls City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday, to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district for North Freeze Dry, LLC. The new company is a joint venture of Barrett Petfood Innovations and Anchor Ingredients and will include an 87,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in northeast Little Falls.

The plant will make shelf-stable, freeze-dried pet food, which will then be taken to Barrett’s extrusion facility across the street to be mixed in with the kibble being manufactured there. It is an estimated $30 million project.

“We’re excited about this,” said Sarah Barrett, vice president of operations and quality at Barrett Petfood Innovations. “Right now we’re having to bring in freeze-dried from Wisconsin, Oregon and Nebraska. So, for us to be able to do that in-house will be exciting for us.”

As part of the agreement for the TIF district, North Freeze Dry will purchase 24.8 acres of property — which is currently owned by the Little Falls Community School District — for $1. It will be required to complete construction by Dec. 31, 2022.

Specifically, this is a nine-year economic development TIF district. As such, the developer will also be required to create 57 jobs over three years with an average wage of $18.81 per hour, plus benefits.

Tax increment collections will be reimbursed to the school district at an amount not to exceed $235,600 — $9,500 per acre. The city will also retain 10% of the increment to cover legal and administration fees.

“What we do is, we do estimate high on our market value assumption,” said Jason Murray, bonding agent with David Drown Associates. “That gives the Council the most flexibility to use increment for that full nine years. If we miss it low, or we estimate low, we have to come back through this process again, and that costs time and dollars for everybody involved.”

The Council also unanimously passed a resolution to apply for $375,000 in Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) dollars to go toward the project. With these funds — which are provided through Minnesota Energy and Economic Development — if the job creation and wage requirements stated in the TIF are fulfilled, money is granted to the city to, in turn, grant to the business. That amount is then matched in spending by the company.

The plan would be to put that money toward the purchase of a forming machine, a piece of equipment for which the starting price is around $500,000, according to Barrett.

“I’ve worked with the Barretts for many years,” said Carol Anderson, Community Development of Morrison County director. “Sarah’s dad was one of the founding members of the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op, and Tom and Sarah, along with their parents, own Barrett Petfood. They have lived up to every single commitment that they promised that they would and then some. ... They’ve really been very great for the community.”

During public hearings for both the TIF district and the application for MIF funds, Community Development of Morrison County Board President Teri Hoggarth, on behalf of the Board of Directors, spoke in favor of the project due to its job creation.

Randall Mayor Dan Noss also gave his support.

“All the smaller towns around here get benefits from anything that happens in Little Falls,” Noss said. “Thank you for looking to build more here.”

Council Member James Storlie also showed his appreciation to the Barrett family for its commitment to the community.

“I’d just like to thank the Barrett family and all those involved with this process,” he said. “It’s good to see we’ve got some good-paying jobs coming into the Little Falls area.”

Little Falls City Council Briefs:

In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Upon recommendation from city staff, accepted the request for proposal from Jesse James Creative of New York City for the design and update of the city of Little Falls website at a price not to exceed $48,750;

• Awarded the low bid of $243,287.65 to Asphalt Surface Technologies Corp. of St. Cloud for the city’s microsurfacing improvement project;

• Approved plans and specifications and called for bids on the project to extend 14th Street Southeast;

• Approved a resolution for the city to purchase the land for North Freeze Dry from the Little Falls Community School District, to be paid back with increment funding;

• Adopted a resolution executing $13,000 in Coronavirus Relief Grant funding for the Little Falls/Morrison County Airport;

• Authorized the submittal of a Local Government Grant application for the Historic Preservation Commission to complete a historic survey project; and

• Accepted the hiring committee’s recommendation to hire Lacey Burgardt for the administrative specialist position with the Little Falls Police Department.

The next meeting of the Little Falls City Council is at 6:30 p.m., Monday, June 7, at Little Falls City Hall.

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