May 28, 2009 at 7:36 a.m.
Chris Eng, Chisago County Housing and Redevelopment Director, said the two cities asked for grants aimed at developing a carbon-neutral complex. There's $150,000 in the legislation for planning to move forward.
Special legislation allowing Lindstrom and Chisago City to "share" eventual property tax revenues from the business park was also enacted.
Eng said he has also applied for a USDA Rural Development grant that's available within the federal stimulus package, and might also assist this two-city effort.
The location of the carbon neutral business park isn't determined. At least two sites in Chisago City and one in Lindstrom are being looked at, it was reported at last week's Lindstrom Economic Development Authority (EDA) meeting.
The ultimate goal for Lindstrom and Chisago City is to create a business park as homebase to green and renewable technology firms, and the park itself would be a showcase of green construction practices , relying on renewable, carbon neutral energy throughout the complex. Depending on how things come together, the vision includes a wood pellet or biomass heating and generating plant of a sufficient size to meet energy needs of consumers within a larger energy "district" many square miles in size.
Lending feasibility to this initiative is the fact that Scandinavian nations have had heating "districts" and renewable energy in place for years.
Sweden has become the model. And, this immediate area has many ties to Sweden which are being cultivated.
The Chisago County Press reported last winter on a green technology forum at Chisago Lakes Library; featuring Bengkt-Erik Lofgren who coordinates a consortium of Swedish firms involved in this field. Sweden, Lofgren explained, has many green companies and expertise just waiting to be tapped.
Lindstrom Council member Roger Lindgren visited Sweden in March, as a representative of Lindstrom EDA. At last week's EDA meeting Lindgren talked of the trip and the opportunity to see proven companies and renewables technology in daily applications.
Touring an outlying town in Sweden utilizing a heating district plant; Lindgren said he thought of Lindstrom right away, comparable in size and layout to the town where the heat district was located.
Lindstrom EDA member, local banker Randy Diers, commented after Lindgren's slide show that the foundation for a sea change in energy production, delivery and use is starting to take shape. Lindstrom will be well-positioned for grants, programs and other start-up support. "Our future is going to look much different in 20 years," Diers added.
Member Jim McCarville, retired 3M engineering, said the EDA needs to appoint an official Task Force that can get a bio business park plan in place in time to take advantage of a number of upcoming opportunities:
~ Highway 8 in Lindstrom will be torn-up in 2011 for reconstruction and this could be when infrastructure for a district-wide initiative would be installed.
~ There's an international conference being held in Sweden this fall and representatives from the local communities should attend.
"I've seen a lot of information, McCarville added, "and I am convinced this is viable." He added that this approach is "the right thing" for the environment and as a shot in the arm for the economy.
Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger and Eng will bring a job description to the next EDA meeting on what Task Force members would be expected to do and how members could be named.
The next Lindstrom EDA meeting is June 17 at Lindstrom City Hall at 7:30 a.m. Additional members not quoted in this story are Bob Jennissen, Security State Bank, Mayor Keith Carlson and Al Wahlgren.
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