Douglas Machine will receive tax increment financing for a $4.3 million expansion.

The Alexandria City Council approved the company’s request at its Monday meeting after holding a public hearing. The only one who spoke was Tom Wosepka, CFO of Douglas Machine.

He said he was there to answer any questions. “We hope to be able to continue to grow our economic impact in the community,” Wosepka said.

The city is not issuing any bonds toward the project so it will not impact the city’s borrowing capacity, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz.

With TIF, the property taxes remain at the current level for a certain period of time, in this case, nine years, and the property tax difference is used to pay for certain parts of the project. The city will also retain 10 percent of the increment annually to cover administrative costs.

Douglas Machine plans to use the TIF to cover $315,000 of the site development costs.

When the project is complete, it will add about $1.2 million to the city’s tax base, according to Nicole Fernholz, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. The estimated market value of the company’s existing building and land is just over $2 million.

Under the TIF agreement, the company must “substantially complete” the project by the end of this year.

The project will expand Douglas Machine’s facility at 3404 Iowa Street by 45,917 square feet – 39,632 feet for manufacturing and 6,596 feet for office space.

Earlier this year, Douglas Machine’s application to be designated as a “Job Creation Fund” was approved by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The fund awards eligible companies up to $2 million in rebates for creating or retaining high-paying jobs, constructing or renovating facilities, or making other property improvements.

The expansion is expected to add at least 15 full-time employees within two years at hourly wages ranging from $25 to $37. The positions include five full-time engineers, five full-time assembly/technicians and five full-time machinists.

“This project allows Douglas Machine to grow and add manufacturing jobs in the city of Alexandria at wages above the area average,” the company noted in its TIF application. “It also creates opportunity for business growth for local businesses that support Douglas Machine.”

Douglas Machine, which is 100 percent employee-owned, builds automated packaging machinery. It has about 660 employees at its Alexandria facility.

Its customers come from a wide range of industries, markets and locations.

It has manufactured more than 11,000 machines that are in more than 30 countries.

More help for restaurants?

Restaurants in Alexandria that have an on-sale liquor license might be able to sell alcohol off-sale to help boost their sales during the time their bars and dining areas are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Customers could, for example, get a six pack of beer with their take-out order from a local restaurant.

The council approved a motion to authorize city staff to issue the licenses – if the state allows it.

Three states have taken similar action, noted council member Todd Jensen.

It’s a bigger “if” in Alexandria, however, since the city has two city-owned liquor stores that sell off-sale. Right now, state law does not allow such cities to issue off-sale licenses to any other businesses because they would be competing against the city-owned liquor stores, said City Attorney Tom Jacobson. The state would have to overlook that requirement.

The licenses would be temporary and only be available during the pandemic or until they fully reopen. All the alcoholic products would have to be in sealed containers.

Casey’s General Store gets final approval

The council gave final approval to amend the zoning district that will clear the way for a new Casey’s General Store to be built on the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Nokomis Street, the former site of Ollie’s Auto Sales.

The zoning district was changed to allow “general business” use. The area has been zoned residential or residential-business in the past.

This will be the third Casey’s location in Alexandria. The project will change the look of that part of town. Two structures along Maple Street will be removed, along with two along Fourth Avenue. The existing auto sales building will also be removed.

The parcel to the southwest of the new store will be left as open space, with trees, and will be seeded.

Pandemic changes personnel policies

The council approved temporary personnel policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes reflect congressional action related to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act and the Paid Sick Leave Act.

The two acts take effect on April 2.

Besides approving an interim COVID-19 leave policy, the council approved a policy that allows city employees to donate their sick leave and vacation time to co-workers who have exhausted all their leave.

Pizza Ranch expansion clears hurdle

The council took final action to vacate a public alley that will clear the way for Pizza Ranch’s expansion project.

The council agreed to owner Daniel Gray's request to vacate a dead-end alley between Broadway and Fillmore Street, south of 15th Avenue, which will allow the business to expand and provide additional parking to the northwest.