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An Echo Press Editorial: There's good economic news in Alexandria area

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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With so much bleak economic news circulating around about inflation, labor shortages, rising interest rates and the looming possibility of a recession, it’s easy to overlook the positive side of things – including what’s happening here in Douglas County.

Douglas County and Alexandria continue to grow and recover from the pandemic and the sluggish economy. You can see it in all of the building activity that's taking place.

Work on the $26 million project , The Rune, at Third Avenue and Broadway is well underway now after long delays caused by supply chain shortages and the rising cost of steel. The new four-story complex will consist of commercial and retail space, including a new restaurant – Mill Valley Kitchen. It will also include 72 market-rate apartments, ranging from studios to one- and two-bedroom units.

But that’s not the only project going on. In the month of July alone, the city issued building permits totaling more than $10.7 million, including five commercial projects of $500,000 or more — a new King Tobacco store, an addition at Taco Bell, a new $2.1 million beverage distribution center and a new $1.5 million new warehouse/office for Great River Energy.

The city’s building report for August also contained good news – nearly $6.7 million worth of construction. More than $4 million of that total was for residential projects – new single-family homes and townhomes.

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Through Aug. 23, the city issued 881 permits with an estimated valuation of more than $73.4 million, far outpacing last year’s $56.5 million valuation in that time frame.

In a recent Echo Press story , Lynn Timm, the city’s building official, said Alexandria is experiencing double or triple the amount of new construction that similar-sized cities are having. She added that there’s a lot of “interesting projects” on the horizon for the community and said it’s very likely that the permitted construction valuation for this year will top the $100 million mark, a new record.

New population numbers show steady, healthy growth. According to unofficial April 1, 2021 population and household estimates from the Minnesota State Demographer (the latest figures available), here’s what’s happening in Alexandria: April 1, 2021 estimated population – 14,690 (up from 14,335 in 2020), April 1, 2021 estimated number of households – 6,735. The population number reflects a 2.5% increase since the 2020 Census, which is approximately two times greater than the average annual increase in recent years.

Another positive sign – Alexandria continues to recover from a devastating fire on Broadway that destroyed four buildings in 2020. One building, a home decor shop, recently opened on the site; a four-story building, a boutique with a photo studio and office space, is also under construction; and another downtown lot that used to house Little Darlings Children’s Boutique been purchased and may include a restaurant/bar with a rooftop patio.

A lot of building activity is taking place throughout the county. Forada is recovering from a destructive tornado that happened in May. Roofs are being replaced and new homes are going up.

Just one more example: A $14.5 demolition/expansion project is taking place In Brandon/Evansville. A 1917 building at the Evansville school was demolished earlier this summer. The expansion plan for the Evansville school includes the addition of more classrooms, a parent drop-off area and new parking lots. In Brandon, the plan includes a new gym, career and technical shop and community fitness room additions, as well as new parking lots and a storage shed.

In short, there’s a lot of exciting things going on in Alexandria and Douglas County. Unlike some areas that are losing population and struggling to survive economically, we’re fortunate to live in a place that’s growing, thriving and still brimming with potential.

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