Rosemount / Air cargo facility stalls

The Twin Cities can do without an international air cargo facility in Rosemount.

That's the fate a consultant recently gave the proposed facility. Plans now are on hold until the metro area can attract more flights to move freight overseas.

The stalled project leaves Rosemount - which has spent $60,000 on the project - with little hope. City officials had envisioned the facility would bring in more jobs to the area and diversify the city's tax base by adding more industrial development.

To get the project off the ground, Metropolitan Airports Commission officials need to prove the Twin Cities have enough international freight to draw flights from Asia and Europe - growing markets where the majority of Minnesota's international goods originate.

"It's not the result that we want to see," City Administrator Jamie Verbrugge said. "If the opportunity continues to present itself, we're going to continue to pursue it because it is a good strategy for the state of Minnesota. It's just a matter of the timing being right."

The proposed air cargo facility is unlike anything currently in the shipping industry, said Steven Anderson, administrator of the Greater Metropolitan Area Foreign Trade Zone Commission and assistant manager of air service development for the MAC.

Instead of freight companies - called freight forwarders - independently arranging trips to move goods overseas, the companies would work out of a distribution center in Rosemount and share overhead costs. The facility would house trucks to drive goods to and from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where planes would fly the cargo.

"What everybody else has is their own place," Anderson said. "(The freight companies) don't share a common facility. That was what made it so radical."

There are about 65 freight forwarders in the metro region. Companies that handle primarily domestic freight, such as UPS and FedEx, could also use the facility.

But you can't attract business to the distribution center without planes. Enticing airlines to the Twin Cities is the role of MAC officials.

"We wanted to be certain that this thing would be guaranteed to succeed before we even started constructing," Verbrugge said. "We're not too sure of that right now."

Today, about 80 percent of international goods in the Midwest go through Chicago. A hope was to attract that freight to the proposed air cargo facility, Verbrugge said. But with no cost-saving estimates, there's little incentive right now to draw freight there.

"At least at this point, (freight forwarders) don't believe that there's any problem with air cargo essentially," Rosemount Port Authority Chairman Mike Baxter said.

Building a regional distribution center for international cargo had been in the works for the past six years, Anderson said. The Foreign Trade Zone Commission last year chose Rosemount as the host city for the facility, which would serve the Upper Midwest.

The state Legislature earmarked $200,000 for the consultant, TranSystems, to perform a feasibility study to gauge the potential success for the center in Rosemount. The city has spent about $60,000 on the project in the past three years to participate on the Foreign Trade Zone Commission and to perform site planning, Verbrugge said.

City officials last month reviewed findings from the feasibility study. A timeline for the project should have been started after the study, but that also was put on hold.

"It's not coming as easily as described," Anderson said. "A regional distribution center in Rosemount is not going to happen until we can sort through these other things."

Maricella Miranda can be reached at mmiranda@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5421.


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