No. 2 - Economy
After an economic drought, 2012 saw an increase in commercial construction in the lakes area.
In Baxter, property tax collection from “new commercial construction” rose from $9.6 million in 2005 to $25.5 million in 2006. But with the Great Recession, numbers began dropping and were cut in half from $13.9 million in 2009 to $6.4 million in 2010. By 2012, the number plummeted to $282,200.
But construction picked up in 2012 with Costco, Olive Garden, Discount Tire, North Pointe Centre addition, among others — along with extensive remodeling projects like the McDonald’s restaurant in east Brainerd. Construction on the highly anticipated Costco in Baxter began with earth-moving equipment in June. Developers in the area note Costco’s addition is often brought up by other retailers and name-brand stores as an indicator in favor of joining the lakes area economy. The Washington state-based chain closed on the property at the southwest corner of highways 210 and 371 in April. The land, off Elder Drive, was once home to Dondelinger’s Motor City. The building plan called for a 142,705-square-foot wholesale building with 752 parking stalls, a fueling station and five outlots on the land off Elder Drive. Construction of the membership warehouse transformed the vacant lot across from Home Depot with numerous trees planted with the store’s extensive landscaping. The store opened Oct. 24. Four of the outlots with the Costco development will be able to be developed for commercial businesses.
Costco officials flew into the Brainerd lakes area when deciding on the store’s location according to a source close to the deal. While the Baxter location is one of the smallest cities Costco picked for a warehouse location, Costco officials were attracted by the site and surrounding wealth evident in numerous lakeside neighborhoods throughout the region.
The company announced a starting wage of $11 per hour with an average hourly wage of $22.37 and reported 90 percent of the employees are eligible for benefits. Plans were to hire 175-200 employees. Costco’s sales for fiscal year 2012 were $97.06 billion, an increase of 12 percent from 2011.