Historic potential for small business - Northern Pacific Center

Embracing a historic place with modern potential, Aimee Jobe is nothing if not enthusiastic when talking about plans for the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd.


Embracing a historic place with modern potential, Aimee Jobe is nothing if not enthusiastic when talking about plans for the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd.

Too many people, she said, still envision a crumbling brick testament to a faded railroad heritage. That may have been an image two decades old, Jobe said, but it doesn't reflect what is happening right in the city.

She said the NP Center isn't crumbling away, it's being reinvented. Jobe sees it with the potential to create a small community of small businesses. And it's far from empty now. The NP Center is home to 28 tenants. In the winter months, 90 percent of the site's massive square footage is in use. Some of that from winter boat storage. But Jobe would like to see the center full year-round, creating jobs and giving small businesses a place to start and grow.

Jobe, who fell in love with the former railroad shops, located her photography studio there in a renovated office space in the clock tower. A vaulted wood ceiling. Wood floors. Solid wood pillars. Light streaming through numerous windows. She's been a tenant in the building since 2011. Jobe said when people see her studio they can't believe there is a space like that available in Brainerd.

She is also co-owner along with David Hutton, of the NP Event Space, which hosted weddings, meetings and events in the blacksmith building last year. As of January, Jobe is in the process of becoming co-owner of the NP Center with Hutton. They want to rebrand the site, create a more welcoming atmosphere and install signs to make the site easier to navigate. The website is getting a makeover as well.


Jobe said she wants people to realize the NP Center is a "property with a lot of character and that's good for your business. ... I think we have amazing space for them."

Hutton and Jobe are also working to create a second event space in Building One. The new event space would provide all-inclusive weddings. The NP Event Space gives customers a chance to design their own event.

The new event center, dubbed the Great Northern Exchange, will have more modern up-north decor within the historic structure with its exposed brick and giant wooden doors. The Great Northern Exchange will be able to host large business events with everything set up for them using wooden chairs and steel tables with pops of color. Plans are to open the Great Northern Exchange in 2016.

The last update in the clock tower was in the 1990s, Jobe said. She noted most people aren't as willing as she was to put in the long hours to renovate the space she took as is. But her goal it to do an update for modern offices within the building's character of ceiling beams, exposed brick and wood floors.

Jobe said her goal is to make the community more aware of the treasure they have in the NP Center. She hopes people will be supportive of the property and embrace it as a vital spot for small business, not something they assume is a crumbling relic.

Jobe is a guest speaker at the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation's annual meeting today in Baxter. The meeting is 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes.

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Northern Pacific Center tenants include:


Aimee Jobe Photography

Aspen Creek Plumbing and Heating

Bloom Designs

Christian Labor Association

City of Brainerd Storage

Communication Workers of America

DeRosier & Associates

Dragon Hunter


Elizabeth Heart Bridal Boutique

Fabricators Unlimited

Good Samaritan

Nisswa Sanitation

Northern Pacific Center Office

The NP Event Space

Peterson Towing

Power Lodge Indoor Storage


Progressive Property Management

Range Printing

Sertoma Winter Wonderland

Strong Towns

Studio North

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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