2018 Top 10: No. 10 - Business landscape continues to change
As one year departs to make way for the new, one thing remains constant--a changing business landscape. 2018 witnessed the first holiday season without both retail stalwarts Herberger's and J.C. Penney. But new businesses are joining the lakes ar...
As one year departs to make way for the new, one thing remains constant-a changing business landscape.
2018 witnessed the first holiday season without both retail stalwarts Herberger's and J.C. Penney. But new businesses are joining the lakes area communities and others are changing the way business as usual may be viewed. J.C. Penney remains vacant in Baxter but the former large department store space that made up most of Herberger's is being transformed into a Planet Fitness site in Brainerd.
Small and mid-size business owners in retail and service industries and manufacturers in the lakes area agreed the economy was cooking, some described it as red hot.
While a number of businesses closed in 2018 like Burger King, other established companies transformed their services to offer more online, in-store pickup and same-day delivery from Cub Foods and Costco to Target, Walmart and Best Buy. Others upgraded their facilities to react to customer demands such as the renovation to luxury loungers at the Lakes 12 Theatre. And new developments continue to open and create more opportunities with the renovation of the former Gander Mountain site continues and other retail developments like Northwoods Crossing opened with a Sleep Number store. The Gander Mountain site is being redeveloped to serve as the retail home for several businesses-Gander Outdoors, Camping World, Overton's and a multi-tenant retail development. A building is also slated for construction next to the Caribou Coffee and Aspen Dental with considerable speculation on what that could be.
Existing business continued to invest in their properties from home-grown manufacturing companies such as LINDAR to Brainerd General Rental's construction of a new facility on its existing site in Baxter. And Thrifty White Pharmacy invested in a new building in Brainerd along Washington Street. McDonald's also completed a major remodel.
Updates to buildings were evident this year in the Brainerd Eye Care building, once the Greyhound Bus Depot, and in renovations to Laurel Street buildings from Sage on Laurel to the Koop Building, adding to work by Joe and Nick Phelps, which created a home for the Crossing Arts Alliance and Lakes Area Music Festival space in downtown Brainerd last year.
Other new entries to redevelop property this year included the Casey's General Store and gas station on Highway 210. Independently owned businesses also expanded in 2018, such as Crosby Mattress, which opened stores in Baxter and Aitkin in addition to its Crosby location.
The Cuyuna Range continued to grow its economy and business offerings drawing visitors and new businesses with its rejuvenated recreational setting for mountain bikes and kayakers.
"And this year, for a lot of them, has exceeded last year based on what we see in tourism and retail and capital purchases-and construction is a telling indicator of confidence in their business and the economy," Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian said, this past summer. "I hope it keeps going, but right now I think we are at a fever pitch and it doesn't seem to be showing any signs of stopping."
Last year, Kilian said, chamber members reported a best year ever and this year was exceeding that marker.
For workers, that means a plethora of opportunities. Hiring signs continue to be a common sight. Area manufacturers and restaurateurs point to the challenge in hiring to meet the demand or help fuel expansions.
Other examples of additions to the community are the CentraCare Specialty Clinic in Baxter, the completed $7.7 million expansion of Essentia Health's Baxter Clinic, and groundbreaking for a Cuyuna Regional Medical Center clinic in Breezy Point. In Nisswa, Nor-Son crews worked on a $30 million expansion to construct a 60-room hotel, wedding chapel and recreation center at Grand View Lodge. The expansion will allow the resort to accommodate as many as 1,500 guests.
The year started with Dick's Sporting Goods opening in Baxter. Construction on a new car wash on an open lot near Radco began. Renewed development interest was expressed for the open land just off Novotny Road in Baxter near Jack Pine Brewery.
The coming year is likely to prove interesting to see what new entities and businesses take the plunge into the lakes area economy.