Editor’s note: The following is a letter written by Worthington’s current mayor to Shopko Chief Operating Officer Jim DePaul as an appeal to keep the Worthington location open.
We are saddened to hear of Shopko’s plans to close your store in Worthington, Minnesota. Shopko has been a vital anchor to local shoppers for several decades. I’m hoping that you and your management staff will reconsider and help keep our local store open.
Several recent events and investments have taken place that will enhance Worthington as a regional center for both business and shopping. Local businesses have made investment in the expansion of their operations and hiring of additional employees.
- Bedford Industries, a locally owned and operated business, has just completed a major expansion of their facility and plans to add 30 to 40 employees.
- Cambridge Technologies, an animal biologics and pharmaceutical manufacturer that is also locally owned and operated, is expanding their operations and plans to add about 40 employees. Many of these employees will be highly skilled and educated in biologics and pharmaceuticals.
- Runnings Farm & Fleet has built a new store that is almost triple the size of its current store and has expanded their clothing, sporting goods and home departments. This retail store expansion will bring shoppers to our community from a wider geographic area of the region.
- Minnesota West Community and Technical College built on-campus housing containing 106 beds. At the start of the school year, they were fully leased with 71 students on the waiting list. Enrollment is up by 5 percent, and Minnesota West is rated the No. 1 community college in Minnesota and the No. 3 online community college in the nation.
The city has not sat idly by hoping good things will happen. We’ve adopted a philosophy that the city’s role in economic development is twofold: assist our local businesses to create jobs and improve the quality of life in Worthington. We are addressing the two issues we hear most about - places to build homes and fun things to do.
- The city and public utilities have pledged $3 million for housing development. We have an option on 53 acres of prime real estate on the western edge of town. We are planning to develop this area into a subdivision of 80-plus lots for middle to upper end single-family homes.
- In recent years we have invested more than $7 million into an event center, Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center and a soccer complex.
- We currently have a splash pad under construction and soon will begin work on a new bathhouse and concession facility at Centennial Park.
- We are in the planning and design phases of a facility that will be home to a multi-screen movie theater.
This past November, the local voters passed a referendum approving a one-half of one percent local option sales tax intended to raise approximately $25 million. Our sales tax request is currently being considered by the State Legislature.
The projects funded by the sales tax include:
- Expansion of the outdoor aquatics facility
- Indoor athletic and recreation field house
- Park and recreation improvements
- Improvements to the ice/hockey arena
- Improvements to the downtown farmers’ market
- Water quality improvements in our lake
Mr. DePaul, we have a lot of great things happening here and we hope that Shopko will continue to be there with us.
I will follow up with a call to your office. I want to talk about how we might work together to keep your store open and the exciting things that are happening here.
Mayor, Worthington MN