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Port Authority moving out of current facility

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is vacating its headquarters to allow Altec (background) to move in as part of its ongoing expansion. Steve Kuchera /

Sixty years after moving into a terminal on the Superior Bay, the local Port Authority is preparing to move out and find a new home in Duluth.

Sometime this year, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority will vacate its offices at 1200 Port Terminal Road. The move will allow Altec Inc. to expand into the building and lot now occupied by the Port Authority.

The agreement was part of a new lease between Altec and the Port Authority, which also owns the production plant across the street out of which Altec currently operates.

Talks had been ongoing between the two groups since last summer, said Kevin Beardsley, the Port Authority's interim executive director.

"They were interested in how they were going to grow their business," he said. "We offered it. It was so they could continue to grow. They're bursting at the seams. If you drive around down here you can see it. We're helping them grow in any way we can. We've made that commitment."

Altec is in the process of expanding its manufacturing operations in Duluth — adding another 100 workers to its roster of 220 employees. The local Altec plant assembles specialized aerial lift rigs widely used in the utility industry. The company does business internationally and is corporately based in Alabama.

Altec was not reached for comment, but in December its general manager for Duluth operations, Dave Faynik, told the News Tribune the company was "definitely excited to be expanding here in Duluth."

The Port Authority broke its lease with Altec a year early in order to renegotiate the updated terms which feature what Beardsley called "landlord improvements." The Port Authority is also in the process of expanding Altec's production facility by 15,000 square feet. Work on that project is almost to the bidding phase.

"Altec offers us the opportunity for sustained growth and presence here in Duluth," said Ray Klosowski, president of the Port Authority board of commissioners. "When you look at their salary structure, the employees it currently has and those it intends to add, it was evident we needed to make this happen for the economic benefit of the city and region."

The Port Authority board approved the new lease in December, giving the Port Authority until the start of 2019 to find a new home. Beardsley said he expected the Port Authority would find a temporary home well before then somewhere in Duluth. Ultimately, the Port Authority will look to develop a new permanent home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth, where it would be nearby the port and the multiple properties it owns and manages along the waterfront, he said.

The Port Authority and its 11 full-time employees will be vacating 5,000 square feet of office space and a half-acre lot Altec will use for much-needed parking. Altec will continue to use the office space for the same purpose, sources said.

On its website, the Port Authority describes itself as "a public agency created by state statute in 1955 to expand and improve facilities at the Port of Duluth-Superior in anticipation of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959."

The Port Authority moved into its current location in 1958. Port Authority spokeswoman Adele Yorde didn't sound nostalgic about the pending move. Instead, she echoed the other sources and talked about the sense it makes to cede space to a burgeoning port entity.

"What the average person doesn't see is the amazing degree of technical expertise that goes to work every day (at Altec) and the amount of manufacturing it turns out week after week," she said.

The chassis Altec customizes with its booms and other equipment are located "on every inch of ground space we can come up with," Yorde said.

In general, Altec's end products are loaded onto lowboy trailers and leave Duluth by truck.