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Land sale approved for Ikonics expansion

The way should now be clear for Ikonics Corp., a maker of imaging supplies, to expand its operations in Duluth. On Monday, the Duluth Economic Development Authority unanimously agreed to sell Ikonics an 11-acre chunk of a 64-acre site in Morgan P...

The way should now be clear for Ikonics Corp., a maker of imaging supplies, to expand its operations in Duluth.

On Monday, the Duluth Economic Development Authority unanimously agreed to sell Ikonics an 11-acre chunk of a 64-acre site in Morgan Park that formerly was home to Atlas Cement. The price? About $363,000.

Bill Ulland, Ikonics' CEO, said he hopes to begin work on the property in a matter of weeks and have a 35,000-square-foot facility built and ready for use by October. He said the 54-year-old company already has sufficient cash on hand to tackle the $4.46 million project.

At present, Ikonics employs about 75 people, and Ulland expects that number to reach 100 by the time it relocates and consolidates operations in Morgan Park.

For its part, DEDA will bear the cost of cleaning up the site. The Authority assumed responsibility for pollution liabilities when it purchased the property from USX in 2003 for about $180,000, according to Tom Cotruvo, DEDA's executive director. Testing has revealed issues with substandard soils from demolition rubble strewn across the site, as well as elevated levels of lead and alkalines.

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To help deal with cleanup costs, DEDA plans to seek a $500,000 state grant, but the next application cycle begins May 1 and the authority probably will learn in June, at the earliest, whether it has been successful.

Should the grant request be rejected, DEDA would be on the hook for paying any incurred cleanup costs out of its own pockets.

Ulland said the 35,000-square-foot facility Ikonics aims to build is just the first phase of a larger plan to consolidate operations on the property. To accomplish this larger move, Ikonics intends to build an additional 100,000-square-foot plant in the near future.

The total relocation of operations to the Morgan Park site is predicated on Ikonics' ability to sell its existing headquarters at 4832 Grand Ave. Ulland pointed out that the company previously had attempted to acquire property next to its current plant but lost out to Menards, which ultimately built a store on the property. In light of site constraints, Ulland said Ikonics doesn't have enough room to absorb growth at its current 65,000-square-foot plant. The company also leases about 35,000 square feet of warehouse space off-site in Duluth.

Cotruvo said the site has sat idle since the 1970s, when Atlas shut down and its buildings were demolished. He expressed hope the Ikonics project will serve as a catalyst for further redevelopment of the property.

"We have an opportunity to clean up this site, put it back into productive use and get it back on the tax rolls. I think it's a golden opportunity," DEDA President Jim Stauber said.

PETER PASSI covers business and development. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5526 or by e-mail at ppassi@duluthnews.com .

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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