Tim Hodge

Tim Hodge

A Dubuque company plans to invest $10 million in a new, 216,000-square-foot building along Chavenelle Road, closing the loop on a series of positive economic development projects announced earlier this year.

Hodge hopes to begin construction of its new facility as early as next month in hopes of occupying the structure by mid-2020, according to CEO Tim Hodge. The new building will be located just west of Unison Solutions in the 5000 block of Chavenelle Road.

City Council members on Monday will vote on whether to set a public hearing on a proposed development agreement between the City of Dubuque and the real estate arm of Hodge, Walter Development LLC.

The project comes on the heels of two major economic development announcements involving another Hodge facility, located down the street at 7500 Chavenelle Road.

In early June, manufacturing company Crown Holdings announced that it would lease more than 100,000 square feet of that building and hire more than 40 people. One week later, Duluth Trading Co. confirmed plans to lease the balance of the structure, bringing on at least a dozen full-time workers and 200 seasonal employees.

“We’re glad we were able to accommodate them — because there are a lot of jobs moving to town because of that,” Tim Hodge said.

QUICK TURNAROUND

The developments involving Duluth Trading Co. and Crown Holdings forced Hodge to create plans for a new structure in short order.

Tim Hodge said the company obtained an access agreement and began moving dirt west of Unison Solutions in mid-August.

If the project ultimately gains city approval, the walls of the structure could begin to go up as early as November. Hodge said crews would work throughout the winter and the company would begin working within the structure by June.

By building the new structure, Hodge will be able to keep a dozen positions in Dubuque that otherwise would have been moved to another market. Tim Hodge suggested that new hires could be on the way, too.

“If we didn’t have double that figure (12) working in the building, I would be pretty disappointed,” he said.

Hodge employs about 800 people, including 250 in Dubuque.

The company specializes in three main areas: real estate development, material handling and logistics. The new space will be used for the latter, with employees conducting warehousing and distribution services within the structure.

MOVING FORWARD

According to a proposed development agreement, Hodge will purchase 13.9 usable acres of city-owned land for $1.07 million. A land acquisition grant would reduce the purchase price by about half.

The development agreement also calls for tax-increment financing rebates over the course of 14 years. TIF repays companies for incremental increases in property taxes resulting from an expansion or improvement to a property.

Tim Hodge said employees still are sharing that facility with Duluth Trading Co. By next summer, Hodge must vacate the property so Crown Holdings can move into the building and Duluth can take over the remainder of its space.

While the immediate use of the new facility is geared toward Hodge operations, Tim Hodge emphasized that he is open to leasing the property to another incoming business if the opportunity arises.

“Any facility we move into — for example, this one — it will be available from day one,” Tim Hodge said, noting that such arrangements are mutually beneficial for the city and his company.

Such an arrangement means city officials and economic development leaders can avoid making pricey investments in “spec buildings” that would attract out-of-town-businesses that need a new facility in a timely fashion.

“We can market this property, and the city doesn’t have to take the risk to build the spec building to attract these tenants,” explained Michael Fullan, business development director for Hodge.

City Economic Development Director Jill Connors noted that the new construction on Chavenelle Road could positively impact the economy in multiple ways.

“(Hodge) is maintaining the jobs he already has and is indirectly allowing for job growth by being flexible,” Connors said. “It really helps drive our economy.”

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