Becker bags $20.5 million from state spending package for business park

    Plans for infrastructure improvements in Becker, Minn. to attract Google to build a server farm. The blue lines represent the new water main that is planned, while the green line represent the planned sanitary sewer expansion.

    The Minnesota Legislature approved spending $20.5 million on a business park in Becker — population 4,912 — as part of a $1.9 billion spending and tax cut bill aimed at creating jobs and fixing up the state’s infrastructure amid a slumping economy caused by COVID-19.

    The city of Becker has been lobbying for the money to attract Google — among the world’s richest companies — to build a $600 million server farm. The project is only expected to create 50 long-term jobs, but local politicians boast it will require some 2,000 construction workers to build it.

    Becker residents are eager for any new projects, as Xcel plans to close the coal burning power plant in the city, which makes up 77% of the city’s tax base and employs around 300 people.

    The city already won the business of Northern Metals, a recycling plant which had been evicted from the Twin Cities for spewing dangerous levels of lead and other heavy metals into the air and lying to state regulators about it.

    Their opening was delayed earlier this year when their new plant in Becker caught on fire and burned for five days.

    The $20.5 million plea from the central Minnesota city went unanswered for months.

    Gov. Tim Walz didn’t include it in his bonding plan earlier this year. Republicans were reluctant to pass a bonding bill at all, with GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt pledging to block the necessary votes unless Gov. Tim Walz relinquished his emergency powers.

    DFLers won over Republicans — 19 more than the six they needed — by including tax cuts and agreeing to spend on projects in Republican districts like Becker. Nearing Election Day made those projects all the more politically appealing.

    The House passed the package 100-34 and then adjourned sine die, effectively sending the bill to the Senate as a final offer. The Senate passed it 64-3.

    The lion’s share of the nearly $1.9 billion spending will go towards roads, bridges, sewer and other water infrastructure as well as projects on university campuses. It also shores up two state prisons in danger of closing and provides tax cuts to some businesses and farmers.

    Twin Cities DFLers were pushing for funding to rebuild their cities from the riots and arson following the police killing of George Floyd in May, which is estimated at $350 million in Minneapolis alone.

    The Legislature didn’t approve any funds for rebuilding but will spend about $10.8 million to reimburse the Minnesota State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation for their costs responding to the civil unrest.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.