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Kern Lasers looking to expand

The Kern Electronics and Lasers building is pictured Thursday. The business may soon have an additional building in the Wadena Industrial Park. Company President Gerald Kern said another building could add five to six machinist and electronic jobs. Photo by Zach Kayser

Kern Electronics and Lasers may soon begin adding an additional building to their complex in the Wadena Industrial Park.

Company President Gerald Kern said he is considering the construction of a new facility across the street from the existing Kern building.

City Administrator Brad Swenson said the company will invest $6,000 as part of the applications process if it continues to pursue property tax incentives from the city via the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program. He also said the city council has created a purchase agreement waiting to be signed by the company, which would mean the sale of a $30,000 piece of land as well as the option to buy another space close by.

"They're considering building," Swenson said, "possibly as soon as this summer if financing and everything falls into place."

A public meeting on TIF funding for Kern will be held March 12, during which the Wadena City Council can either set the level for TIF funding or choose to study the matter further, Swenson said.

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said the new Kern building would be similar to the existing one.

"My understanding, it's almost a mirror image of that facility," Wolden said.

Mikaela Huot, vice president of housing and economic development at Springsted, a public sector consulting firm the city has hired to process Kern's TIF application, said preliminary plans call for starting the new Kern building this spring and construction to be completed later this year. She said the building would be about 8,000 square feet, 2,400 of which would be devoted to office space and the rest to manufacturing space.

Wolden said the new addition would promote job growth in the city and boost the local economy.

"They were looking at adding a number of jobs," Wolden said. "Those people need places to live. If they have children, they need a good quality school to send them to, they need to buy gas, they need to buy groceries. It's very impactful."

Kern said the new facility, if built, could add five to six machinist and electronic jobs.