An award winning tile manufacturing company based in Minneapolis has set its sights on a warehouse in Wadena to expand its production of handmade tile.
That announcement was shared at the recent Twin Cities Business Manufacturing Excellence awards ceremony Sept. 26 by business founder Mercedes Austin.
Mercury Mosaics currently makes ceramic tile by hand in a 15,000-square foot Minneapolis factory. Each piece is hand-cut, hand-glazed, and fired right there before shipping to the site. But soon, staff will be hired to produce that same tile out of a 20,000 square foot portion of the Express Central warehouse, which is a wholesale heating and ventilation supplier located on Homecrest Ave in southeast Wadena.
Austin shared in an article in Twin Cities Business Magazine that the decision to start a second location in Wadena was not just because the space was a fraction of the cost of the Twin Cities, it was because she was welcomed in so warmly in various visits to the city, and she saw a community ready to go to work.
The announcement was music to the ears of Wadena Economic Development Director Dean Uselman, who said he's been working with Austin for 26 months to help in any way to get Mercury Mosaics into Wadena.
"We are very dedicated to helping them through the process of startup of a second facility," Uselman said. Uselman shared how Austin recognized Wadena was doing some heavy lifting to help her move an easier one.
"We welcome business here, and we will work with you, we work hard to make your dreams come true," Uselman said of his desire to keep bringing business ventures into the community.
He first met with Austin at a Community Venture Network. These networks pull together economic developers outside the metro areas and metro area businesses looking to grow. It's an effort to work together to solve the needs of both groups. After hearing her present on her plans for expansion, all those interested sent back a proposal of what they could offer and the business gradually narrowed it down to 10 sites, then five, then three. Those three included spots in Iowa, Wisconsin and Wadena. Uselman said the Wadena site doesn't have the character that the Minneapolis building does, which sits in the art district, but it is a large, efficient building that can fulfill the needs of the growing company.
Uselman worked with Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to try to gather financing and expressed how he would get the financing in place to make this happen. He shared that the financing package will be presented in October to determine just how the project will be financed.
"Between the Development Authority and DEED and the Initiative Foundation and other funding sources we will put together the financing package," Uselman said.
Uselman said he pursued this manufacturing company because he saw Austin was willing to put some skin in the game. He could tell she wasn't just looking for a handout. Austin started her business out of her apartment after selling her jazz CD collection and using her tax refund to buy the necessary equipment. She's long been involved with tile, once working at a tile shop in Minneapolis and gaining further skills with a stay in Italy.
As of Monday, Austin did not respond to a request for comment.