MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) – The fate of a warehouse once purchased by the state for possible COVID-related morgue storage has been decided.
Pending approval from the Saint Paul Port Authority board of directors, Soldier Trucking will purchase the building at 1415 L’Orient Street in St. Paul from the St. Paul Port Authority, creating more than 100 jobs.
Soldier Trucking is a veteran-owned transportation company focused on the logistics of transporting items such as bread, auto parts, and short-mile services for companies such as Alpha Bakery, Baldinger Bakery, Chick-fil-A, Costco, and Amazon .
The State of Minnesota bought the former Bix Produce building at $5.5 million in May 2020. The building was supposed to have the cooling capacity for more than 5,000 bodies, but they were never needed. The state facility has been used to store boxes of personal protective equipment and test supplies.
At the time of the purchase, Minnesota officials planned to spend $1.4 million to convert and operate the building as an overflow morgue, but just $134,000 in renovations as of September 2021, according to contracts provided to FOX 9.
That same month the St. Paul Port Authority’s supervisory board approved the warehouse purchase for $5.65 million — at the time, appraisers said the property was worth $175,000 more than it was last sold for.
After purchasing the building, the Port Authority said it needed to set the task goals for the site and find a buyer or partner who can meet the economic development goals. According to a press release, the Port Authority eventually “put the property back on the market with sales criteria that went beyond the highest bidder.”
According to the announcement, Soldier Trucking was selected from a handful of candidates for their plans to add 60-70 net new jobs, and up to 140 in total.
“We couldn’t be happier with the result. We did what we wanted to do: protect jobs,” Lee Krueger, president of the Saint Paul Port Authority, said in the press release. “Had we sold to the highest bidder, I have no doubt that the number of jobs would have been significantly lower. The first two calls we received were from end-users with low job counts who just aren’t the kind of jobs that St. Paul’s have. need.”
In total, the company plans to move 20 administrative jobs from Mendota Heights, maintain 52 positions in St. Paul and add 60 to 70 new positions over the next 18 to 24 months.
The company said it plans to recruit people from the area.
The Saint Paul Port Authority board of directors is expected to approve the move at its January 25 credit committee meeting.