Ness on Corporate Tower: "Shhh... It's Maurices..."

By KBJR News 1

September 14, 2012 Updated Sep 14, 2012 at 6:12 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - While Duluth Mayor Don Ness called Friday's announcement the city's worst kept secret, it didn't seem to curb the enthusiasm that city leaders, workers and residents were feeling toward the Maurices expansion at 425 West Superior Street—home to their future corporate tower.

According to Maurices President, George Goldfarb, the tower will host everything needed to make a retail operation successful.

"It's buying, which is so paramount, it's marketing, it's store operations, it's the finance operation, it's real estate that really drives our store growth," said Goldfarb.

Add parent company Ascena's payroll and accounting jobs to the mix, and the size of the expansion begins to come to light, which, Goldfarb says, wouldn't have been a reality in Duluth without the $80 million tower project.

"This really seals the deal in Duluth," said Goldfarb.

...good news for the city, which, in July, reported 3,150 out of work residents. Officials say 400 existing jobs will be retained by the expansion, and 200 professional jobs—along with 300 construction jobs—will be added.

"We can put more and more of our people to work in Duluth instead of traveling. We can grow our apprenticeship programs, [and] make a living in Duluth," said Darrell Godbout, VP of Duluth Building Trades.

But, the expansion will leave Maurices' current location on Superior St. vacant, adding to the list of empty downtown buildings, and adding fuel to the fire for those who say the expansion is just a glorified relocation.

Senator Roger Reinert disagrees: "Here we have jobs that could be done anywhere... right now they're being done in New Jersey, and they're going to come to Duluth."

While officials admit that the expansion will create some excess downtown building vacancy in the short term, they say they remain very hopeful about job creation in the long term.

"We don't have to look very far in the region where we have corporate businesses that are growing significantly—especially around mineral resources, natural resources—that find this a great place to be, and want to stay here, and want to grow their businesses," said Reinert.

BARR Engineering's spokespeople say they're considering the corporate tower as a possible future location.

Currently, Maurices employs over 1200 associates in Minnesota... or 43 stores for every 100 Ascena retail chains.