Gov. Dayton tours SnoBear facility and meets with Isanti city officials

Gov. Mark Dayton discussed economic development with city of Isanti officials, as well as representatives from SnoBear USA, during a visit to SnoBear’s manufacturing facility in Isanti on Tuesday, Oct. 4.

Executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella; owner and CEO of SnoBear, Ron Balzer; Gov. Mark Dayton; and Isanti Mayor George Wimmer stand by a SnoBear recreational vehicle during a tour of the manufacturing facility Oct. 4. Photos by Rachel Kytonen
Executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella; owner and CEO of SnoBear, Ron Balzer; Gov. Mark Dayton; and Isanti Mayor George Wimmer stand by a SnoBear recreational vehicle during a tour of the manufacturing facility Oct. 4. Photos by Rachel Kytonen

The visit by Dayton was part of his statewide tour of 87 counties in 86 days. Over the next several weeks, Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will travel to every county in the state, meeting face-to-face with community leaders, farmers, business owners and Minnesotans from all walks of life.

SnoBear, located at 1 Enterprise Ave. NE, produces recreational ice fishing vehicles, as well as industrial models adaptable for search and rescue squads, commercial oil field and electrical work, sightseeing tours, patrols and other remote winter travel applications for businesses and government agencies.

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer; Gov. Mark Dayton; owner and CEO of SnoBear, Ron Balzer; executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella; and his son, Mitch Nozzarella, visit inside of a SnoBear recreational vehicle.
Isanti Mayor George Wimmer; Gov. Mark Dayton; owner and CEO of SnoBear, Ron Balzer; executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella; and his son, Mitch Nozzarella, visit inside of a SnoBear recreational vehicle.

The visit to SnoBear included meetings between Dayton and Isanti Mayor George Wimmer; Isanti Economic Development Director Sean Sullivan; Ron Balzer, owner and CEO of SnoBear; and Mario Nozzarella, executive vice president of SnoBear. The visit also included a tour of the SnoBear manufacturing facility and allowed Dayton a chance to meet with SnoBear employees and learn more about the business.

During the Isanti City Council meeting Oct. 4, Wimmer highlighted the visit with the governor.

Jamie Eckberg, floor manager of the SnoBear USA manufacturing facility, explains to Gov. Mark Dayton the production of SnoBear vehicles. Also pictured is the executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella.
Jamie Eckberg, floor manager of the SnoBear USA manufacturing facility, explains to Gov. Mark Dayton the production of SnoBear vehicles. Also pictured is the executive vice president of SnoBear, Mario Nozzarella.

“What we were trying to highlight with the governor are the economic development tools that we are using as a city; primarily the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund, which both have come under attack at the Legislature,” Wimmer said. “One of the big reasons being that some outstate legislators don’t believe that they’re used by anyone other than in the seven-county metro area. This was a case to highlight that we definitely do use them, as other communities do as well.”

Wimmer said during the meeting with Dayton the city highlighted the different projects the city has used using the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Stimulus Program. The businesses listed by the city included Ever Cat Fuels, Prairie Senior Cottages, Krayola Kids Childcare Center, Pat’s Small Engine and Repair, Manufactured Component Resources Manufacturing, Cylinder Head Express Manufacturing, X-Caliper Engineering Manufacturing, SnoBear and Trans-Mississippi Biological Supply.

Gov. Mark Dayton shakes hands with SnoBear employees during a tour of the manufacturing facility Oct. 4.
Gov. Mark Dayton shakes hands with SnoBear employees during a tour of the manufacturing facility Oct. 4.

SnoBear was located in Fargo, North Dakota, prior to its relocation of its headquarters and production facility to Isanti, with a grand opening held June 21, 2016.

“Without the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund and a few other job stimulus programs and incentives, we wouldn’t have been able to get a business like SnoBear to come to Minnesota from North Dakota. And that was one of the really interesting things to the governor and to his staff was the fact we were able to get somebody from the Dakotas to come back to Minnesota,” Wimmer said. “We shared with them a long list of projects the city has done on this; it’s about nine to 10 projects we’ve done since 2008 using the Minnesota Investment Fund and some of these other programs. Basically we wanted to convey a number of the important things that we felt should be taken up at the next legislative session, and I think that went very well.”

Isanti Economic Development Director Sean Sullivan, Executive Vice President of SnoBear  Mario Nozzarella, Owner & CEO of SnoBear Ron Balzer, Gov. Mark Dayton, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer and SnoBear staff.
Isanti Economic Development Director Sean Sullivan, Executive Vice President of SnoBear Mario Nozzarella, Owner & CEO of SnoBear Ron Balzer, Gov. Mark Dayton, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer and SnoBear staff.

Wimmer gave credit to city staff during his meeting with Dayton. The city of Isanti won its second business recruitment award in 2016 given through the Economic Development Association of Minnesota for its recruitment of SnoBear.

“I told the governor, as he well knows, the most important thing of doing a great job with any organization is having great staff and great individualswho are able to do that,” Wimmer said. “And Sean (Sullivan) obviously is a key part to our economic development team.”

According to information provided by the city at the SnoBear tour, SnoBear’s estimated project cost is $3.2 million. This included the purchase of a 41,000-square-foot building in Isanti in 2015 and the construction of a 12,000-square-foot building in Isanti in 2016. The estimated job creation is 25 to 40 jobs within two years, with new job wages ranging from $12.75 to $25 per hour.