Vacant building gives growing businesses room to expandOwner of the River Falls Industrial Center, 715 St. Croix St., Tom Elbert, confirmed last week that he was closing a deal with St. Paul-based Johnson Kellogg Properties on Tuesday to buy the vacated UFE building in the north-end industrial park at 265 Mound View Road.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Owner of the River Falls Industrial Center, 715 St. Croix St., Tom Elbert, confirmed last week that he was closing a deal with St. Paul-based Johnson Kellogg Properties on Tuesday to buy the vacated UFE building in the north-end industrial park at 265 Mound View Road.
Elbert said the businesses inside the 140,000-square-foot RFIC he bought in 2007 -- some of them active globally -- need room to grow.
Several businesses now operate in that remodeled building: Able Electric, Aerostitch R&D, Erickson Industries, Fiber Star, Gartner Studios, Hirsch Web Design, JR Ranch Equipment, NCCM, Protomax, Oracle Security, River Falls Taxi and Synergized Solar.
“It will be an extension,” he said about the 70,000-square-foot empty UFE building he’s buying for $775,000. “We’ll probably call it RFIC East campus.”
Elbert said one of the businesses inside RFIC will lease space in the old UFE building. He doesn’t yet know which of the other businesses might also expand into it.
The additional building at the UFE site gives all the businesses in RFIC room to grow and makes space for new businesses.
The owner foresees exterior upgrades to the Mound View property, expecting them to make an immediate difference in appearance.
“We’ll probably go through and try to do some energy upgrades right away,” said Elbert.
He anticipates refreshing the interior offices and, as occupancy begins, probably finding more need for improvements.
Elbert spoke highly of the companies occupying the RFIC, formerly the vacant Kolpak building from late 2005 to mid 2007. He thinks the building houses somewhere close to 100 employees.
Two companies in the building, Fiber Star and NCCM, made the statewide list of the Wisconsin Entrepreneur Network’s list of Companies to Watch in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
“Three of the tenants have an export component to their business,” said Elbert,
“It’s bringing money from outside the community, even outside the country, to River Falls.”
He said many of the people who work at the companies have gone to school at UW-River Falls and seem to generate a lot of good entrepreneurial ideas. He thinks the university is an asset to the city and has many ties to successful local business.
Elbert made many changes to the RFIC building since buying, including paint, windows, sidewalks, gutters, landscaping, security, HVAC system, doors, signage, and electrical upgrades, to name some.
He said this year he invested into energy improvements that included the lighting and HVAC systems. The upgrades resulted from an energy assessment and low-interest loan he obtained through the utility department.
“I think our payback is astronomical,” he said, adding the improvements will probably pay for themselves in less than three years.
Elbert, a New Richmond-based businessman that redevelops properties like the former Kolpak and UFE buildings, has said before he aims to provide affordable space for businesses. He intended for RFIC to incubate small- to medium-sized companies. His recent building purchase in River Falls gives growing companies room to expand and brand-new companies a place to start.