St. Croix Valley communities experience record growth

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published April 1, 1991  | April 1991 issue

Along about a 45-mile stretch of the St. Croix River bordering Minnesota, Wisconsin communities are bursting at the seams with Twin Cities area workers and their families.

Over 70 percent of Wisconsin workers living within six miles of the river commute to Minnesota daily. Already, St. Croix County, which borders Minnesota just east of St. Paul, is included in the Twin Cities MSA (metropolitan statistical area). An MSA includes counties that are under the economic and social influence of a larger metro area. And Pierce County, just south of St. Croix County, may also soon join the Twin Cities MSA, according to Dave Warner, economic development director for Pierce County.

Three cities—Hudson, Prescott and St. Croix Falls—in three bordering counties offer examples of the major changes that have taken place in recent years along the St. Croix River.

Hudson, with neighboring North Hudson in St. Croix County, has experienced more than a 50 percent increase in population over the past 20 years. Many of those people either go to work at Andersen Windows in Bayport, Minn., northeast of St. Paul, or 3M Co. on the city's east side, according to Dave Fodroczi, St. Croix County planning director.

But not all workers travel to Minnesota. Jobs have been created in Hudson along with the increase in population. Indeed, two major discount stores and a grocery store have been built, and a greyhound race track will open in June.

Population growth also brings local pressures, according to Fodroczi. "The city of Hudson is pressing bonding capacity," Fodroczi says. "The county facilities are busting at the seams." Plans call for a new county service center, including police and jail facilities, and the local school board hopes to acquire land adjacent to the new county center for an elementary and high school. And, Fodroczi notes, all new construction will also require roads and infrastructure.

The Pierce County city of Prescott, located about 20 miles south of the metro area, sends well over 50 percent of its work force to Minnesota daily, some to neighboring Hastings but most to the Twin Cities. Prescott's growth in recent years, which has raised calls for marina expansions and a new airport and has expanded the city's infrastructure, provides job opportunities for local workers, says Pierce County's Warner. And, Warner says, there's always the possibility that more manufacturers might move in. "There are a lot of folks commuting who might prefer not to," Warner says.

Officials at St. Croix Falls, about 30 miles up river from Hudson, are hoping that commuters feel the same way about their Polk County community. With only 14 acres left in its existing industrial park, the city has purchased 70 adjacent acres of land. "We have a very active industrial development committee," says Roger Smoldt, St. Croix Falls city administrator. A Cambridge, Minn., firm employing 80 people is scheduled to relocate in St. Croix Falls, setting up a reverse commute for 20 Minnesotans—but also creating 60 new local jobs. And the city is working with another company that would provide 50 to 60 more new jobs.

St. Croix Falls, like Hudson and Prescott, is also experiencing an overload on its services and facilities. A $750,000 project to overhaul water and sewage treatment facilities is under consideration. "Even though we're on the river, water is hard to come by because of rock formations," Smoldt says. St. Croix Valley Memorial Hospital, with a staff of about 20 doctors, has begun a half million dollar expansion to its operating room area. Also, the city has begun building new infrastructure to accommodate a $1 million housing project.

Kathy Cobb