Creating a strategic vision for growth
With prime community amenities and projected economic expansion, Farmington, Minnesota has a bright future ahead
Situated along the banks of the Vermillion River lies Farmington, Minnesota, a once small, primarily agricultural community that has grown into a thriving suburb of Dakota County all while maintaining its small-town way of life.
“When people visit the city of Farmington, they experience a small-town atmosphere but in a large, growing community,” says Farmington Mayor Joshua Hoyt. “The casual handshake, the hello to a stranger, the simple things like opening doors or paying for a drink for someone you don’t know that’s sitting at your local establishment: those are common occurrences within our community.”
The city of 24,000 is considered a bedroom community to nearby Minneapolis and St. Paul, but over the past few years, has experienced rapid growth that is changing the landscape for the better. New businesses are arriving, housing is being built at a rapid pace and plans are in the works to strategically enhance almost all aspects of city life.
“We have been very intentional at making strategic plans to solve our current problems and constraints,” Hoyt says. “We understand both the issues and opportunities in our community, and we try to look for solutions that are not singular. We are using the information available to us – our reality – to solve multiple challenges with one action. We are leveraging what’s available to us and making strategic decisions. This has been intentional, and we’ve been very successful so far.”
One of the ways Farmington has done that has been in housing. The city’s downtown core has traditionally been underdeveloped and has since been marked in its 2040 Comprehensive Plan as an area prime for redevelopment. Conversely, the city has recently made a proclamation to follow the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors’ recommendation to support fair housing. To marry these two issues, Farmington teamed up with an experienced developer, Ebert Construction, to build a 74-unit apartment complex in the historic downtown district.
“It’s the first new market rate apartment complex being built in the community in decades, and its being built in a location that will also support our downtown businesses,” Hoyt explains. “The whole project is multifaceted. It supports our businesses by bringing new and additional patrons and foot traffic. It supports our employment base by offering a new housing type so that more employees and people who reside elsewhere can call Farmington home. And it redevelops an underutilized but key parcel in our downtown creating a gateway and renewed sense of excitement. We’re trying to capture the full spectrum of benefits with a singular project because we know a win-win-win is good for all of us.”
The city’s careful and intentional approach to growth is part of everything they do. When it comes to welcoming new business, Farmington is focused on creating diversity. As it stands, the city is primarily made up of small businesses, with five local businesses employing more than 350 people. Their largest employer is the local school district, and the rest is a healthy mix of industrial warehousing and transportation.
One of their more unique employers is the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs an Air Route Traffic Control Center out of Farmington. The center coordinates all departures and arrivals out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, as well as all in-route or transient aircraft within the upper Midwest.
Farmington is now looking to expand its employment offerings even further, and they’re open to a vast array of businesses.
“Our slogan right now is ‘it’s Farmington’s time and we’re open for business,’ says Lynn Gorski, Farmington’s city administrator. “We are focusing on attracting all types of businesses to the community and we have an open mind approach to hearing and reaching out to people and businesses that are interested in being part of who we are in Farmington.”
“I don’t want to put us in a corner and say we’re just interested in one type of business. We celebrate the diverse business base we have and are interested in attracting and growing all different types of business that truly see themselves succeeding in our community. Business is important and it’s a high priority for us. It’s one of our pillars within our strategic planning and it is embedded into everything the counsel and staff are working towards.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t be intentional with their choices, Gorski says. They just want to keep an open mind. “We want to make sure it’s the right fit for our community.”
It’s important that those new businesses fit into Farmington, because the city’s small businesses become the partnerships and lifeblood of the community, according to Hoyt.
“We are a small business community,” he says. “Without the partnerships between the city and our small brick and mortar downtown businesses, our industrial park businesses, and our single employee home-based businesses, we couldn’t do the work that we have planned.
“Our city would not thrive the way that it has without the partnership of our businesses. It is single-handedly the most important thing that not only ensures that we’re going to continue growing in a positive manner, but we’re also going to hold on to that unique characteristic and defining trait. We practice that every day. It doesn’t matter what the event is or what we try to do, our community and our businesses always step up. They’re always there when we need them.”
In addition to seeking new business, Farmington has been re-evaluating all aspects of the city to determine what needs exist moving forward. That extends to everything from infrastructure to tourism. One major infrastructure upgrade that the city has prioritized is broadband internet.
Farmington has partnered with Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) to provide a full build-out of fiber internet to the entire city.
“Until now, we’ve had one option with fiber in Farmington and it didn’t cover all of Farmington, just selected areas,” Gorski says. “HBC came to us wanting to be our partner and the fiber they’re offering is up to 100 gig. This is a huge community asset and we want to really make sure we work closely with them and eliminate any obstacles to their build-out.”
Having this partnership will benefit our citizens, businesses, and visitors. In addition to laying fiber cables, Farmington will be working with HBC to install internet at all the city’s parks.
“We will offer free internet services (in the parks) for our residents,” Gorski adds.
That’s not the only upgrade coming to Farmington Parks. The city is in the planning stages for an upgrade to one of its biggest community parks, Rambling River Park.
“We’ve had a very robust public engagement process with the community, hearing what their needs are and what they want to see in the parks,” Gorski says. “We want to grow the park, but also ensure that we’re growing it where we can take care of it. We aren’t just adding things and forgetting about it. We are being very intentional. The park is a high priority for us because we understand it’s a high priority for our residents.”
The new park will include an inclusive playground and the potential for pickleball courts, which Gorski says will benefit both residents and tourists alike.
“We understand (the playground) is a high need for residents and people that are outside of our city of Farmington,” Gorski says. “And we thought: ‘How can we bring people into Farmington, so they visit our businesses and spend money here as well?’”
Farmington is always looking for ways to attract more visitors to the area, but they already draw thousands of tourists to the city each year thanks to their community spirit, Hoyt says. People come from all over to experience the city’s many community events like their Community Expo, the Farmington Area Community Dew Days, the Dakota County Fair, and Toys for Town Drive.
“We don’t have a bunch of typical destination locations, but the community is a destination location,” he explains. “Through each one of those events, it’s an opportunity for other people from elsewhere to experience Farmington’s greatest trait – our sense of pride and community. That’s the feedback we hear often from those that have not been to Farmington before. They comment, ‘There’s so much charm in your community, there’s such a sense of pride in your community.’ That’s something we hold very near and dear. It’s something we’re very passionate about protecting as we grow and our community evolves into something that resembles a much larger city. We want to hold on to that because that’s our defining trait.”
As Farmington continues to grow and attract new businesses, residents, and tourists, Hoyt plans to stick to the city’s vision for growth and carry on building in a way that is intentional, careful, and strategic.
From new business to health care, Farmington has put it all into focus. Continuing to work with valuable and trusted community partners such as Trinity Health Services, the city is moving in the right direction to encourage further growth.
The community engagement with the city works both ways. For Joy Lauterbach, Director of Activities & Volunteer Services working with the city has been a supportive and productive collaborative experience “Farmington has never let us fail. The community is always there to support us and support every one of our neighbors. This is Farmington.”
“Our top focus is on our vision, what our vision is, and laying the foundation for the implementation of that vision,” he says. “I’m telling our story everywhere and anywhere and showing up. We’re getting the word out there about Farmington because it is Farmington’s time and we want to provide the opportunity for others to be involved in our great city.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: The City of Farmington is one of Dakota County’s oldest communities and was on the map before Minnesota became a state.
Where: Close to Minneapolis/St Paul in Minnesota