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High-level courtship yields Minn. engineering jobs

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BRIAN BAKST | December 20, 2013 09:38 AM EST | AP


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Canadian company that makes sophisticated heating and ventilation systems will build a research facility and bring 40 engineering jobs to a Twin Cities suburb thanks in part to high-level courtship and a $700,000 state grant announced Thursday.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and a top executive from the company, Price Industries, were among those who unveiled the project at a news conference at the state Capitol. Dayton's personal interest in landing the company led him on a covert trip in July to its Winnipeg headquarters, a visit he wouldn't disclose then for fear of harming his state's chances. The company's grant comes from a $30 million Minnesota Investment Fund.

Senior vice president Bruce Dorey said the company considered multiple states for the research center, although he didn't say which. He said the subsidy, Dayton's visit and a highly skilled Minnesota workforce tipped the scales.

"We visited many states, many miles and sometimes didn't get in the door and sometimes we did," Dorey said. "We turned over as many rocks as possible."

Dorey said no other governors whose states were competing for the work made the trek north to make a pitch.

Dayton, a Democrat up for re-election in 2014, has taken great pains to highlight job gains on his watch. The state has recovered all of the jobs lost in the last recession and then some.

In recent months, Dayton's administration helped craft incentive deals for a photo printing plant for California-based Shutterfly and for Endeavor Air, a regional jet operator moving its headquarters from Memphis to Minnesota. It's all meant to counter Republican criticism that his moves to raise taxes would sour the Minnesota business climate.

Dorey said Minnesota also got an edge because of an existing orbit of companies that are home to engineers and universities that help train them.

Price was founded in 1946 and makes customized equipment used to heat and ventilate specialized settings, such as operating rooms and other sterile environments.

The new Maple Grove jobs will have an average pay of $80,000. Hiring is already underway. The plan is for an 11,000-square foot design center. The company has wide discretion on how it can use the Minnesota grant.

A bigger prize still looms: a U.S. factory the company is considering to manufacture some machines. Dayton said Minnesota will vie for that project as well.

The company has a cold-weather kinship with Minnesota. In Winnipeg, employees help coach inner-city hockey teams that the company funds.