Positioned to Thrive in the Minnesota Metro

City of Lakeville, MN
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

The city of Lakeville began as a small agricultural community in 1853 and remained that way until it joined the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area approximately 30 years ago. Since then, the city has grown rapidly as a result of being included in the Twin Cities and currently has a population of approximately 62,000.
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From 2000 to 2010, Lakeville built an average of 550 new housing units annually, and it has continued to be the fastest-growing city in the Twin Cities in terms of new residential housing units. Part of the growth is the result of the city’s geographic location and the availability of land. The city covers 38 square miles, and only two-thirds of the land has been developed. It has available land for all types of development including residential, commercial and industrial.

Lakeville has the second-largest industrial park in the state of Minnesota. There are approximately 150 businesses that employ 3,500 people in the area, and like many other places around the city, there is plenty of room for further expansion. 40 years ago, several visionary leaders identified a large area for the industrial park and developed the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the growth that continues today.

According to David Olson, Lakeville’s Community and Economic Development Director, “A lot of suburban communities don’t necessarily have available the amount [of land], and the plans for this much industrial and manufacturing growth, but Lakeville identified that more than 40 years ago, and it continues on today.”

The largest employer in the city of Lakeville is the public school district, employing 1,100 and the second largest is the food manufacturing facility Hearthside Food Solutions that employs 620 people. Other top employers include Treehouse Private Brands employing 540 people, Post Consumer Brands employing 387 people, and Menasha Packaging employing 310 people.

Lakeville’s proximity to other metro cities is a bonus for tourists. Interstate 35 conveniently runs through the city and Lakeville is close to several nearby attractions including family entertainment, casinos, amusement parks and horse tracks in neighboring communities. If you’re looking for shopping, the community is only 15 minutes away from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Because these attractions are located near Lakeville, tourists choose to stay in Lakeville to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the city after an exciting day of exploring.

The city’s motto is “Positioned to Thrive,” which refers to both its location in Minnesota and how aspects of the community, including the industrial park, businesses and school systems, are thriving. While Lakeville has 62,000 residents, Dakota County, the second largest county in Minnesota, has approximately 400,000. This allows businesses to draw employees from a broad population.

Lakeville’s metro location is an important asset for businesses in the area. The proximity to similar businesses is beneficial for manufacturers that may require outsourcing, and the availability of workers is increased as a result of its proximity to other cities. The bulk of businesses in the city used to be manufacturers, but in the last 10 to 15 years there have been many retail and commercial expansions.

“The city council has had a long tradition of being fiscally prudent in terms of the city budgets as well as the county budgets, so we have some of the lower county and city property tax rates in the state of Minnesota. Lower tax burden is always viewed as a positive for both existing and new businesses,” says Olson of the financial benefits for business in Lakeville.

The city has very highly ranked school districts, and the Lakeville school district that serves most of the city has received state and national recognition for the quality of its educational programs. “A lot of the residential growth here occurs as the result of the quality in the public school system,” explains Olson.

Another component of the quality of life in the city is due to the outdoor amenities and scenic, wide-open spaces. True to its name, Lakeville is a city that is fortunate to have several quality lakes in the community, which include several developed public beaches and park facilities adjacent to the water. The parks and trails are particularly exceptional, and the city of Lakeville’s Parks and Recreation Department continues to expand and improve them. “Some of the trails have become regional trails, where they not only travel in and around Lakeville but [connect to] neighboring communities as well. There are more than 1,000 acres of parkland and 105 miles of trails in the community. It is certainly an amenity,” says Olson.

Public safety and low crime rates are other benefits to living in Lakeville, including quick response rates from its emergency personnel whenever they are needed.

The city is also fortunate to have a wide range of housing choices available. There are many residential developers and builders in the community, which creates a broad range of housing choices for home buyers. Lastly, Lakeville has a performing arts center in the city, which provides opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy art classes and exhibits, as well as live theater productions and musical performances.

One of the issues faced by the community is the low unemployment rate, which is below three percent. Businesses looking to grow can sometimes find it challenging to hire qualified workers with specific skill sets within the city of Lakeville. However, the city works with its local chamber of commerce, the businesses, the school districts and other partners to discover solutions and make improvements. These partners promote manufacturing as a career option beginning at the high school level and ensure high school students are aware of the potential for careers in that industry.

The Panorama of Progress festival just enjoyed its 51st year. This is an annual, week-long, community-wide celebration that begins on the fourth of July with fireworks, activities and events for families and all age groups. “It brings the community together,” says Olson. “It’s a city of 62,000 people; it has the flavor of a small town celebration during that week in the summer every year. It continues to grow in popularity and includes a parade and other aspects of community get-togethers like street dances, a classic car cruise and a carnival midway.”

Every three years, the city updates its strategic plan for economic development to provide direction and establish certain priorities as well as goals and objectives for its economic development efforts. After identifying those goals with the community vision plan, it measures its success based on the yearly achievement of targets. This has been a helpful tool for the city staff.

The current strategic priorities are business retention and expansion, maintaining a competitive edge, developing housing to support economic goals, and workforce development. These priorities are based on the community’s core values including diversified economic development, safety, a design that connects the community, good value for public services, a sense of belonging, high quality education, and a home for all stages of life.

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