RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc. is finalizing a deal that will allow the company to expand to Hibbing this year.
Headquartered in Detroit Lakes, the environmental analytics company had been planning to expand its service capabilities as well as grow its geographical presence in Northeastern Minnesota for several years.
“The welcome from the city of Hibbing was instrumental in fulfilling both our interests and led to our decision to place our operation in Hibbing versus other locations considered in the tristate region,” says founder and CEO Robert Borash said. “Hibbing is within the heart of the Iron Range and provides an ideal location to service the northeastern region efficiently by utilizing the courier services we provide.”
RMB will move into the 31,000 square-foot structure known as the Vidovic building, located in the Hibbing Industrial Park.
Built in 1996, the facility housed DMR Electronics for almost two decades. Since 2015 it has been vacant, however, after this former tenant outgrew the space and moved its operation elsewhere.
“The building is a perfect match for RMB, since it has the potential to be easily retrofitted for a laboratory,” said John Tourville, special projects coordinator with the Hibbing Economic Development Agency (HEDA).
HEDA, together with the City of Hibbing and the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (DIRRR) has been working for more than a year to coordinate the expansion project together with RMB.
In February 2019 DIRRR granted
leasing agreement with RMB for a minimum of five years. The environmental analytics company will initially occupy roughly 17,000 square foot of the entire Vidovic building.
“We will actively try to find other tenants for the remaining space,” said Tourville. Net lease revenues will be used to repay the zero interest loan to DIRRR over a 20 year period.
First steps towards a major laboratory build-out are currently underway. The retrofitting, financed by RMB, is estimated to cost about $1.2 million. It includes a loan of $250,000 from HEDA.
RMB plans on hiring 20 people over the course of the next two years, with wages ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, plus benefits.
Founded in 1995, RMB has existing facilities in Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids, Bloomington and Waterford City, N.D.
Says Borash: “We are already servicing clients throughout northeastern Minnesota via our existing network of RMB laboratories. Starting March 11, the new Hibbing facility will be staffed Mon
day through Friday and will support current clients while we work through the state certification process for that facility. That process will take 60-90 days, thereafter samples will then be processed on-site in Hibbing. We will continue to add service capabilities at that location as we respond to clients’ needs. In the meantime, we are excited to share the news throughout the area about our service offerings.”
The environmental analytics company provides services to the private and public sector. Clients include municipalities, water conservation districts, industries, lake associations, private businesses and property owners.
Amongst other services, RMBEL tests drinking water, monitors ground- and wastewater, compiles aquatic plant surveys and screens for invasive aquatic species.
Once fully operational, RMB’s intention is to redirecting work from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota to its full-service Hibbing location.
“The laboratory facility in Hibbing will be focused on environmental laboratory testing. Revenues from work outside the region will be combined with work performed for clients within the Iron Range. It is exciting to bring new scientific employment opportunities to the region that are seldom offered in the area, as well as build new vendor relationships. We have nine immediate full-time positions being filled and another six to eight expected in the following 12-18 months. These opportunities will lead to immediate economic stimulus and diversity,” said Borash.
“Importing work to the region and diversifying our workforce and economy is the goal for everyone on the Iron Range,” adds Tourville. “Hopefully we can continue to work with parties such this one, which have excellent track records.”