by Mike Knaak
Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum says most residents will be satisfied if the number on the city’s population signs don’t need to be changed for two years.
That sentiment sums up city leaders’ strategy for development and growth. They are looking for careful, consistent growth.
Recent state data predicts that Sartell’s population will grow from about 18,000 residents now to 25,000 people in 2025. But “we won’t be disappointed if that number isn’t achieved,” City Administrator Mary Degiovanni said.
The health and medical technology sector is Sartell’s niche, and that’s where future growth is expected, Degiovanni said.
That segment employs almost 2,000 people now, by far the largest employment sector in the city. And those jobs come with some of the highest average wages, about $54,000 a year, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The next largest segment, retail trade, employs less than 1,000 people in jobs that pay half as much per year.
To attract more health and medical services, the city is installing fiber optic cable in its “Med Tech District” north of CR 120 and west of Hwy. 15.
“Sartell always had a draw for residential and medical businesses wanting to be here,” Fitzthum said. “It also helps us as we talk about how we grow the retail sector.”
The state data also shows that there are higher wage earners in Sartell compared with the rest of the region.
That information “helps us as we talk about how we grow the retail sector,” Fitzthum said. “We want retail. We have residents who support retail. There are high wage earners (with disposable income) in Sartell compared to the region. Retailers are looking at it. We can quantify it for them.”
Fitzthum said the city also wants to attract light industrial companies as well and startup businesses.
Sartell’s population growth has slowed the past 10 years. While the population grew 79 percent in the 1990s and 65 percent in the 2000s, the population increased about 16 percent in the last 10 years.
“We don’t want an explosion of population that has an affect on all parts of the city. That’s not a huge benefit,” Fitzthum said.
Sartell’s growth plan also includes a one-year moratorium on apartments approved last fall. The city is looking for incremental residential growth and to keep property taxes low, the mayor said.
Degiovanni said “people love the neighborhood feel in Sartell. By 2025 we want to maintain that strong neighborhood feeling.” To do that, she said, the city stays focused on what they are hearing from citizens.
The city has started a branding campaign that focuses on what makes Sartell unique. The goal, the mayor said, is “Sartell will be more well-known while maintaining a small-town feel.”