Breaking News
More () »

New life (and jobs) coming to Minnesota’s unused emergency COVID morgue building

The old produce warehouse in St. Paul was never actually used to store bodies, and now a trucking company says dozens of jobs are in store for the neighborhood.

ST PAUL, Minn. — New life is coming to the infamous COVID-19 emergency morgue purchased by the state of Minnesota early in the pandemic.

After paying $5.5 million for the old Bix Produce Building in St. Paul in the spring of 2020, the state sold the property to the St. Paul Port Authority at a slight profit last fall.

When the St. Paul Port Authority bought the building for $5.65 million in September, Andrea Novak, senior vice president of communications for the Port Authority, told KARE11 that they would prioritize economic impact over profits.

"We want find a buyer that's going to bring good paying jobs back to the city of St. Paul, in that neighborhood, where really, people need the jobs the most," Novak said.

Less than four months later, Novak says the St. Paul Port Authority had multiple offers and ended up selling the site for $5.65 Million, nearly the same price it paid.

"It's a good story all around," Novak said. "There is no money made, there is no money lost but we were able to protect the outcome and we were able to protect jobs in St. Paul."

The buyer is Soldier Trucking and Delivery, which started in Menomonie, Wisconsin but quickly expanded in the Twin Cities. The company specializes in the delivery of bread, auto parts and farm parts.

COO Dean Zuleger says the space and location fit perfectly for a new headquarters.

"We're going to provide a more than fair living wage. Our lowest paid job is $18.25 there and we feel like we can hire right in the surrounding Arlington, North End, Phalen neighborhoods," Zuleger said. "It's also on a bus line, and we are a trucking company, and it's right on a quick access to I-35, so there won't be any ambient noise problems.

"We're also a company that's got a great interest in sustainability and renewable energy, so we're going to use solar and wind turbines if the city of St. Paul will let us, to kind of power that building."

Zuleger says some of Soldier Trucking's 70 current employees in the Twin Cities have already started moving in, while a neighborhood job fair to hire at least 30 more should happen by April.

"We have a heart for hiring veterans, including veterans who may suffer from PTSD or some orientation back into society when they come off duty," Zuleger said. "We also work with disenfranchised people looking to get back into the workforce, and we work with folks in the urban core. One of our side businesses is we deliver for Amazon in the urban core in St. Paul and Minneapolis, so we try to hire folks that either need a hand up or live within where we're going to deliver to provide opportunities. It's who we are and what we're about."

Zuleger says they're also planning to add dock space and create a package pick-up center for local customers which would push their workforce to 140 employees, even beyond the Port Authority's expectations.

"We really do think that a good paying job is the best pathway out of poverty," Novak said. "And so Soldier Trucking just aligned completely with our mission."

Watch more on the coronavirus:

Watch the latest reports and updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota with our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out