by CHRIS ROGERS
Fastenal broke ground on its 400-600-employee riverfront office building on Wednesday. City of Winona and Winona Area Chamber of Commerce officials joined Fastenal executives in celebrating the historic investment they said will bring more traffic and development to downtown. While the pandemic has upended many plans and made so much of the future unclear, local leaders said Fastenal’s project moving forward provides some certainty about what 2021 will bring for downtown Winona.
“Our society has been shaken by things for thousands of years and will be shaken by things for thousands of years into the future. You keep building for the future,” Fastenal CEO Dan Florness said. “We believe we are going to grow into the future, that’s why we’re still building it,” he stated.
Located on Second Street between the interstate bridge and Washington Street, Fastenal plans a large brick complex that will house 400-450 employees starting in 2021 with room to accommodate up to 600 staff members as the company continues to grow. City leaders expect having that many more professionals downtown on a daily basis will be a boon for coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and shops. Fastenal needs more space for its growing workforce, but it also sees the project as in investment in creating a vibrant downtown that will benefit its own efforts to recruit and retain talent to come work and live in Winona.
“It’s huge, honestly, for downtown Winona and all of Winona,” Mayor Mark Peterson said of the project. Winona Area Chamber of Commerce President Christie Ransom echoed, “That’s a really big deal that brings people to our downtown to eat, to shop, and do things, and that will just do so much to revitalize our downtown.”
“Part of bringing 400-600 people downtown here helps our community look to the future. What can we do to improve our downtown?” Fastenal Vice President of Corporate Real State Dana Johnson said.
“I think this is very important to have a vibrant downtown so we can continue to attract good help, attract professors and doctors into our community — we want them to stay — and help the college kids who have been here, who have gone to school here, and choose this as the community to stay in and start their families, as well,” Johnson stated.
The design for the office building includes parking in the rear, and, once the Winona Area YMCA moves into its new, under-construction facility, Fastenal plans to demolish the current Y building to provide additional parking. Winona City Manager Steve Sarvi has said the city is interested in acquiring a block of nearby vacant land left over from the interstate bridge construction to provide additional parking for the Fastenal project and for the public downtown.