tru Shrimp news is a call for action in Minnesota

Two years ago tru Shrimp delivered the news that Marshall did not want to hear. The innovative agriculture company based in Balaton would build its first commercial shrimp hatchery and harbor in Luverne.

That was somewhat of a gut shot for Lyon County and the surrounding area. Shortly after that announcement, tru Shrimp said it was finalizing its plans for a 67-acre shrimp harbor complex in Luverne that would include a 42,000 square-foot hatchery, a water treatment facility and the Luverne Bay Harbor.

On Friday, all that changed with another gut shot.Tru Shrimp reversed course and said it was now heading west out of the state of Minnesota and would build its first commercial shrimp producing facility in Madison, South Dakota.

Michael Ziebell, tru Shrimp president and CEO, said there were issues related to the planned Luverne site that would need to be addressed before the company could proceed there. The issues apparently deal with the permit process involving the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Luverne city leaders pleaded with tru Shrimp for more time to work out the issues. But tru Shrimp answered that the ball was already rolling, as a news conference was set to announce the South Dakota location.

Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he was “blindsided” by the news. And so were officials in Marshall, Luverne and the state of Minnesota.

“I’m not going to kid you, it was like a gut shot,” Baustian also said.

Of course, South Dakota officials are thrilled.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about this,” outgoing South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard was quoted as saying in the Madison Daily Leader.

Meanwhile, everybody in Minnesota is now wondering what happened. And there is a lot of finger pointing.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski quickly sent out a statement after the tru Shrimp announcement.

“Opportunities for economic development of this magnitude don’t come around often, and now it appears the inability of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to successfully negotiate permits is causing us to miss out on a chance to provide southwest Minnesota with a big-time boost,” he said.

The MPCA defended itself in the Wednesday Star Tribune article.

“Our staff communicated clearly with tru Shrimp for an extended period of time, to help facilitate their development across Minnesota and we are committed to economic growth while protecting clean water,” agency commissioner Laura Bishop told the Star Tribune.

Ziebell told the Star Tribune that the administrative rule tru Shrimp said was a problem was designed in the 1960s before its indoor aquaculture technology existed. That’s because tru Shrimp plans to use reverse osmosis to filter the water. Ziebell said the mineral level in discharged water would be more concentrated and exceed MPCA’s standards.

“Our business model is built on sustainability and the irony is this problem has nothing to do with the salt water,” Ziebell was quoted of saying in the Star Tribune.

The bottom line is that the business world often times moves much faster than the wheels of government. And it all leads to the million dollar question: How did South Dakota move so fast in approving tru Shrimp permits, while the Minnesota government bureaucracy stumbled?

Answering that question is vital for future economic growth in southwest Minnesota and in cities like Marshall and Luverne. The Star Tribune reported that by abandoning the Luverne site at this time, tru Shrimp leaves on the table between $3 million and $5 million in production credit from the state of Minnesota. But it gains an unknown amount of tax incentives from the state of South Dakota.

There is a silver lining. With $800,000 already invested in the Luverne site, there’s a good chance tru Shrimp will eventually build a facility there. And tru Shrimp board Chairman Brian Knochenmus said back in November that “Marshall is in our plans for the future expansion of tru Shrimp.”

But that doesn’t mean the state of Minnesota should take that statement for granted.While keeping the state’s water safe for its residents is vital, waiting more than 50 years to update regulations tied to economic development is just bad government in action.

This recent tru Shrimp decision should be a wake up call for state politicians and officials. The state can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to competing with our neighboring states for that economic development.