Essentia Health’s Vision Northland project stimulating local economy

Thursday, April 08, 2021

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Increasingly larger crews are working on Essentia Health’s Vision Northland project as construction accelerates both on the exterior and interior. The $900 million project, which is on schedule and about 30% complete, will build a state-of-the-art replacement for St. Mary’s Medical Center while providing thousands of good-paying jobs.

Essentia has collaborated with its construction manager, McGough Construction, and the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council to maximize the local impact of those jobs, as well as bring new people into the construction trades.

“Essentia Health is grateful for all the workers of the trades who are helping to make our vision of creating a state-of-the-art medical facility for our patients across the region a reality,” said Dr. Robert Erickson, Essentia’s physician lead for Vision Northland. “We are honored to be collaborating with them on this historic project.”

More than 50% of the tradespeople working on Vision Northland are members of local unions. Among them: carpenters, laborers, operators, cement masons and bricklayers.

“Having local workers keeps money in our local economy,” said Charlie Bell, vice president of concrete services at Northland Constructors of Duluth, a subcontractor overseeing earthwork, demolition and earth retention. “It helps ensure that we have living-wage jobs supporting families across our region.”

Northland Constructors is one of the project’s nine subcontractors headquartered in Duluth. The company has about 20 workers onsite, including laborers, operators and truck drivers. They represent several of our partners in the building and construction trades

“This facility is being built to serve our community, so it makes sense that it’s being built by our community,” Bell said.

Currently, there are about 300 workers onsite per day, a number that could reach 600 at peak. Since ground was broken on the largest private investment in Duluth’s history, in September 2019, more than 750 workers have been onsite. Of those, about 60% live in Essentia’s East Market, including the Twin Ports, Iron Range, the I-35 corridor, the Brainerd Lakes area and northwest Wisconsin. By the time Vision Northland is complete in the first quarter of 2023, it will have provided more than 5,600 onsite construction jobs and 3,600 off-site construction-related jobs. 

“These are life-changing jobs,” said Jeremy Browen, business representative for North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. “They aren’t temporary jobs; they’re career jobs.”

There are more than 40 members of the Carpenters Local 361 onsite, which will increase as temperatures warm and building enclosures continue. Their work is helping transform the downtown Duluth skyline and align Essentia’s facilities with how medicine is practiced in the 21st century. Carpenters with the Local 361 are proud of the work they’re doing.

“It’s not necessarily just about the money. That’s nice, of course, and it helps these workers take care of their families,” Browen said. “But when they’re driving by, they can tell their kids, ‘I was part of that project.’ This is the biggest project in the history of Duluth and one of the biggest private projects in the state of Minnesota. So people have a lot of pride in that.”

Foundations for the eight-story clinic tower and 15-story hospital tower were completed last fall. Crews already have reached the top of the clinic tower and have been installing glass panels since January. Steel for the hospital tower, meanwhile, keeps rising. The building will be enclosed in early 2022.

Funding for Vision Northland comes from construction bonds purchased by investors, so Essentia can only use the money for this project.

Category: Investors