The NDDC Board recently paid a visit to long-time neighbor Life Skills Education. This small company with a national presence might be one of Northfield’s best-kept business secrets.
We met with Bob and Steve Ciernia and got a nickel tour and a dime background. The company was started in Boston in 1979, and relocated in Northfield in 1993. They, along with their brother Mike, had been born and raised in Minnesota and wanted to come home. Bob noted that their businesses could be located just about anywhere.
They wanted to be near the metro area, but not too near, and so scouted towns in about a 50-mile radius. The two colleges were a big draw, there was a lot going on, culturally, for a small town, and they really admired the citizens’ commitment to the community and its quality of life.
Northfield is a really fine community, according to Bob. It’s a great place to raise your kids, he likes being able to walk to work, and everybody on their staff appreciates the number and quality of lunch options in the downtown.
As for what could be improved, they suggested that our connection to the national transportation network could be better. Bob noted that 96% of the company’s business comes from out of the state. He also suggested that a local paper supplier and a local box manufacturer would be convenient. Finally, they noted that the City processes can be slow and cumbersome.
The company has tripled its business since coming to Northfield. They are looking at further expansion, including purchasing new equipment, hiring two new employees, and increasing their space from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet. They’d like to build a real loading dock and have room for larger deliveries and shipments.
They would like to stay in the present location, and if that’s not possible, they’d like to remain in or near the downtown. Bob and Steve said that they have recently started discussions with the City regarding their expansion plans.