Sen. Smith tours Rise Modular to talk housing shortage, solutions

rise modular senator tina smith manufacturing facility visit owatonna peoples press

By Annie Harmann,

It’s hard to conceptualize that a multi-family housing unit that can put hundreds of families into a home in less than year is built inside a modest factory in Owatonna — but this week United States Sen. Tina Smith became a believer.

On Tuesday, the Democratic senator visited Rise Modular in Owatonna’s Industrial Park. Playfully described internally as “adult legos,” Rise Modular is a full-service modular manufacturing and construction company that has called Owatonna home since 2019. The company has completed three multi-family projects in the Twin Cities area, is in the process of completing four more, and very recently broke ground on two hospitality projects — one being the local Home2 Suites by Hilton project in their own backyard.

The housing side of the business, however, it was drew the attention of Smith. Of the projects currently in construction at Rise is the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) Family Housing Expansion. The project will develop 84 units between 16 buildings in nine different neighborhoods, helping fill a need where MPHA CEO Abdi Warsame said there are currently 8,000 people on a waiting list.

“This is incredible, innovative work they’re doing to provide very affordable, decent, dignified places for people to live in Minneapolis,” Smith said following a tour of the modular plant. “This innovation and construction is going to make it possible for the people who live in Minneapolis Public Housing Authority to have places that are really worthy of who they are.”

“This project has been put together through the great invocation of Rise, federal low income housing tax credits, solar panels that have been affordable by the Inflation Reduction Acts and of course great commitments from [MPHA] and the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County,” she continued.

According to Christian Lawrence, founder and CEO of Rise Modular, one of the greatest benefits of modular projects is the time savings that they bring.

“It’s really driven by concurrent construction — while site work is being done with foundations and utilities, we’re simultaneously finishing kitchens and bathrooms,” Lawrence said. “With simultaneous construction, rather than linear, we save 30-50% time on projects, which is super valuable.”