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Frazee on track for growth

Frazee Mayor Hank Ludtke and City Clerk Jonathan Smith at the Swift redevelopment site on East Main Street. Northern Lights Dance Academy (right) is the first building on the site of the former turkey plant demolished in 2007. (Jason Adkins/DL Newspapers)

Frazee is showing signs of growth and while it's not booming, there is plenty of promise for the city on the southern edge of Becker County.

The Swift turkey plant site next to Frazee Family Foods that was demolished in 2007 is finally ready for redevelopment.

"It's probably one of the greatest pieces of property in town because of the river," Frazee Mayor Hank Ludtke said.

A new building housing the Northern Lights Dance Academy is open for business.

"The first business was definitely a challenge," said City Clerk Jonathan Smith. "It kind of came at short notice and they wanted to build quickly."

He said that getting the first building out of the way is a learning experience to build on for the future.

"We know what we have to do now for a smooth transition when we start doing the rest of these lots," Smith said.

Currently, no other businesses have committed to moving to the site. But Smith and Ludtke said that there has been interest expressed from several parties.

"We've had a couple of people talk to us about putting up a building or two," Smith said.

One benefit is that the land is cheap, Ludtke said.

"I couldn't buy my back yard for what I could buy a piece of property for over there," he said.

Plus, it has the infrastructure in place for electrical, water, natural gas and telecommunications.

The Swift site is also in a tax increment financing district to help out the builder. Depending on the business, JOBZ benefits for state and local exemption is also available for qualifying businesses.

Ludtke said that Frazee isn't looking to draw in big box stores, but more "mom and pop" operations.

He's hoping more commercial businesses come into town.

The site cleanup itself helped alleviate an environmental hazard, Ludtke said, as it's adjacent to the Ottertail River.

"Anytime when you get a chance to clean up something that is a potential hazard to the future of the water in this country, you have to do it," Ludtke said. "It doesn't matter what the cost is really at this point, because down the road, you'll have major water issues."

He said that even with the benefits of the site, it's been hard to attract interested parties because of the largest recession since the Great Depression.

Ludtke said that the city hasn't been hit quite as hard as some others.

"We haven't had a lot of foreclosures," he said.

While the economy has slowed growth down, it hasn't led to vast foreclosures as some major cities have experienced.

"We're by far not a wealthy city," Smith said. "We have a lot of median incomes -- average Joes -- and that's great."

He said that what the city wants are the entrepreneurs who can offer a lot, even though they might not bring millions of dollars on their own, to help build the economy.

There are grants available for redevelopment, especially since the city received a $90,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant by the federal Department of Agriculture to help build a revolving low-interest loan pool. Besides redevelopment other needs in the city include a hotel, Ludtke said.

With the Heartland Trail and other recreational opportunities, hotel space is lacking.

"We need a place for people to stay," Ludtke said.

And it needs to be within walking distance of downtown, he said.

A hardware store is also needed, Ludtke said.

While Homestead Building Supplies helps, it can't do everything because of its scope, as it's a lumberyard.

All being said, Frazee's economy is tied to the rest of the area.

"Our growth is inevitable with the natural resources we bring," Smith said.

He said that Detroit Lakes recognizes that it can't offer everything to residents, especially in recreation.

"They're recognizing that we have some things that can help the City of Detroit Lakes," Smith said.

More information on Frazee, including the Swift redevelopment can be found at