Development in Hawley heats up: Minnesota town sees boom in commercial building
HAWLEY, Minn. - For decades, city leaders here have taken an “if you build it, they will come” approach to attracting businesses.
Infrastructure has been upgraded – even without the guarantee any would be interested in calling this town of 2,081 home.
But by summer 2014, most of the city’s dreams will come true in what once were fields along Highway 10.
A handful of businesses are currently under construction, including two hotels, an amenity that has been on the city’s wish list for more than a decade.
Laurel Mahan and partners will open Hotel Hawley and Event Center on the north side of Highway 10 in 2014. It will include a restaurant, bar and 2,400- square-foot event center.
“We’ve always needed a hotel, always,” said Mayor Gary E. Johnson. “When people come home to visit Mom and Dad who live here, they have to drive to Moorhead-Fargo to rent a room.”
City Clerk Lisa Jetvig said a place to hold large gatherings, especially wedding receptions, was badly needed in the city. Currently, the only large space available for such events is the concrete-floored community center built in the 1930s-40s, Jetvig said.
“It is sparse; it is not an ideal wedding facility in today’s terms,” she said.
A fine-dining establishment also will benefit the city. Castle Rock, the city’s sole steakhouse and supper club, recently closed, Jetvig said.
Mahan, who also built, owned and managed the Hilton Garden Inn of Fargo, said she and her partners have owned the land in Hawley for about six years with the intention of building a hotel, but they were waiting for more commerce to arrive.
Business has arrived
The city will welcome a half-dozen new or expanded businesses in 2014.
A second hotel, an AmericInn, will open not far from Hotel Hawley, on the south side of Highway 10.
Rapat, a conveyor belt manufacturer, is planning an $180,000 expansion in 2014.
RDO Equipment will finish construction on a new 40,000-square-foot facility, which is much larger than the existing site along Highway 10. Considered a large employer in Hawley, RDO employs more than 30 and may add between three and six positions when the expansion is completed next year.
And south of Highway 10, near Highway 31, Cretex Concrete Products, a concrete recast company known for manufacturing culverts, will open an $11 million facility on 40 acres that will create 40 jobs during peak functioning time.
Councilman C.J. Holl said the Cretex facility will consolidate the company’s Fargo and Grand Forks plants.
Hawley is a central location for Cretex, which uses nearby raw materials. And, earlier this year, the city secured a $500,000 matching grant to upgrade the road in and out of the facility to accommodate the roughly 80 trucks that will come and go from the plant per day.
“It’s now a 10-ton-plus road because we expected heavy traffic out there,” Jetvig said.
Former mayor and current councilman John Young Jr. said that, since the 1980s, the city has consistently invested in upgrading its roads, water and sewer systems, all in hopes of what will now happen in 2014.
“We’ve practically redone all the infrastructure,” Young said.
Jetvig said having the plans in place was what caused Cretex to consider moving to Hawley.
“Cretex was a cold call,” she said. “They called up one day, and I said this is an easy sell.”
The business boom began this year, following the stop light installation and road realignment at Highway 10 and County Road 31/33 over the summer.
“What’s interesting: Many smaller towns want development and try to get one thing happening, and Hawley has lots of things happening; they’re happening all at the same time,” Holl said. “Development has begotten development.”
Alderon, an alarm and switch manufacturer, moved into its 40,000-square-foot-expanded space earlier this year.
In October, a Dollar General store opened along Highway 10. The Missouri chain’s northern-most store was completed in just three weeks, Jetvig said.
Also, a longtime vehicle dealership, Muscatell Burns, expanded its showroom property along Highway 10.
Johnson attributes the city’s recent success in attracting development to its location (between lakes country and the Fargo-Moorhead area), its successful airport and to planning.
“Our more recent councils foresaw what was coming and really prepared for it,” Jetvig said.
Although the majority of new business is coming to areas along Highway 10, downtown is not fading away.
Clay County partnered with Hawley to secure a $750,000 rehab grant for downtown commercial, residential and rental properties.
“Next year, I think you’ll see a lot more downtown work get done,” Holl said.
Jetvig said there are no vacancies in the city’s downtown area, but some buildings are currently underused.
She and those on the council feel more small businesses, especially service industries, will find space to carve their niche downtown.
Mayor Johnson said, “(Downtown) businesses will come from homeowners.”
While commercial acreage is growing quickly, residential is slower but not far behind, councilmen said.
“The commercial development is going to beget residential development,” Holl said.
Jetvig said much of the available residential property is high-end, single-family homes. The city would like to recruit “more middle-range” and multifamily housing.
Young said residential developers, including some who wish to build apartments and townhomes, have shown interest in building in the city.
The city has long tried to attract young families by emphasizing good schools and recreation opportunities, such as its trails, an 18-hole-golf course, rodeo grounds, and disc golf course.
“We’re just really excited that all this (business) is opening up,” Jetvig said. “But we’re not going to quit. We’re shooting for the stars.”