A little town that thinks big [UPDATED]Published 9:31am Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Updated 11:32am Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Perham downtown is thriving. With three major commercial projects under construction, plus infrastructure development and increased housing starts, the town of under 3,000 is poised for a happy new year.
“For a small town, Perham is very robust, more robust than other small towns,” said Chuck Johnson, city Economic Development Director.
And there are key reasons for its success. The area’s diverse economy is based on manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.
“Perham is on highway 10, gateway to popular lakes,” said Johnson. “There is a surge in traffic because of it.”
Popular pub and wine bar, Brew, left its leased location and secured a new spot on Main Street, which is currently under construction. Brew’s building face will be a classic design to fit in with the historic atmosphere of downtown.
“United Community Bank has been on Second Street forever,” said Johnson. “They acquired another bank building which was First State Bank of Dent, and are tripling the size of the building following the same classic red brick style.”
The Third Ave. corridor that connects downtown with Highway 10 is also bustling with a mix of residential and commercial businesses. Wild Goose has been on the corridor for 12 years, and is bursting at the seams.
Wild Goose, a coffee house and specialty retail establishment, has recently purchased three properties. While owners are not ready to talk about their exact plans, one new building site includes 8600 sf. of space, while other parts are earmarked for parking and offices.
While Johnson concedes January and February can be pretty “skinny,” for retail, the town has a strong base of industrial support, and a job base that exceeds the town’s population.
With 1200 employees at its Perham location, KLN Family Brands is a significant employer in the area. The company has four product lines- Tuffy’s Pet Foods, Kenny’s Candy, Nutheads and Barrel O’ Fun. Kenny’s Candy is in the early stages 50,000 sf. expansion and introduction of a new product line.
“We are presently starting to manufacture a line of “gummy” products so the additional space will be needed for that expansion,” said Wayne Caughey, CFO of KLN. “We are always looking for opportunities to expand our product lines and offerings.”
There is also Industiral Finishing Services, which specializing in industrial finishes and coatings since 1996, serving the automotive, agricultural, military, big truck, consumer and construction industries.
State of the art telecommunication, wireless and high speed Internet services are also based in Perham. Established in 1950, East Ottertail Telephone Company, now known as Arvig, has grown from a small family owned telephone company to one of the largest independent telecommunications providers in the nation.
“Arvig is a huge footprint in the state, and a very big player in the world of telcom,” said Johnson.
The City of Perham is helping to keep things flowing with updated infrastructure. There is a $6 million expansion on the sewage treatment system underway, including a new 20-acre, 83 million gallon, aeration/holding pond in addition to the existing two primary aeration ponds and three holding ponds, and new equipment that is anticipated to handle the town’s sewage for the next 30 years.
After the recession, the area has climbed back up on housing starts, including a new 14-plex under construction, the second of four multi-unit buildings for the town.
According to the city’s website, “Perham businesses and citizens believe in progress and moving forward.”
The area appears to be living up to this belief.