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Hallock offers free home lots to attract canola plant workers

HALLOCK, Minn. -- The population erosion in the Kittson County seat is expected to be stemmed by this summer's startup of a canola oil processing plant.

But, city leaders have added another incentive to locate here -- free home lots. The Hallock Economic Development Authority recently voted to waive the $7,500 cost for a 150-foot lot in a housing development with hopes of spurring more new construction.

The Northstar Agri-Industries canola plant, under construction just south of Hallock, will open in May with 47 employees. Most of the management team will come from outside the area.

"We're not sure how many want to jump right into a new home without feeling things out first," City Clerk Hank Noel said. "It might take some time for people to settle in.

"But we felt we should be proactive on this, that a $7,500 savings might put some people over the top as far as wanting to build."

The 40-acre housing development on the town's southern edge, started in 2001, currently has nine properties.

Most of them were built by local residents upgrading, not from new residents, Noel said. Their value is in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

The city and its EDA also have been involved in developing a motel, restaurant, eight-plex apartment, hardware store, eye clinic, bank and several business expansions.

Hallock, less than 1,000 in population for the first time since before 1950, has averaged a population drop of 3 to 5 percent each decade, Noel said.

The $168 million Northstar Agri-Industries plant is expected to stop the population loss.

In addition to the 47 jobs and a $3.5 million annual payroll, it will help the local farm economy because of increased planting of canola.