By Margie Holmgren
In 2015, Hallock worked with a consultant to develop a three-year strategic plan to act as a guiding force in the communities development and path towards success.
Participants reviewed community surveys and discussed the top five priorities for the community.
“The plan is consensus-driven with input collected from a wide array of hallock elected officials, phone interviews and the in-person planning session,” states the Strategic Plan documentation compiled by KLJ Engineering.
From the survey and discussions with various citizens, five key areas were determined as a priorities and included: Business and Industry; Community Pride; Fire Hall & Safety; Infrastructure; and Pool.
Council member Kevin Waller, along with Paul Blomquist and Brett Sobolik took the initiative from this strategic planning discussions and formed the Hallock Main Street Committee.
Their goal is revitalizing the downtown area, getting businesses into empty viable buildings as well as getting rid of buildings that are not viable.
In the strategic plan documentation, each priority has goals listed as well as strategies for achieving these goals.
The first goal is to encourage people to shop local and maintain support for new and existing businesses. This has been done the past couple of years with a “Shop Local” campaign which has given buyers incentive to shop locally as well as assisting business owners with getting their business recognized. This has been one of the activities the committee has implemented the last couple of years.
The second goal has been to create a platform to attract new businesses.
This is where the committee has been extra busy.
They formed three subcommittees with each member heading a committee.
Waller’s committee is in charge of the building committee, which also includes Rodney Bakken and Kelly Bengtson.
The goal of this committee was to look at the buildings along main street and see which ones were available and could be utilized without extensive repairs.
“Originally when we began,” Waller explained, “the laundromat stuck out as something that couldn’t be occupied and we could have waited until it went back on taxes but that was years down the road. We wanted to get rid of it to begin the beautification process of main street, so we thought the best thing to do was to get rid of that building.”
The laundromat building was purchased by the committee using funds in the Hallock Community Revit-alization Fund through Northwest Minnesota Foundation. Funds were deposited into this fund from the C & M Ford Drive Your Community Event and the city contributed as well.
Anyone can donate to this fund by going to the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and search Hallock Community Fund – once there you can chose from three areas benefitting Hallock – the Community Revitalization Fund which will be used for projects such as the laundromat coming down.
“We then decided we needed to identify buildings that somebody could potentially use,” Waller continued. “The old Clay drug. for example, is a good solid property, the old chiropractor building and the old Gullander Hardware building. Rodney Bakken went through to make sure they were solid properties.”
Other buildings were looked at but require extensive repairs to get them back into condition to be usable spaces.
“The buildings we have available to us we are looking to help fill up,” Waller stated, “the nonviable buildings we are looking for a way to improve or help take them down.”
Brett Sobolik, who’s chair of the finance committee, is actively working on ways to attract news businesses as well as help them out financially with starting a business in Hallock.
His committee consists of Paul Craigmile, Roger Quanbeck, Kelly Bengtson and George Hanson.
Sobolik has been doing some research and is getting together information including different resources people could have if they want to start a business – someone to help with a business plan, grant writing and also what type of grants a person could be eligible for etc.
He stated there is basically four areas where assistance can come from:
(1) non profits, such as the Hallock Community Fund etc.
(2) local, City incentives or assistance, Economic Development Association
(3) state, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
(4) federal, United Stated Department of Agriculture.
Sobolik wants to create a brochure that will include information for new businesses that will include financing, help with grant writing, business development and marketing ideas.
“If you have an idea,” Sobolik said, “get a hold of one of us and we can help find a place as well as give them resources to make the idea feasible.”
Paul Blomquist, who’s head of the visioning committee, stated, “Our number one priority is to stabilize support and grow existing businesses; then fill the empty buildings and bring in new businesses.”
Waller agreed saying, “I guess you could argue about the position those are in but they are all things we are looking at and all of the same importance.”
“Promoting business that we have now is a big deal,” added Waller, “one of the things we are running into is continuing businesses due to retiring people.”
The group’s goal is to revitalize main street but as Waller stated, “The time to bring a business to town is when someone wants to come and that is a top priority above all else.”
“There has been people that wanted business space and there hasn’t been business space,” he added, “our big goal now is that if someone has a want, we put that at a top priority and we try to help them find space.”
Even before the strategic planning meeting and priorities were set in place, Waller and Blomquist were discussing a building similar to what Stephen has where there are several suites that could be rented out.
“I’d love to be able to do that on main street,” commented Waller.
The bottom line is getting new businesses into the community and the committee is having success.
“We have people who are looking to open up a coffee shop,” explained Blomquist. “We have a television and appliance repair store opening up, Kevin is working on the fitness center using the old fire hall.”
So what is drawing people to Hallock?
“One of the things I have heard is the school is a huge draw and advantage,” stated Waller, “and the small town atmosphere. Great for the sportsman, you may have to drive a little but its near and artists, the Northern Lights are a draw and other inspiration.”
“The bottom line is the people,” added Blomquist. “a new resident said the thing that struck him about Hallock is the openness of the people of our community and I do believe that our community and the people in our community make us unique, give us an advantage that isn’t in most places.”
“We are a full line community,” he added, “like C & M is full line offering new and used vehicles but also parts, alignment, etc. Hallock is full line in that we have healthcare, legal, accounting, school, retail business, fiber optic internet, natural gas, four seasons and we are a community that desires to grow – move forward without forgetting the past.”
Part of the moving forward while holding on to the past is part of the visioning committee. Along with Blomquist, members Cheri Reese, Megan Sugden and Kristin Eggerling are working on creating a flavor for main street.
They’d like to see some type of coordination of the buildings similar to what Karlstad has done.
“I have engaged with an individual who’s willing to donate trees to put down main street and what are the pros and cons of what that might be,” explained Blomquist, “so we are checking with the city and county as to how that would look.”
Waller would like to remind the community about how things look.
“Change doesn’t come overnight,” Waller stated. “when you look around town you can see change. We have a new fire hall and because of that we have the opportunity to bring in another business or two. We got rid of the eyesore of the old motel but we also got another store that I think is an important part of the community and it is bringing in people that normally wouldn’t be here and they are probably stopping to do other things as well, we have a brewery downtown and so I guess what I’m saying in a short amount of time – a couple year period – and who knows what things will look like in three years – will they look like 30 years ago or will we be better off than we are today and today we are better off than we were three years ago.”
“There’s ebbs and flows in everything and I just sense there is a new energy in Hallock,” added Blomquist, “with Far North Spirits being a part of it as well as Revelation Ale – somewhat of a youth movement and a retirement movement and we want to celebrate that – trying to use that as fuel to add to that fire and hopefully bring in that next canola plant and stabilize the businesses that are here and help them grow.”
“Our goal is bringing businesses to main street and cleaning up the main street and filling unoccupied buildings,” concluded Waller.
“We have kind of nurtured this thing in a smaller group and now we want to take this and start engaging the whole community and asking every stakeholder to help move Hallock forward,” challenged Blomquist.
What do you see or want to see for Hallock? Have an idea, contact any one of the members of the Hallock Main Street Committee and share your idea with them.
As Waller states, “If you don’t try then nothing will happen.”