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Published October 19 2012

Barnesville business development seeing spurt of activity

BARNESVILLE, Minn. - With Election Day just around the corner, politicians banter endlessly about how to spur growth and get the economy back on track.

Maybe what they really need to do is take some lessons from Barnesville.

It’s been a good year for the economy of this 2,500-population city.

• Earlier this year, Ohio-based K&M Tire announced it would build a 50,000-square-foot distribution building in the city’s commercial park.

• Rothsay Farmer’s Co-op is constructing an 11,250-ton dry fertilizer facility.

• A potato wash plant was demolished and will be replaced with a $3.3 million facility next spring.

• Barnesville Lumber expanded by 5,000 square feet.

• The All Seasons Car Wash is in the midst of building a 2,600-square-foot addition.

• The Buffalo Red River Watershed District recently moved into a new 4,300-square-foot office building.

And there’s more.

In addition to getting a new truck dump pit, Agassiz Valley Grain put in two grain storage bunkers. Each will be able to hold 1.2 million bushels of grain, said General Manager Dan Noreen.

“It’s a sign of changing times,” Noreen said. “Farmers are planting more and more corn acres, which is a higher volume crop, which then puts more pressure on us as commercial elevators to be able to handle it faster, store it, dry it and pile in this case.”

There’s even a new smoothie/tea shop on Barnesville’s main drag.

“That’s a significant number of projects to be going on in a community this size.” said Karen Lauer, executive director of the city-funded Barnesville Economic Development Authority. She said she’s “just thrilled.”

Lauer said it’s difficult to tie the city’s growth to a single factor. She believes the tire facility “indirectly is probably tied to the growth out in western North Dakota.”

“I do know that the demand for their products out in western North Dakota has just skyrocketed,” she said.

City Administrator Mike Rietz pointed to Barnesville’s proximity to Fargo-Moorhead and Interstate 94 as well as some old-fashioned persistence, keeping the community’s name out there and marketing it. He believes the city is benefiting from being in an area where the economy is doing well.

Lauer also touted the city’s foresight in preparing for growth and offering options for different kinds of businesses in Barnesville.

“Part of keeping a community vibrant is recognizing that there might be other opportunities,” she said.

The economic development group decided to start a commercial park in the late 1980s. Some of the growth happening now is going on there.

“We’re trying to offer a wide range of sites to fit a variety of business types,” Lauer said.

One of the smaller endeavors is Barnesville Nutrition, which opened on Oct. 8. The shop sells nutritional smoothies and teas.

Jaynie Halvorson, her mom, Joanne Herbranson, and sister Erica Herbranson own the shop. The three are from the Barnesville area and all praised the support of the community.

“Everybody comes to support everybody,” Halverson said.

“A lot of people have come in and tried it out, or they don’t know what our store’s all about, and they’ll come in and they’ll ask what the products are and ask what we have,” Erica Herbranson said.

Word-of-mouth advertising is another way the community has supported them, she said.

“More people are coming in because they say, ‘Well, we heard about it, so we wanted to come check it out,’ ” Erica Herbranson said.

Noreen of Agassiz Valley Grain said Barnesville has been a good place for his company to do business.

“It’s been very good … with the infrastructure that’s here, the interstate system, state Highway 9 for our truck traffic,” he said. “We’ve got services a mile away here for our truck drivers as far as food and fuel and all that kind of stuff.

In addition to the highway infrastructure, Agassiz Valley Grain’s location offers access to short-line rail service.

Lauer believes success helps breed more success.

The business growth “gives positive energy both to community leaders as well as the citizens themselves,” she said. “The best ambassadors for any community really are the people that are here. So if they’re excited about what they see happening, they’re going to tell other people.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734