By Ross Markman
A home delivery supplier of more than 300 frozen food, snack and dessert products is moving its Hi-Line distribution warehouse 20 miles up U.S. Highway 2.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice has been working since January to entice Schwan's Corp. to move from its current digs in Chinook to the Havre area. The Minnesota-based corporation, Rice said, will build a new warehouse on a parcel behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture building west of Havre.
Officials with Schwan's could not be reached for comment today.
The one-plus-acre tract is owned by Patrick Construction of Havre and is outside the city limits, but within Hill County. The land deal, Rice estimated in April, was for about $25,000.
Tom Patrick, owner of Patrick Construction, said today that he hadn't heard from Schwan's for several months and wasn't aware that a deal was finalized.
"We haven't heard another word from them. I don't even know what the deal is," he said.
Rice, though, said it's a done deal.
"This just helps the economy and brings another business to Havre," Rice said today. "It kind of generates an interest in Havre from other communities, I think."
At least one nearby community isn't too happy with the move Chinook.
"We would really like to keep Schwan's here," said Freda Bryson, Chinook City Council president. "We feel that we did an awful lot to invite Schwan's as a community to our area. Now they've decided to leave."
In April, Chinook Mayor Bill Oehmcke refused to discuss the details, but said the town was negotiating to keep the distribution center within its boundaries.
"We have no understanding of why they're leaving. I'm very disappointed," Bryson said. "I do believe the city of Chinook has bent over backwards to help them."
In efforts to convince Schwan's to move to Havre, Rice said in April that he had discussed a tax reduction with the company's representatives. With the reduction, Schwan's would have been minimally taxed during its first year of operation, gradually seeing that figure increase until its fifth year.
Schwan's, Rice said today, didn't ask for the tax break. It is, however, receiving a $1,500 gift from the city, as Monday night the City Council approved waiving the distribution center's water and sewer impact fees.
"We felt that $1,500 was not too much to waive to get any new business to come to Havre," council president Rick Pierson said. "I guess it's a good gesture toward Schwan's moving here."
The move could mean a shot in the arm to the county tax base, Yvette LaValley, property evaluation specialist for the state Department of Revenue, said in April. It all depends on how big the facility is, she said.
The personal property tax rate for Hill County is 3 percent for 2002; for real estate, it's 3.46 percent, LaValley said. It's likely, she added, that those figures could change in 2003.
"I really don't know what it all entails and what's it going to bring," Pierson said. "But any business that comes to Havre is a good thing for Havre."