By Ross Markman
A plan that would move a food distribution center from Blaine County to neighboring Hill County is still on track.
Since January, Havre Mayor Bob Rice has been working to bring Schwan's Corp., a home delivery supplier of more than 300 frozen foods and desserts, to the Havre area. At Monday's Havre City Council meeting, Rice said, negotiations are ongoing.
"If everything goes well, Schwan's will probably be coming in. But this is not final. It's still being negotiated," Rice told the council. "It appears to be going well and it feels good. That's all I can say."
Representatives of Schwan's were unavailable for comment.
The Minnesota-based corporation is considering building a new warehouse on a parcel behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture building west of Havre, Rice said. The plot is outside Havre's city limits.
The one-plus-acre tract is owned by Tom Patrick Construction. The deal, Rice said last week, is for approximately $25,000. Tom Patrick was unavailable for comment, and last week declined to discuss the potential transaction, saying Schwan's has yet to commit to the acquisition.
A group of about 10 to 12 businesses in town is assisting in the negotiations, laying the groundwork for the potential move, Rice said today.
Schwan's has "asked for some assistance from us," he added. "It looks like it's getting better every day."
The move, Rice said, would benefit the people and the economy of Havre.
"I didn't actively recruit Schwan's coming here," he said. "But if I see an opportunity for something for Havre, I'm going for it."
Chinook Mayor Bill Oehmcke said today that he's had contact with Schwan's in an effort to keep the food distributor in Chinook, just 20 miles down the road from Havre.
Oehmcke was surprised last week when he heard of the proposed move.
"Anytime you lose a business, you lose a little bit. Schwan's is important to our community. We would hate to see them leave, of course," he said.
"I don't know that they're leaving. Negotiations are going on right now," Oehmcke added today. "We're negotiating with them at this time, but we haven't sat down with them yet."
As for Havre, City Council President Rick Pierson said, the move would only enhance the economic climate even though the proposed location is outside the city limits.
"Any new business that comes to Havre, Montana, is a positive plus. It doesn't matter whether it be Schwan's or Sherman Williams," Pierson said.
"A new business in our community increases wages and increases employment," he added. "If we can get her done, then it's definitely something we need to do."