How do you keep 'em ... ?

Minnesota State Roundup

Published November 1, 2004  | November 2004 issue

Several rural towns in western Minnesota, are using the lure of free, or almost free, lots to encourage home building in their towns.

Norman County, which abuts the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, has seen the most activity. Towns like Hendrum, Twin Valley, Shelly and Halstad are offering free lots to draw new residents.

Hendrum uses a Web site to advertise its lots, tax abatements and incentives such as free city services for one year for those who build homes on the lots. The town has drawn 15 families over the past eight years, most of whom commute to work in Moorhead.

Twin Valley has kept its population (about 9,400) fairly constant over the past 30 years but sees it graying and wants to attract younger families.

Ulen, population 532, in Moorhead 's Clay County, initially gave away lots but drew better responses when it made the lots larger and started charging $500. Its success may well appear in the school district, with 16 more students enrolled than a year ago.

Whether the free-lot programs will keep those towns functioning remains to be seen, but one new Twin Valley family opened a bakery in town.

Kathy Cobb