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Perham businesses fare well, despite sluggish economy

Although far from unscathed by the difficult economic climate of the past year, Perham industrial and commercial activity remained, for the large part, sheltered from the fiscal woes faced nationwide.

If there was one area of the Perham economy that didn't do so well, it was the residential sector. "This was a little bit slower of a year," reported Chuck Johnson, Perham's Economic Development Authority director.

Johnson kicked off the annual EDA event, held this year on January 21 at Mulligan's in Perham. Johnson reported that there were only 10 residential homes built in 2009. This compares to the 20 to 25 single-family homes typically built in the city during recent years.

On the industrial front, one of the most noticeable changes was the construction of three grain bins in the Perham industrial park. These grain bins at Jennie-O brought their carrying capacity to about two months, up from the three-day capacity the company had prior to the construction of the bins.

J & L Nutritional Consulting moved into a new facility in 2009, making room for offices and warehouse space for products. Other companies that faced major growth in 2009 included SunWise Foods, which is a start-up business currently in the process of selling specialized sandwiches to schools; and KitMasters, which manufacturers heavy-duty semi parts throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

"It's an exciting time for us," reported KitMasters President Darrin Swanson. "Winter is usually the slow time, but we're doing everything we can right now just to keep up with demand." Swanson said they plan to add some new staff members in 2010.

Licorice sales are sweet at Kenny's Candies

Kenny Nelson was also present at the EDA meeting to provide a brief update on his Kenny's candy, Tuffy's pet food, and Barrel O' Fun snack food businesses. At Kenny's, one of the major changes was the introduction of the Australian licorice line. Nelson reported that the new licorice is selling very well, with more changes planned for the candy making operation.

At Tuffy's, a new warehouse was added in 2009. Nelson said he plans to construct a new area to process chicken for high-end pet foods.

Barrel O' Fun underwent a massive expansion in the last year, bringing with it a huge price tag. "For the third time, we've added on to our original production facility," said Nelson. "We've enhanced our capacity pretty dramatically."

However, with the expansion and several other expensive changes, Nelson said he doesn't expect the company to grow as fast as it has been in the last few years. A target growth rate of 20 percent has been set for the company in 2010.

Nelson also briefly brought up the recently announced partnership between KLN Enterprises and the Minnesota Twins. He said plans are to play up the sponsorship, and even promote the relationship on product packaging.

"This is a new adventure for our little peanut stand," said an enthusiastic Nelson.

Other commercial activity in 2009

Elsewhere on the commercial front, Perham saw several new businesses open in 2009, including Refreshing Designs, Thru Him Photography, Hometown Repair, Lakes Area Pawn Shop, Frank's Detailing, and a gift shop at Ghost Runners.

The Station House Restaurant and Super 8 Motel, two longtime Perham businesses, both saw a change in ownership during the past year. Also, the Perham Enterprise Bulletin newspaper was merged with the New York Mills Herald, creating the East Otter Tail Focus, a combined publication owned by Forum Communications.

Despite the general success of the Perham business community, there were two businesses that closed their doors in 2009. The first was The Zone, an arcade-style fitness center; and the other was The Pines, a gift shop with a longstanding presence on Perham's Main Street.

The building that formerly housed The Zone, located on 3rd Avenue SE, is now up for sale. Johnson said that the former site of The Pines is also up for sale, with a very active buyer interested in purchasing the property almost immediately. Johnson said the potential owners also have plans to renovate the apartments located above what used to be The Pines gift shop.