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Perham guitar business to relocate to Fergus Falls

Spruce Hill Guitars, a small Perham-based aluminum guitar manufacturer, will soon be in position to move to Fergus Falls. In fact, said Community Development Director Gordon Hydukovich, the company could get [to Fergus Falls] as early as Dec. 1.

The company, which will have five employees when it arrives in Fergus Falls in the old Banner Engineering building on Weyrens Road, has been sought after by famous and accomplished musicians for its guitar designs, which company founder Marty Schulte has been working on for about 20 years. Though the company currently operates out of a Perham farmhouse, it has been looking to move to Fergus Falls and expand its business and staff for several months.

"It could have national or international exposure for us," Hydukovich told the Fergus Falls City Council at its regular meeting Nov. 15.

That expansion will come courtesy of Minnesota's JOBZ program, which offers tax exemptions to developing businesses that meet certain qualifications. The program is set to expire in 2015, so Spruce Hill Guitars will receive five years of tax benefits.

In order for the company to be eligible, however, the site it is moving to must be an approved site for JOBZ assistance. The city council, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners and the Fergus Falls School District were all involved about seven years ago in setting up which areas in the city would be eligible for the program.

"Since that time," Hydukovich explained, "they have allowed swapping."

After brief presentations by Hydukovich, the city council and the county board have both, at their respective meetings, approved land swaps to designate the 5.7 acres the company will be operating in as a JOBZ zone. The swap then makes the former JOBZ zone around Catholic Charities on Maryland Lane ineligible for the program, which Hydukovich said is not a problem because "of course, that site will never use JOBZ."

Spruce Hill will lease the old Banner Engineering building from the city's Port Authority, with a possible option to buy in coming years. The company has promised to employ at least 10 workers within its first year in Fergus Falls, and it hopes to eventually employ around 42 people.

The swap has yet to be approved by the Fergus Falls school board.