Dalhousie has developed a down-on-its-luck reputation and for good reason.

The Abitibi-Bowater paper mill closed in 2008, the same year the chemical plant pulled out, and in 2011, NB Power closed its generating station, shrinking the tax base again.

Now the northern town of Dalhousie is taking extreme measures: it plans to give away vacant lots to business.

"We have a lot of vacant land in our municipality that's sitting idle and doing nothing," said Mayor Normand Pelletier.

"So we decided to put them up for anybody who's interested — an entrepreneur or business.

"We'll give 'em the property."​

land for free

Properties up for grabs, highlighted in orange, on a map of the town of Dalhousie (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The town has 20 parcels of land sitting vacant. Some properties are zoned commercial, and some are zoned for residential subdivisions.

The value of the land varies from $20,000 to $50,000 and each property will have certain conditions attached to assure some benefit to the town.

So far, two entrepreneurs have approached the mayor, who says the properties, which are scattered around the small town, will be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

"It'll be a taxbase for us and also a revenue for our municipality, which we're not getting right now," he said.

Dalhousie's population dropped by 4.5 per cent in the 2011 census and at the time had a population of 3,512.

The northern town's population had previously fallen 6.7 per cent in the 2006 census and 11.7 per cent in 2001.

Focus on tourism

Like many other northern New Brunswick cities and towns, the administration and council in Dalhousie are shifting their focus to tourism and away from trying to recreate the old industrial era.

normand pelletier

Mayor Normand Pelletier has a new, reinvented vision for Dalhousie: 'Open for business.' (Bridget Yard/CBC )

"We never, ever looked at tourism," Pelletier said.

"Me and my council sent a letter to the premier and said we want to make Dalhousie the new Shediac of the north."

As for its main attractions for tourists, Pelletier cited the Bay of Chaleur, the continuation of the Appalachian mountain range, visible across the bay in Quebec, and the Restigouche River.

A plan is in the works to renovate the marina and waterfront this summer.