Economic development director touts construction growth of $88 million in Willmar so far in 2022

Professionals discuss workforce issues around a table during the Workforce Solutions Summit in January 2022

WILLMAR — The year 2022 has turned out to be a strong year for construction for the city of Willmar, with $88 million being invested in the community, according to Aaron Backman, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Joint Powers Board has chosen Aaron Backman for its vacant executive director position. Backman is currently executive director of the the Economic Development Authority for the city of Windom.

“To put that in perspective, the city of St. Cloud has had $197 million. The city of St. Cloud is three-and-one-half times the size of Willmar and only has twice as much construction,” he told the EDC Joint Operations Board Thursday, Dec. 8.

“The other thing that I would say about that $88 million — it’s not just one project, it’s not just one sector. Yes, we had FedEx; yes, there’s been housing projects. But, there’s been other projects — it’s not just in one sector or industry,” he added.

He noted it is beneficial to have that kind of growth and that it is diversified growth, but that it strains a workforce already spread thin. Currently, Kandiyohi County’s unemployment rate is 1.5%.

 “I thought we were low last month, the previous month, where it was 1.8 … I didn’t think it could get much lower than that, and so we are scrambling for people,” Backman said.

One way the EDC is trying to address the need for workers is through virtual career fairs.

Marketing and Communication Specialist Kelsey Olson updated the board on all the work that has been taking place to plan and coordinate the events, the next of which is planned for Jan. 18.

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