WILLMAR—Now that streets, utilities and a “shovel-ready” certification are in place for the development of a new section of the Willmar Industrial Park, a reinforced marketing campaign is underway to get the space filled.
At its recent meeting, the joint powers board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission was shown a newly completed promotional flier the EDC will use to promote the 241-acre site.
A color-coded map on the one-page document identifies available lots, including areas that are platted and unplatted.
The flier, which is titled “Shovel-ready with room to grow,” also showcases the 150 acres in the “shovel-ready” borders of the park.
This year the site underwent a series of pre-planning steps such as surveys, environmental studies, soil analysis, zoning and infrastructure engineering that earned the shovel-ready status from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The Willmar Industrial Park is one of 34 shovel-ready parks in the state.
There are 36 platted lots available ranging in size from 1.4 acres to 29 acres.
EDC Director Aaron Backman said at Thursday’s meeting that the flier will be an easy-to-use tool to help market the park because prospective developers can “quickly see” the land that’s available and accompanying assets, including access to highways, the railroad and airport.
Meanwhile, construction is currently underway on two businesses in the Willmar Industrial Park’s new Fourth Addition on the west side of Kandiyohi County Road 5.
Discussions also are continuing on design plans for the railroad bypass, referred to as the Willmar Wye, that would be built near the park and also a rail spur that would go into the park.
Local officials support an at-grade crossing for the wye with First Avenue West but Backman said federal rail officials support an overpass crossing, which would truncate Kandiyohi County Road 55.
There’s concern an overpass crossing would have a negative financial impact on area businesses and make it difficult for truck traffic to maneuver, especially coming from Farm Service Elevator.
By closing off County Road 55, it would also make that road ineligible for county-state aid highway funds, said County Commissioner Harlan Madsen.
The EDC board agreed to write a letter to Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar stating their position on the design of the project, which received a $10 million federal TIGER grant, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
The board also heard about plans by Enhanced Resource Centers, a business process outsourcing business that recently opened a call center in Willmar, to continue to add jobs.
Located in the former Kandiyohi Power Cooperative building on Business Highway 71, the Florida-based company has invested about $2 million in capital renovations on the leased building and new equipment, Backman said.
He said the company has already hired about 90 people and intends to have a staff of 238 — or more.
The board said it may be challenging to fill those positions with the community’s low unemployment rate, but said those jobs could bring new people to the area.
They said that possibility emphasizes the need for more affordable, workforce housing in the county.
The business has been tentatively approved for a $563,000 Minnesota Job Creation Fund grant. A final hearing was to be held Monday in St. Paul.
West Central Tribune by Carolyn Lange