WILLMAR—The Willmar City Council has approved the city’s participation in the Minnesota Department of Economic Development Shovel Ready Certification program for the Willmar Industrial Park.
The city’s share of the professional services needed to become certified is $8,026. The Kandiyohi County and city of Willmar Economic Development Commission will pay the remaining half of the professional services and the $3,250 for the program’s application fee.
Aaron Backman, EDC director, hopes to enroll approximately 200 acres of the Industrial Park’s 4th Addition and 86 acres of the old airport. Backman and Bruce Peterson, Willmar Planning and Development director, did talk about adding 101 acres of the old airport into the overall application. However it was decided to focus on a smaller site.
“It made sense to focus on the 86 acres just west of the existing subdivision,” Backman said.
Minnesota’s Shovel Ready Certification program started in 2009 and currently 29 cities across the state have certified sites such as Hutchinson, St. Cloud, Alexandria, Gaylord, Fergus Falls and the Brainerd Lakes area.
Sites certified by DEED have the planning, zoning, surveys, title work, environmental studies, soils analysis and public infrastructure engineering completed before the sites go up for sale.
Certified sites also usually have access to public utilities and transportation including highway and rail. The professional services being funded by the city and EDC will complete many of the standards needed.
Being certified by DEED as shovel ready will allow Willmar’s Industrial Park to be marketed at national conferences and trade shows, along with being added to DEED’s property search tool. The city will also be able to use the certification logo on its own marketing materials.
Applying to the program is a seven-step process which includes submitting all the supporting documentation — such as site maps, surveys, soil tests and environmental assessments — to the state. Once the documents are accepted and the application fee is paid, a consulting team from Moran, Stahl & Boyer will review the application and conduct an onsite visit.
The consulting team will then either certify the site or produce a list of items needed to be completed to become certified, usually within six weeks of the site visit.
An applicant has 18 months to meet the standards if the site is not approved at first. If standards are met during those months, the site will be certified.
“We’re expecting all sorts of purchase agreements coming in within the next week or two. We’re looking for that good work,” Mayor Marv Calvin said.
“We’ll do our best,” Backman said, who was pleased by the city’s approval and participation in the program.
Backman has already begun the next steps in the process. Bonnema Surveying will conduct a survey, and Braun Intertec will be providing the geotechnical evaluation. Backman has started filling out the application as well.
“I want to move right along,” Backman said in a later interview with the Tribune. He said he had contracts with Braun and Bonnema signed and ready to go by 8 a.m. the day after the council meeting.
Bonnema could start work on the surveying as soon as next week and Braun Intertec will be out in the next few weeks to begin the soil borings, Backman said.
Backman has gone through the Shovel Ready Certification program before, when he worked for the city of Windom.
“The information is very helpful. It speeds up the process,” Backman said.
The certification also helps businesses feel more comfortable about deciding on a site.
“It’s a way to reduce the risk to the business. Businesses don’t like a lot of surprises or uncertainty,” Backman said.
Backman estimates the entire process in Willmar will take around three months, depending on the amount of work the city has to do to meet the standards.
The council this week also approved the Industrial Park Covenants for the 3rd and 4th Additions, located on either side of Kandiyohi County Road 5. The covenants would place restrictions on developers inside those areas of the Industrial Park. The goal of the covenants is to preserve the value of the property and attract quality development to the park.
The Development and Planning office want the covenants in place before any purchase agreements between the city and developers are finalized.
West Central Tribune by Shelby Lindrud