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A Canadian manufacturer has agreed to buy the Willmar Fabrication building on the city's southwest side. Tribune photo by David Little

Canadian tractor manufacturer setting up shop in Willmar, Minn.

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News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/1130/20110308030711willmarfab1.jpg?itok=RTmX1X4c
West Central Tribune
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Canadian tractor manufacturer setting up shop in Willmar, Minn.
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- A Canadian company that makes Versatile tractors is coming to town.

The company is buying the building that presently houses Willmar Fabrication in the industrial park and is buying some of Willmar Fabrication's equipment.

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Willmar Fabrication manufactures agricultural spraying equipment. Versatile will be retaining the 54 to 60 local manufacturing jobs.

Willmar Fabrication began operation in 2005 in the former AGCO and Willmar Manufacturing building at 2500 Airport Dr. S.W. The former manufacturer closed in April 2001 and moved to Jackson, and the building had sat vacant for four years.

Along with buying Willmar Fabrication's building, Versatile requested that local and state tax exemptions granted to Willmar Fabrication be transferred to Versatile under a state program that expires in 2015. Willmar Fabrication received the exemptions in 2005.

A request to transfer the exemptions under the Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ) program was approved by the Willmar City Council on Monday night. The request was made by Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

Renquist said the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which administers JOBZ, is excited about Willmar acquiring the company.

"This doesn't just have local significance,'' Renquist said. "This will be their third manufacturing plant in the United States, and we see this as a big plus.''

Renquist said the company, which he didn't name but which makes Versatile tractors, will be retaining 54 jobs.

The company is buying the building and most of the manufacturing equipment and some of the product lines, but not the business, Renquist said.

He said there is no tax or cost consequence to the city.

Renquist said Willmar Fabrication is moving the most profitable portion of its business -- manufacturing of equipment primarily for the cotton industry -- to a building at 2209 Trott Ave. S.W.

Also, Willmar Fabrication has tentative agreement to move the assembly portion of the business to 2400 19th Ave. S.W., said Renquist.

Neither of these buildings has JOBZ status. Renquist said he will request the council approve JOBZ status for those buildings. He said the tax consequences to the city will be about $12,000 a year until the program expires at the end of 2015.

Renquist said Willmar Fabrication will keep 15 employees and will be required to hire at least five workers under JOBZ.

In related business, the council granted JOBZ status to an additional building at the MinnWest Technology Campus for a start-up medical device company, which would be the first medical device manufacturer at the campus. The device uses ultrasonic wave energy to break down and remove scar tissue in joints, muscle and ligaments.

"We're quite proud of this,'' he said.

Renquist said the MinnWest Campus is already in the JOBZ program but he said each new company must be added individually.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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