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Editorial: Consider helping a Willmar landmark

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opinion Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The Willmar City Council and the Kandiyohi County Board should strongly consider the proposed property tax abatement for a hotel and conference center renovation project in Willmar.

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Torgerson Properties of Willmar is seeking to invest nearly $11 million in an upgrade of its hotel-conference center location on U.S. Highway 12 East, which now houses the Holiday Inn, Green Mill, Comfort Inn and Willmar Conference Center.

If the project proceeds, the completion date is late fall of 2014 and includes:

n Adding a third floor to the current two-story Comfort Inn, complete renovation of current floors and rebranding it as a Holiday Inn Express hotel in 2013.

n The current Holiday Inn would get a room renovation, public space redesign and a new porte cohere entrance and would be rebranded as a Best Western Plus, with an expected late 2014 completion.

n Move the current Green Mill restaurant to the location of the current Teddy Roosevelt room, with renovations to both the dining room and bar, and the addition of an outdoor patio area.

n A new Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurant would then be built within the current Green Mill bar space.

n The Willmar Conference Center would then be upgraded and the site could receive new landscaping and parking lots.

n The project would add about 30 jobs to the current full-time equivalent of 87 at the site, 30 full-time and 113 part-time positions.

The tax abatement proposal is to freeze the complex’s taxes at the current 2013 level of $110,362. The site’s property taxes are based upon the net operating income of the facilities. The company proposed the 2013 level as its net operating income is expected to decline in 2013 and 2014 due to the proposed construction.

This tax abatement would thus start in 2015 for a period of 10 years, at an estimate of $23,000 per year.

This project is an important one to the future of Willmar. The Willmar Conference Center, hotels and restaurant/bar complex makes Willmar a valuable regional destination site.  The complex is also a business, conference and cultural draw for the community.

The Torgerson complex was a great facility when it first opened as a Holiday Inn in 1973. The company has since made five major investments in its Willmar location, including building the Willmar Conference Center, the Comfort Inn and office space.

Once the primary site in west central Minnesota, this complex now faces significant competition for meetings, conferences and conventions, especially from recently renovated casinos complexes of Jackpot Junction in Morton and Prairie’s Edge in Granite Falls, and other facilities in Mankato and St. Cloud.

A good economic development practice is for the cities and counties to first retain, assist and expand the businesses already located here if possible. The maxim a bird in the hand worth two in the bush holds true.

There certainly is the possibility of a possibility that if this tax abatement is not granted that this project may not proceed. Torgerson Properties has not made any such threat, but it is certainly is a possibility.

Torgerson Properties is a Willmar-based company committed to this city. The company has made significant investment in this city six times over the past four decades.

Now is a good time for Willmar and Kandiyohi County to strongly consider a small investment in return for an $11 million project renovation in a major city complex as well as 30 additional jobs. It would be a suitable investment in the future of Willmar and this county.

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