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Lindemann turns his sights to U.S. Highway 12 East, industrial site development at old airport

Tom Lindemann discusses the development of a new industrial park at the site of the city's former municipal airport. Lindemann, who handles about 80 percent of all commercial transactions within a 30-mile radius, is targeting the next commercial development area he hopes can rival bustling South First Street. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Tom Lindemann is bullish on the future of commercial development in Willmar.

Lindemann, Realtor and owner of Pro 1 Realty Professionals in Willmar, handles about 80 percent of all commercial transactions within a 30-mile radius and is the only full-time commercial real estate company in this quarter of the state.

Lindemann works closely on development issues with Kandiyohi County officials and staff and City of Willmar officials and staff, including Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, and Bruce Peterson, city planning and development services director.

Lindemann has done many leases and sales in connection with the growth of retail and commercial development along South First Street, Willmar's main business district.

Lindemann said he drives South First Street a minimum of five to 10 times a day because of the different entities and things he is working on, and spaces he has for lease or for sale. New business openings and expansions have been underway on South First Street for more than 20 years.

"The latest traffic count is about 19,000 or 20,000 cars a day and that can fluctuate,'' he said. "I had 11 lease spots (on South First Street) the first of the year. I have one left.''

Development on South First Street has reached all the way to the city limits at 45th Avenue South, where construction is underway on the new 20,000-square-foot headquarters for farm lender United FCS. The building will be a showplace and could entice other business development near the FCS site, he said.

As development consumes what commercial space remains along South First Street, Lindemann is looking for the next "South 71'' business area and he believes it's located on U.S. Highway 12 East. He points to several opportunities that are available there for new businesses to lease or buy space.

"What I do, I don't sell property, I sell ideas,'' Lindemann said during a drive around Willmar. "When there's something out there that I think could work for one of my past clients or somebody looking, I'm going to say I know you're thinking about this.

But before you make the mistake of other people have, why don't you think about this? I'll show them the opportunity.''

Also, Lindemann believes business development is poised to take off at the new industrial park -- the old airport site. The city has approved an agreement under which Lindemann is the city's sole real estate agent for the new park.

He said the city had the foresight to add the old airport site to the existing industrial park, which means there's more access to existing businesses and at the same time space for small and larger businesses.

However, no land sales can take place until after the Federal Aviation Administration releases the old airport site to the city. Lindemann, city officials and some business owners have been waiting two years for the land release.

The city has taken steps to plat and prepare the land for development, using revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax to extend Willmar Avenue through the middle of the site and to construct infrastructure.

One of the best things the city did was to drain all storm water from the new industrial park under County Road 5 and into a holding pond, he said.

Also, the city platted the park with room for rapid growth. One company in the old industrial park is ready to expand its operations to the new park across the street. Plans are being delayed, however, by the delayed land release process.

"But as soon as this gets busy and they allow us to sell, there's no doubt in my mind that we're going to be able to start attracting new businesses and more jobs to this community because we finally have a place to put them,'' Lindemann says.

He praises the city and the county for constructing County Road 5 through the new industrial park. He said the road has taken a tremendous amount of traffic off First Street, but he does not think the road has had a detrimental effect on First Street businesses.

Lindemann is optimistic about the future.

"The glass for me in my life has always been half full unless somebody can show me it's starting to empty out,'' he said.

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