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Construction begins on new United FCS HQ south of Willmar

Construction equipment is pictured Tuesday as a groundbreaking ceremony takes place at the site of the United FCS building on Highway 71 South in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller1 / 3
This is a blue print of the facility. Submitted2 / 3
This artist's rendering provides an overhead view of the site. Submitted3 / 3

WILLMAR -- Construction is under way on the new 20,000-square-foot branch office and corporate headquarters for United FCS in Willmar.

United FCS, a provider of financial services to farmers, has outgrown the current office located on Abbott Drive, according to Marc Knisely, chief executive officer. He said the space problem increased to the point that it was starting to hurt productivity.

"We're excited to start this project,'' he said. "Making sure that we have a convenient location for our customers but also understanding that in the finance industry it's important to have a high level of confidentiality and have an environment that's confidential for our customers and staff to work in.''

A groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning at the 6.4-acre site near the corner of 45th Avenue Southeast and Highway 71 marked the start of work.

United FCS is a farmer-owned cooperative of 5,000 members in 22 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Knisely said growth in credit and financial services provided to members, solid gains in membership, and limited expansion possibilities at the current office supported the case to build.

Knisely said the project is all about the shareholders, both current shareholders that own United FCS and future generations of farmers and farm producers in the area.

"This is truly a reinvestment for those future generations of young farmers,'' he said.

United FCS Board Chairman Stan Claussen said the organization has been an important part of his family's rural Benson farm. Claussen said his parents, he and his wife and children who are farming have all been borrowers of Farm Credit Services.

"Farm Credit is all about making available capital, making available loans to farmers young and old,'' Claussen said. "Farming is about the next generation. The importance of that is very clear to all our board and all our members.''

Claussen said United FCS earnings are returned to the company for two uses: one is to pay cash patronage. This past March, United FCS distributed $4.8 million in cash patronage payments to members. Since 2002, United FCS has paid more than $43 million to members.

The other use is for capital accumulation. Claussen said capital at United FCS does not have individuals' names on it.

"This capital is there for the current benefit of our borrowers and the future benefit of farmer-borrowers,'' he said.

The new headquarters on Willmar's southern boundary will have good visual view and access from the highway, said Knisely.

"We'll have a good sight line both from Highway 71 as well as County Road 45 and Abbott Drive from a service road standpoint,'' he said. "The convenience for our customers, particularly those that may have heavy equipment, trucks and those types of things in the parking along the streets, will be very convenient.''

Officials hope to have construction completed by late summer or early fall next year.

FCS has had a local presence since 1917 and now has 180 staff members in 12 office locations in the two states. The current office was built in 1981 and an addition built in 1996.

The parcel at 4401 Highway 71 S. was purchased in January. The new headquarters was designed by Engan Associates of Willmar. General contractor on the $4 million project is Marcus Construction Company of Prinsburg.

A total of 40 people attended the event Tuesday, including city, county and state elected officials and business people who congratulated United FCS on its new facility.

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