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Vision 2040 meeting in New London, Minn., focuses on well-being, economic vibrancy

Groups discuss numerous topics Wednesday at the New London-Spicer High School during a Vision 2040 forum. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

NEW LONDON – The task of increasing the “well-being” of the Willmar area was voted the top issue to discuss during a Vision 2040 session Wednesday in New London.

Issues like mental health, social connectedness, wellness screening, nutrition in schools and availability of places for people to walk in the winter were some of the ideas generated by the group of 45 participants.

Identifying key areas of needs that aren’t currently being met and listing existing programs that could be expanded, is the first step in the long-range planning process that could help area communities reach common goals in the next 27 years.

A major part of that plan is cultivating new leaders to take over implementation of the dreams being discussed today.

The input will create the “bones” of what will eventually become a working playbook for the community to follow, said Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation, the consulting firm that’s holding meetings all this week to lead the community through an exercise to explore four main areas: well-being, economic vibrancy, inclusion and things to do.

There will be a meeting for each topic this week.

At the meeting in New London, the participants voted on the two issues they wanted to spend their 90-minute block of time exploring.

Well-being was the top vote-getter followed by economic vibrancy.

The group was divided in half and sat at tables made up of participants of all ages.

Half of the group explored ways to increase the quality of life while decreasing health care costs.

At the end each group summarized their ideas.

Without improvements in mental health, a person’s “whole life falls apart,” said Marv Calvin.

That meshed with the focus of “social connectedness” between elderly and young people highlighted by another group that also said there’s a need for one master website that lists every community activity that’s available every day.

Protection of green space, healthy eating in school and physical activity was also mentioned.

Ann Stehn, director of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Departments, said in an interview that she was pleased participants looked at health “very broadly” from a social, emotional and environmental view and considered the questions of “how are we living and how are we eating” and didn’t focus just on health care per se.

The other half of the group discussed economic vibrancy, where topics included developing a community working and networking spaces throughout the county for people who work in a home office, expanding angel investors, entrepreneurship mentoring, having satellite offices in area towns for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Authority, getting an airline carrier to service Willmar, expanding businesses at the MinnWest Technology Campus and restoring the small business program at Ridgewater College.

When the Vision 2040 plan is completed this fall, Ryan said the community will have a complete plan that will not only include the broad picture for the community for the future but also a step-by-step playbook with “bread crumbs” to lead them to the right resources to accomplish the goals.

“We’re not doing our job if we don’t tell you how to do it,” she said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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