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EDC seeks renewal of office lease but will study other locations

WILLMAR — The office of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission will stay where it is, at least for now, but staff will continue looking at other locations.

Members of the EDC joint operations board came to this conclusion Thursday after two months of discussing and exploring their options.

The office has been at Centre Place, on the corner of Litchfield Avenue and Fourth Street in downtown Willmar, for the past five years. The lease expired this summer and the space is now being rented month by month.

“This property has served us well,” Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission, told the operating board on Thursday.

Once the lease ran out, it was appropriate for the EDC to “review our options,” he said.

The issue is somewhat politically charged, though. The decision to move to Centre Place five years ago was accompanied by intense debate over whether the EDC office should remain downtown or relocate somewhere else.

Differences of opinion still exist on the current board. Bev Dougherty, chairman of the operating board, voted against the motion Thursday to seek a one-year renewal of the EDC’s lease at Centre Place. She said after the meeting that she favored a five-year lease that would keep the office downtown.

Bruce Peterson, planning and development director for the city of Willmar and a nonvoting member of the EDC operating board, took a similar stance. “I feel very strongly that the EDC should stay downtown,” he said.

But the rest of the board agreed, 3-1, not to commit to the current office space longer than a year or so and to consider other locations.

Selection of a site shouldn’t be emotionally driven, said Rick Nordin. “The EDC serves Kandiyohi County. … To me this is a black and white issue.”

More than a dozen locations, including three different possible office sites on the MinnWest Technology Campus, have been suggested and will continue to be studied.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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