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Report on Vision 2040 study revealed to community this week

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County residents will get a glimpse Wednesday of what the community could look like in the future when the Vision 2040 study is presented during two different public events.

A consultant spent this past summer analyzing data, conducting surveys and meeting with community groups to hear about their hopes and dreams for the community’s economy, education, environment, social opportunities and quality of life.

The result is a 45-page report that identifies key findings and goals — and strategies for how to reach those goals — that could serve as a blueprint for action.

Rebecca Ryan, a consultant with Next Generation, will discuss the report from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Willmar Conference Center. An optional lunch is available for $11 per person.

An identical presentation will be conducted from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Willmar Education & Arts Center, with Spanish and Somali interpreters.

An advance copy of the report identifies four key findings:

- The area must attract younger “newcomers” to balance the region’s demographic trends.

- The area’s diversity presents short-term challenges and long-term dividends.

- All residents in the area want more things to do in the community.

- When compared to similar communities, Willmar’s quality of life is in the “middle of the pack.”

Based on the findings, the report identified four related goals in the Vision 2040 report:

- Attract and retain newcomers.

- Strengthen the region’s occupational diversity through a strategic mix of workforce training, economic measurement, enhanced career options and support for entrepreneurs.

- Develop and enable more “things to do” in the Willmar area.

- Develop the next generation of community leaders.

The plan lists 16 strategies that could be used to meet the four goals.

Those strategies include concrete advice, like developing affordable housing options, creating access to high-speed broadband Internet, increasing the number of middle-skill and high-skill jobs and developing Robbins Island Park.

Other strategies include improving the experience of immigrants in Willmar, form a “learning and earning” task force to align education and training programs with workforce needs and launching a boot-camp for aspiring elected officials.

In the report, the consultants say all four goals are “doable” but hinge on whether the community “expects itself to be a regional center of excellence, or not.”

That statement of self-confidence is a “prerequisite for and an outcome of Vision 2040,” according to the report.

As part of their research, the consultants met with 27 community groups, hosted four public sessions where input was provided by 120 residents and compiled a list of “wishes” that residents wrote on chalkboards placed around the county.

The study also includes data that compare the quality of life of the Willmar lakes area to five regions considered “peers” in terms of population, economics, geographic similarities and employment demographics.

Reservations to attend the Wednesday sessions are recommended by calling the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber at 320-235-0300 or by emailing

Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750