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2013 construction in Willmar nearly triple from one year ago

Work continues Tuesday on a major expansion of the Holiday Inn and Suites off Highway 12 East in Willmar. The project is one of numerous pushing this year’s construction value up by more than $30 million over last year. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — The value of new construction, expansion and refurbishing projects to date in Willmar has nearly tripled the value set in 2012, according to a report given to the Willmar City Council.

Total construction through the month of November totaled almost $49 million compared with $17 million in 2012, said Bruce Peterson, planning and development director, on Monday night.

“We just about tripled our new construction this year,’’ he said. “Of this year’s total, over $43 million of that was either commercial/industrial or institutional. To say that our economy is growing would be an understatement. The construction has really taken off this year.’’

Peterson gave the report at the request of council member Ron Christianson. He asked for the information “in light of all the bad publicity’’ that he said the council and the city as a whole have been getting.

“Tell us the good news’’ Christianson said.

Peterson listed more than 30 projects in 2013, each valued at $150,000 or more:

Willmar Overhead Door location; Rice Home Medical; tenant spaces at Kandi Mall; Marcus Construction building; Ridgewater College updates; new radio tower at the Willmar office of the Minnesota Department of Transportation; and complete refurbishing of the Summerset, Waters Edge and Eagle’s Ridge apartments.

Also refurbishing of Walmart; new Mills Auto Center; Willmar Public Schools improvements; $8 million Torgerson Properties expansion; Rice Hospital improvements; gymnasium and classroom expansion at Community Christian School; First Covenant Church expansion; Heartland Orthopedics office; Casey’s General Store on Highway 12 East; Rice Care Center expansions; YMCA expansion; Stacy’s Nursery; Compassionate Care facility; and most recently, the city salt storage shed.

Looking ahead to 2014, Peterson listed projects he is dealing with, but did not identify due to confidentiality requirements.

Those included three large retail projects; three major industrial projects; a restaurant; possible changes to the mall; a number of projects at the MinnWest Technology Campus, including the proposed charter school and some new technology tenants; and a group that is interested in establishing a brew pub.

 Peterson also mentioned more work at Rice Care Center and a significant expansion at the MnDOT office in Willmar.

He said statistics from state agencies indicate Willmar’s retail sales now exceed $650 million annually, and exceed $775 million for the county as a whole.

The most recent figures show unemployment in Kandiyohi County was 4 percent in October, compared with the 4.8 percent state average.

He said Kandiyohi County continues to be a net importer of labor. The current workforce in the county is up by 2,000 jobs, from 23,000 five years ago to approximately 25,000 now.

“It’s important to note that as recently as five years ago, the county unemployment rate was 8.5 percent, so we’ve cut that by more than in half in a five-year period,’’ he said.

Willmar’s population finally cracked the 20,000 mark, said Peterson, growing from 19,610 in 2010 to more than 20,300 now, according to the most recent State Demographer figures.

Also, he said median family income in Kandiyohi County now exceeds $50,000 per year.

The U.S Census Bureau defines median income as the amount that divides the income distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median and one-half above the median.

“Our economic health here is undeniably good and should be getting better with the projects we have moving forward,’’ he said.

Mayor Frank Yanish thanked Peterson for a fine report.

“Thank you for going above and beyond what was called for. You did a good job on that,’’ he said. “I have to say this: not bad for a bunch of dysfunctional people.’’

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