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EDC to renew search for potential new office sites

WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission is renewing its search for potential new office locations.

Members of the joint operations board last week agreed to appoint a subcommittee to identify and evaluate the possibilities.

The goal is “to come up with the facts so we can make a decision,” said Bev Dougherty, chairman of the EDC joint operations board.

The Economic Development Commission has had its office at Centre Place at the corner of Fourth Street and Litchfield Avenue in downtown Willmar for almost six years. A five-year lease expired last year and was renewed for one more year.

EDC staff have said the current location works well for the organization and the terms of the lease are competitive. But as the lease nears its expiration date again this fall, board members want to explore all the options.

 The issue is somewhat politically charged. The decision to move from Heritage Square to Centre Place in 2008 was accompanied by considerable debate over whether to keep the EDC office in downtown Willmar or move to another site.

Last year the operations board split on whether to remain at the present location for an additional year. Later, allegations were raised, but not substantiated, that two board members who voted in favor of extending the lease at Centre Place had a conflict of interest.

There likely will be several possible sites to evaluate, including the MinnWest Technology Campus, which has repeatedly been one of the leading candidates for the relocation of the EDC office.

Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission, said the landlord at Centre Place is looking for a decision by June 1 on whether the EDC will continue to be a tenant. “That means we need to start the process,” he said.

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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