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EDC board recommends two finalists for office location

WILLMAR — Two recommendations are being made for the future location of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission office.

In a show of hands Thursday by the EDC Joint Operations Board, the first choice was the former WindStream building on Highway 12 East, across the highway from the Best Western Plus (formerly Holiday Inn) of Willmar. Second choice is to remain in the current location in Centre Place in downtown Willmar.

It’s now up to the joint powers board to make a decision.

The recommendation by the operating board caps three months of identifying and evaluating more than a dozen potential sites.

“We’ve done the legwork,” said Gary Gilman, one of two operating board members who made up a task force studying the office relocation.

The goal is to choose the site that best fits the Economic Development Commission’s role, Gilman said. “Whatever we decide to do is for the future. What’s going to help us be that shining beacon in the county?”

The operating board reviewed a spreadsheet Thursday that listed 12 sites along with square footage, cost per square foot, total lease cost and parking availability. Several board members and EDC staff also visited five of the top-ranked sites this past month to evaluate each of them firsthand.

Board members said the current site in Centre Place, where the EDC has had its office for the past five years, has served the organization well. The cost of the lease also is competitive.

The search for a new location was prompted by the expiration of the lease agreement and a directive by the governing board to examine other options.

The consensus Thursday by the operating board is that whichever site is selected, it should be visible and should promote the Economic Development Commission’s identity.

As they hashed out their choices, board members considered factors such as first impressions, square footage and cost. Of the sites that didn’t make the final recommendation, three of them would have involved additional build-out costs ranging from an estimated $45,000 to $60,000.

The space also should provide a good work environment for the staff, said board member Linda Kacher. “Their wishes and desires should be part of the decision-making.”

A word of caution was sounded by Bruce Peterson, development director for the city of Willmar and a nonvoting member of the EDC operating board.

If the Economic Development Commission chooses another location, it would be the fourth time in the organization’s relatively short history that it has moved, he said. “It’s like we can’t settle on a permanent home.”

The cost and disruption of a move also should be considered when the final decision is made, he said.

The joint powers board is scheduled to meet on July 24 but will likely call for a special meeting this month to settle the question of the office location.

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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