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EDC in Willmar, Minn., finalizes priorities for next year

WILLMAR — Business retention, support for economic development efforts by individual cities in Kandiyohi County, and promotion of the Willmar Industrial Park, MinnWest Technology Campus and the new University of Minnesota Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center will all be at the forefront of activities next year by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

At the same time, the EDC will scale back its focus on the Willmar airport and the local health care industry.

The Economic Development Commission also is taking a step back from its efforts in the renewable energy arena, although pursuit of an anhydrous ammonia manufacturing facility will remain among the priorities.

Members of the EDC operating board finalized a list of goals Thursday that will help the organization plan and direct its activities in 2013. Board members spent three months developing the list and evaluating each item on it.

Ron Erpelding, board chairman, called it “a good process.”

“Our goal was to narrow some things down so we could allow our staff and our committees to focus,” he said.

Board members held a clear consensus about many of the goals — promoting Willmar’s industrial park, for example, which everyone on the board said should be a priority next year.

There also was a strong consensus that the EDC should spend the next year working with the University of Minnesota to market and promote the Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center.

The facility opened this past year on the technology campus and is expected to create new opportunities for attracting high-tech enterprises and commercializing intellectual property, particularly in the poultry industry.

Issues that won’t be on the priority list next year were mostly ones for which the EDC has a limited ability to help.

Helping recruit local medical professionals and addressing unmet medical needs has been a goal of the Economic Development Commission for several years, but there are few ways for the agency to be more active in this area.

The EDC and the city of Willmar will remain ready to help when needed but “there really is a limited role and we recognize that,” said Bruce Peterson, the city’s development director.

The Economic Development Commission also will scale back its focus on developing services at the Willmar airport such as an air taxi or cargo service, although promoting and marketing the airport will continue to be one of its goals.

The finalized list of goals will be distributed to the Economic Development Commission’s volunteer committees as they plan their activities for the coming year.

Items that didn’t make the list could still be back among the priorities if a promising opportunity arises, said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.

“I call them targets of opportunity,” he said. “Sometimes things aren’t on your front burner but something happens to move them on your front burner.”

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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