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Fact-finding begins for Vision 2040 process in west central Minnesota

Rebecca Ryan, of Next Generation Consulting of Madison, Wis., left, leads a group of local government officials Tuesday as they discuss the ways the area will change in the next three decades. The group met at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Consultants are meeting this week with elected and appointed officials and community members from Willmar and surrounding cities as part of the Vision 2040 process of identifying goals and developing an action plan to meet those goals by 2040.

During a meeting Tuesday that lasted a little more than an hour at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building, Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation Consulting of Madison, Wis., asked about three dozen officials to keep in mind the people who will be in positions of leadership 27 years from now.

She also asked those gathered in groups of four to six around tables to suggest common themes they would like to see in the community.

Among the many ideas that were suggested were: being leaders in technology; industrial park expansion and broader portfolio of industries; walkable neighborhoods; respectful and collaborative government; maintaining the environment; and improved transportation access.

Participants voted with sticky notes for their favorite themes and several priorities emerged: desirable recreation; cooperation among city leaders and local units of government; access to mass transit; diverse representation in leadership; and wise use of tax dollars.

At the end of the meeting, Ryan asked participants to keep in mind one question: What would they need to forget about the past to create a vision for the future?

In an interview, Ryan said the last question was important because the visioning process was about the future.

"Sometimes an impediment to the future is what you remember or what you can't let go of about the past,'' she said. "It's important to put those things to rest.''

Ryan said she had already held 13 meetings leading up to the Tuesday session. She previously met with state representatives, members of the Latino and East African communities, young professionals, high school students, and the news media.

Those gathered Tuesday were elected and appointed officials from Kandiyohi County, the cities of Willmar, Spicer, Lake Lillian and New London, and school boards from New London-Spicer and Willmar.

Ryan said many of the ideas generated by the officials will be posted on a website on Friday. She said a Twitter hashtag will be started and Twitter updates will be streamed on the site as well.

During the summer, the team will consolidate information and analyze trends in society, technology, economy, environment, and politics for this region and will present July 23-25 the huge meta-trends that the team believes will strongly influence this region.

A final report will be presented in November.

Ryan said participants have contributed many great comments.

"People are very thoughtful,'' she said. "If we go down the wrong path, they will very respectfully correct us. I like the level of candor in this community, and I know there are challenges. Every community has challenges. But I think if we can make this vision strong enough, we can overcome that.''

Officials from other Kandiyohi County cities invited to the meeting included Spicer Mayor Dennis Baker, who said he was impressed that the city received an invitation to be part of the 2040 Vision.

"I think it's interesting for us to have insight, No. 1, and to give impression, No. 2, of what we see from the outside ... because we are tied. Yeah, we're separate. We're 10 miles apart. We're more than that in some cases. But I was very pleased that we received the invitation to be here,'' Baker said.

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