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Editorial: Council should OK old Hwy 40 plan, which is a good step for Jennie-O Turkey Store projects

The Willmar City Council will consider a proposal Tuesday to vacate a portion of former state Highway 40 (now Industrial Drive Southwest) in front of Jennie-O Turkey Store’s headquarters and production plant in southwest Willmar.

This road change would be the first step toward a proposed new headquarters building and a possible production and/or distribution facility expansion for this major employer in Willmar.

It is a proposal that the City Council should approve, following the approval this week by its Community Development Committee.

Jennie-O Turkey Store is proposing to build a new headquarters building totaling less than $10 million as soon as this summer. The company is also considering a major expansion of its production facility northward into a 27-acre tract in the new industrial park.

These proposals are strong signs that Jennie-O Turkey Store and its corporate parent, Hormel, intend to keep the turkey processing company based and headquartered right here in Willmar.

That would be a strong economic benefit to the greater Willmar community and west central Minnesota. And it is critical the city help facilitate the expansion of this major employer.

Jennie-O Turkey Store already has a large economic footprint on this town and region. The company has 2,000 employees within 30 miles of Willmar and 3,300 employees within a 100-mile radius, according to Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

The company’s payroll exceeds $180 million. A new company headquarters in Willmar would result in 100 positions moving to join the current 150 employees.

The company’s purchases have a significant economic impact as well, with feed purchases totaling $300 million to $400 million as well as $250 million in outside services and supplies.

The EDC and city staff are to be commended for their work to date with Jennie-O Turkey Store in helping develop this corporate expansion plan. Kudos also go to the leadership of Jennie-O Turkey Store and Hormel for developing these plans to expand in Willmar.

We encourage the City Council to approve the Highway 40 vacating proposal as the next step toward a Jennie-O Turkey Store expansion in Willmar.