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Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission hints at major developments that could be on the way to Willmar

Aaron Backman, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission executive director, gave hints about possible major development projects in Willmar. This includes a logistics company eyeing the Industrial Park and a multi-family housing project for downtown Willmar.

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A major development could be coming to the city of Willmar. According to Aaron Backman, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commissioner executive director an unnamed end user is interested in building a large distribution center project in the city, perhaps in the Willmar Industrial Park. File photo / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — While specifics were slim, Aaron Backman, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission executive director, gave some intriguing hints Thursday about possible major economic development projects that could be headed to Willmar.

The biggest is a large distribution center project for an undisclosed end user. Back in 2018-2019, a logistics company came close to building a project in Willmar, but it was canceled in early 2019.

"This one is bigger and better," Backman told the EDC Joint Operations Board during its meeting Thursday afternoon.

The possible project would involve a site between 25 and 30 acres, nearly double the size of the canceled project.

"It involves a significant amount of employees and a significant amount of investments," Backman said.

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GOVERNMENT WATCH: The Kandiyohi County and city of Willmar Economic Development Commission, or EDC, is a joint agency tasked with acting as a catalyst for economic growth of the greater Kandiyohi County area.

Its Joint Powers Board, made up of Willmar City Council and Kandiyohi County Board elected representatives, meets quarterly. Its Joint Operations Board consists of seven members appointed by the Joint Powers Board and includes representatives from communities throughout the county, education providers, business and consumer groups. The Joint Operations Board meets monthly.

The project's real estate firm, CBRE, saw four sites. Three were in Willmar and one was near Pennock. According to Backman, the end user is focusing on Willmar, with a favored site in the Willmar Industrial Park.

"I have a feeling they are pretty serious," Backman said.

When Willmar City Councilor Julie Asmus asked if the city would need to start looking into a possible streetlight at one of the Kandiyohi County Road 5 intersections in the Industrial Park, Backman advised it might be something to consider.

"If you have enough parking for 500 individuals, you kind of have to worry about that," Backman said.

Backman said he hopes he will be able to release more information about this large project soon, but believes it will be a nice fit for Willmar.

"This would be a good project for us," Backman said. "I am feeling positive, cautiously optimistic because until people sign on the dotted line, you never know."

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Backman also shared a tantalizing taste of a possible multi-family housing project focused on downtown Willmar, specifically Block 25 located between Second Street and Third Street Southwest along Benson Avenue Southwest. At one point, the city of Willmar looked at this site as a possible location for a new city hall .

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A possible development coming to Willmar is a new multi-family housing project on Block 25 in downtown Willmar. The block is located between Second and and Third Street Southwest, bordered by U.S. Highway 12 and Benson Avenue Southwest. West Central Tribune file photo

A letter of intent has been signed by a developer from Stearns County to bring a housing project to this site, Backman said.

"That is good," Backman said. "It is a multi-family, four-story, major investment downtown."

The site is also located within the newly formed Renaissance Zone , created by the city of Willmar. Projects within the zone could be eligible for a variety of economic development incentives including free permits and utility connections.

"They told us, but for the Renaissance Zone, they would not be moving forward with this project," Backman said of the developer.

There could also be a developer interested in doing a project on Block 50, located between the Willmar Public Library and Rice Memorial Hospital, Backman said. This is on top of the already publicized housing project going in at the Waterview Business Park near Target, Cub and Walmart.

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The uptick in economic development work, as the area slowly begins to return to normalcy, is a welcome turn of events for the staff at the Economic Development Commission.

"It is nice to be back to regular EDC business," said Connie Schmoll, Business Development Manager.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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