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.
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.
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."
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 .
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.
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.