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Economic Development Commission IDs goals

WILLMAR -- Continued development of Kandiyohi County's agriculture-related business sector emerged Thursday as a top priority next year for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

WILLMAR - Continued development of Kandiyohi County’s agriculture-related business sector emerged Thursday as a top priority next year for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.
Close behind were a focus on business development, business retention and expansion, development of the county’s industrial parks and comprehensive marketing of the EDC’s services and successes.
The next step is a draft plan that will go back to Economic Development Commission board members for review and adoption.
The priority list is the result of an intense half-day planning session Thursday by the EDC’s operating and governing boards and staff.
“Very productive” was how Denis Anderson, chairman of the joint powers board, assessed the meeting.
“This was a good session,” agreed Gary Gilman, a member of the joint operations board.
The two boards held a shared view of the function of the Economic Development Commission. What they wrestled with most was how to narrow down the priority list to keep it manageable.
“You can’t be all things to all people. You can’t concentrate on 50 things,” said Scott Marquardt, vice president of the Southwest Initiative Foundation and facilitator for the planning session.
Although agriculture, business development and industrial development were seen as the topmost goals, board members identified at least 10 other areas deserving of attention.
Among them:
• Workforce and talent development. Local businesses consistently identify this as a leading issue, and a recent online survey of Kandiyohi County business owners confirmed it.
• Marketing the Economic Development Commission more broadly, not only to prospective businesses but also to the general public.
• Available and affordable housing.
• Increased collaboration with local groups, especially those working on objectives that mesh with EDC programs.
• A wider array of financial options to help capitalize new businesses or help existing businesses grow.
• Continued development of broadband technology and availability.
• Continued development of the MinnWest Technology Campus.
Fostering and promoting entrepreneurship.
Although the EDC needs to prioritize, many of the issues on the list are interrelated and must be kept on the organization’s radar screen, said Harlan Madsen of the joint powers board.
“None of those are islands,” he said.
He added, “We’re on the right track. We just have to hone in and get lined up in the right direction.”
Having a focus and a clear direction is important in helping the EDC be effective, said Jean Spaulding, assistant director. “It says we’re in this together and these are our goals,” she said.

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