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EDC endorses strategic plan

WILLMAR -- The board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission has approved a strategic plan for 2015, with goals that range from increasing countywide business development to enhancing the county's broadband inf...

WILLMAR - The board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission has approved a strategic plan for 2015, with goals that range from increasing countywide business development to enhancing the county’s broadband infrastructure.
Members of the joint operations board voted last week to endorse the plan. Goals were developed at a day-long planning session in October involving both the operations board and the EDC governing board.
Although the document is only three pages long, it contains the entire framework that will guide the work of the Economic Development Commission, its staff and volunteer committees over the next year.
“We tried to encapsulate what we heard from the board members,” said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.
Developing and investing in programs and activities that support business development in Kandiyohi County will continue to be a major goal.
There are several areas of focus: agribusiness, manufacturing, bioscience, technology, energy, research and entrepreneurship.
The EDC wants to expand its ability to help businesses in need of capital. Options identified in the strategic plan include the organization’s loan program and other existing business finance programs, as well as angel investor networks. Crowdfunding and other innovative financing mechanisms might also be explored.
Countywide business retention and expansion is on the priority list too. Development of the MinnWest Technology Campus and the Willmar industrial park remains a key goal, but the EDC will also place an emphasis as on assisting all cities within Kandiyohi County as they pursue economic development efforts.
Broadband also has emerged as an important issue. This coming year the EDC hopes to develop a plan for improving broadband access at targeted locations within the county. As part of this project, a survey has been proposed to evaluate current Internet access in the county and identify areas with the most critical needs.
The strategic plan remains somewhat of a work in progress and could be adjusted as new opportunities arise, Renquist told the board.
“You’ll see some further modifications,” he said.
The next step will be to put together an operational plan, along with specific tasks to be undertaken by EDC staff and volunteer committees.
Renquist and Jean Spaulding, assistant Economic Development Commission director, said they’re working to create a mechanism for reporting to the board each month on the progress that has been made.
“Then we can measure ourselves against accomplishment and moving forward with the tasks,” Renquist said.

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