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Willmar City Council supports grant application for highway improvements to facilitate a $40 million project

Willmar City Council on Monday supported moving forward with a state grant application to make nearly $950,000 in improvements to Minnesota Highway 40, which will facilitate the development of a $40 million project in the city's industrial park.

Nexyst 360 semi-trailer
A grant to upgrade Minnesota Highway 40 near the Willmar Industrial Park will facilitate the development of the Nexyst 360 project.
Contributed / Nexyst 360
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WILLMAR — Progress is being made to make it feasible for a large business to move into Willmar’s industrial park — a project estimated at more than $40 million.

The Willmar City Council on Monday adopted a resolution supporting the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission in moving forward with a Transportation and Economic Development grant application.

The grant is to upgrade Minnesota Highway 40 near the industrial park — road improvements estimated at nearly $950,000 — to facilitate the development of the Nexyst 360 project, according to EDC Executive Director Aaron Backman. Also in attendance at the meeting was Wes Sanda of Realm5, which is an investment group that recently acquired Nexyst 360.

Backman noted Realm5 has invested in several different projects and has the capacity to move forward with the industrial park project.

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“As we travel down this path, everything is looking very favorable, correct?” asked Mayor Marv Calvin. Backman affirmed that everything is according to plan. Calvin also asked how many other projects are asking for this grant funding, and how much money is being distributed.

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Backman explained there is approximately $2 million available statewide for greater Minnesota communities, and there were five applicants invited to submit the full grant application, which is due Sept. 2.

“I have not been told who those competitors are, but one of these days I will find out,” Backman said. “My estimation at this point is they will probably be able to fund three of those, I want to be one of the three. We are asking basically for a little bit more than a quarter of the funds. I think our odds are not too bad.”

The grant would be through the Transportation and Economic Development program, which is a competitive grant program administered by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The EDC is working with Bolton & Menk to pull together the necessary information for the grant application.

If received, the grant requires a 60/40 split, meaning the grant would pay for 60% of the project and the city would pay 40%, according to Backman. Bolton & Menk estimated the total cost of constructing a 500-foot turn lane and 1,410-foot acceleration lane would be $948,915, meaning $569,350 would come from the grant and $379,565 would be from the city.

Willmar's contribution for the project would come from land sale proceeds for the project, according to Backman. He noted that the land sale is expected to be $8,000 an acre, which would be approximately $1.1 million.

After praising Backman on the work he is doing, City Council member Andrew Plowman stated, “This seems like a perfect fit for Willmar, for our agribusiness community, for the expansion of the Willmar Wye that we worked tediously for years and years and years on. I appreciate you bringing this forward and keeping it on the front burner. I’m hoping with our vote tonight, we can move forward to the next process of vetting, so to speak, with that much more enthusiasm, because I think it is perfect for our industrial park expansion and the greater region.”

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More about the Nexyst 360 project

The EDC has been working with Nexyst 360 for several months to study the feasibility of developing an agricultural distribution complex on 137 acres of land in the industrial park just west of the new FedEx Distribution Center. The Willmar City Council approved an early access agreement with Nexyst 360 in April for those studies.

If it is determined that the project is feasible, the site would include a shipping container loading facility, a bulk storage facility, two rail loops to accommodate unit trains, and two rail spurs to accommodate future growth in the industrial park, according to Backman.

Total capital investment for the project is anticipated to be more than $40 million and job creation of more than 50 jobs.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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