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MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar requesting tax abatement for three additional buildings to be renovated

Following the purchase of three additional buildings from the state, the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar is requesting a new tax abatement on the increased tax values of those buildings.

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The MinnWest Technology Campus is requesting a new tax abatement from Kandiyohi County. The Nova-Tech Engineering sign on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar. Submitted photo.
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WILLMAR — Fifteen years after it was first established, the MinnWest Technology Campus continues to be transformed into one of Kandiyohi County's economic development stars. Currently, it is home to 27 different companies offering employment to 693 people, with an average salary of $55,000 a year.

"It is a real gem for this community," said James Sieben, president of both the campus and Nova-Tech Engineering, one of the largest employers on the campus located in Willmar.

However, despite the many successes, the campus still relies on subsidies and tax breaks to stay viable. Nova-Tech and Life Sciences Innovations have paid more than $3 million in subsidies to the campus, Sieben said, on top of the companies' regular rental expenses.

"We still have a long ways to go to turn a real profit," Sieben said.

At the Dec. 2 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners , Sieben, along with Sarah Swedburg, business development manager for the Kandiyohi County and city of Willmar Economic Development Commission, asked the commissioners to consider a new tax abatement for the campus.

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The request is for a 10-year abatement of the county's portion of the increased property taxes that would be generated from renovations at three additional buildings MinnWest recently purchased from the state. The requested 100% abatement would be $19,100 per year or $190,991 total.

In exchange for the abatement, MinnWest promises to generate 75 new jobs from various campus tenants within 10 years, as well as invest back into the campus a pro-rated amount of $2 million.

The commissioners set a public hearing on the abatement request for 10 a.m. Dec. 21, during the next County Board meeting. At the hearing, the commissioners will consider the request and whether it meets the requirements of an abatement.

"There is no question the value of the MinnWest Technology Campus to the community and the region," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. "But, as a governing board, we have a responsibility to follow the rules of abatement."

MinnWest also plans to approach the city of Willmar and Willmar Public Schools about an abatement of their portions of the property taxes. If the requests are approved, the campus would see a total abatement of $44,450 per year for 10 years, about 5% of the total cost to renovate the three buildings. Both the city and the school district have participated in abatements to MinnWest in the past.

"We wanted to start with the county," Swedburg said, because it receives the largest share of property taxes.

If approved, this would be the third abatement awarded to the campus, formerly the home of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center .

The first abatement, for 20 units, has already expired and the campus now pays full taxes on those buildings, about $95,000 a year.

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The second abatement was approved in 2016 and still has five years left. It is worth about $69,000 annually in taxes. Once it expires in 2026, MinnWest's property taxes will increase to a total of about $165,000 per year.

"It truly has been a wonderful partnership with the county, the city, the school district and these private entities," that are located at MinnWest, Sieben said. "We would not be here without the help."

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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