New report says annual sales top $1B in Kandiyohi County

WILLMAR -- Cities in the St. Cloud-Twin Cities corridor have a reputation for growing fast, but Willmar has outstripped many of them in the number of home building permits being issued each year.

WILLMAR -- Cities in the St. Cloud-Twin Cities corridor have a reputation for growing fast, but Willmar has outstripped many of them in the number of home building permits being issued each year.

Kandiyohi County is becoming more affluent as household income rises. And for the first time, annual sales have hit the $1 billion mark.

The information is contained in a report, issued this past month, that outlines the demographic and retail sales profile for the Willmar lakes area.

From real estate agents to economic development officials, the data can help them quantify how the local economy stacks up and strategize accordingly, said Cameron Macht, the regional analyst with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development who prepared the report. Macht collects and analyzes data for 27 counties in central and southwestern Minnesota.

"I've found that when you're presenting this to an audience, it a lot of times opens their eyes," he said. "It really causes them to change their perceptions of the area."


The report takes a look at demographics, job and wage growth, new home construction and retail sales.

Macht collected the data from several sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Employment and Economic Development's salary and wage program, and regional labor force assessment. Retail sales information was issued by the Minnesota Department of Revenue, which reports sales and use tax data for each Minnesota county as well as selected larger cities.

Among the findings:

n Since 2003, more than 600 building permits for new homes have been issued in the city of Willmar and surrounding areas of Kandiyohi County. The rate of new home construction in Willmar outpaces that of many of the state's fastest -communities such as Rogers, Waite Park, Red Wing and Princeton.

n Retail sales in Kandiyohi County surged ahead by 68 percent from 2000 to 2004, reaching more than $750 million. The city of Willmar accounted for $458 million in retail sales in 2004.

Total annual sales -- the figure for all categories, including manufacturing, the wholesale trade, financial and health care services, hotels, food and beverages -- in Kandiyohi County hit $1.72 billion in 2004. The city of Willmar had $1.15 billion in total sales in 2004.

n At a time when jobs declined in the metro area, Kandiyohi County saw job growth. The Twin Cities lost nearly 40,000 jobs between 2000 and 2004, while Kandiyohi County added 350 jobs.

Construction, health care, information, and lodging and food services are the fastest-growing local industries. Manufacturing is the top employer in both Willmar and Kandiyohi County, followed by retail.


n Household income still lags behind the state median, but the gap is narrowing.

In the decade between 1990 and 2000, the percent of Kandiyohi County households earning $50,000 or more increased, while the percent of households earning less than $35,000 went down.

Personal income also has been growing faster in Kandiyohi County than in the United States as a whole. From 1993 to 2003 it rose 33.8 percent.

"It seems that Willmar is healthy and growing. Industry and employment seem to be relatively diverse, and that seems to help," Macht said.

Although manufacturing and agriculture are still king, the local economy is seeing a gradual shift from goods-producing industries to more white-collar and service industries, he said.

Strong annual sales are a positive indication that consumers have job security and are optimistic about future growth, he said. "It shows there is consumer confidence."

Macht said it's also an indication of how Willmar has solidified its position as a regional center.

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