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Willmar Poultry to purchase additional land from city for expansion project

The Willmar City Council is moving the sale of 4.1 acres of land to Willmar Poultry Innovations to a public hearing on Nov. 1. The poultry business plans to expand its operation on Kandiyohi County Road 116 and needs the land for the project.

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Willmar Poultry Innovations plans to expand its turkey brooding facility on Kandiyohi County Road 116/75th Street, west of Willmar. The company plans to purchase 4.1 acres from the city of Willmar for the project. The city council set the public hearing for the land sale and rezoning of the property for Nov. 1. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Two public hearings will be held at the Nov. 1 Willmar City Council meeting in regard to an expansion project at the Willmar Poultry Innovations facility near the Willmar Wastewater Treatment Plant on the western outskirts of Willmar.

The public hearings are mandated before the council can consider selling and rezoning the property Willmar Poultry is interested in buying.

The land in question wraps around the current poultry facility located on Kandiyohi County Road 116/75th Street, next to the wastewater plant and near the Willmar Trap Range and brush site. Willmar Poultry purchased the original site from the city in 2015 and built a turkey brooding facility. It now has plans to expand the facility and needs additional land to do so.

"Willmar Poultry Innovation intends to purchase 4.1 acres," said Kayode Adiatu, Willmar City Planner, at the Oct. 18 council meeting.

The council had previously settled on a purchase price of $11,000 per acre, a price to which Willmar Poultry has agreed, City Administrator Leslie Valiant said.

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"That offer has been accepted. We need to authorize the sale of that," Valiant said.

The proposed rezoning will change the land from governmental zoning, as it is currently owned by the city, to agriculture, opening it up to the expansion project.

"This will allow for the continued use of the property in a matter that conforms with the city's comprehensive plan," Adiatu said.

The council also gave Willmar Poultry permission to begin site work on the new land prior to the sale being completed.

"They really want to get started on the this project," Valiant said.

At the Oct. 13 Planning Commission meeting, the commission recommended the council approve the land sale and rezoning when it comes up for a vote. While the city's comprehensive plan is actually silent regarding this specific piece of property, because the city purchased it after the plan was completed, the commission and staff felt the project would be good for the site and the city.

"This facility will be quite innovative and brings some jobs to our area," said Willmar City Planner Willard Huyck.

Jonathan Huisinga, of Willmar Poultry Innovations, gave a brief overview of the project to the Planning Commission. Willmar Poultry has operated the current facility for seven years as a research center. Over the past few years, the company has made serious investments in brooding technology, including bringing in equipment from the European and Asian chicken industry and learning how to make it work for turkeys.

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"We earned exclusive rights for turkey use by helping them adapt that equipment for a new industry," Huisinga said.

Now that Willmar Poultry has researched and tested the new equipment, it can prove it adds value to the growth process of the birds and will take what the company has learned to create new companies and opportunities.

"We are planning on turning that research project into two companies," Huisinga said.

Even with the estimated $4.5 million worth of automation the new facility will have, Huisinga said the company still plans to add 30 to 50 new jobs, of various levels.

"It is a lot of work, but it is good work," Huisinga said.

At Monday's council meeting, Mayor Marv Calvin thanked the Planning and Development staff, along with Valiant, for their hard work in getting these steps through the approval process as quickly as possible, so construction can begin.

"You really had to roll up your sleeves to get it done," Calvin said.

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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