Editorial: Willmar working together has worked
Willmar has an opportunity to look into its future and utilize dynamism, vision, hard work and its own resources to help create its future. Small towns reap business benefits of entrepreneurs and visionaries. That was the message of the Boomtown ...
Willmar has an opportunity to look into its future and utilize dynamism, vision, hard work and its own resources to help create its future.
Small towns reap business benefits of entrepreneurs and visionaries. That was the message of the Boomtown USA speaker Tuesday in Willmar
A city can reap “the rewards of those who (have) the entrepreneurial vision to take advantage of a situation and make things better for their community,” said Craig Lindvahl, the executive director of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Illinois.
Lindavahl was first brought to Willmar by an effort led by local banker Gary Geiger and other business people to start up a local Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program for local students. It’s a program in which business people help students learn to think like entrepreneurs.
One example of a small-town initiative mentioned Tuesday by Lindvahl was one Illinois town that chose to expand its infrastructure to the near interstate highway.
Now the town is earning six times the revenue of a sister city.
Willmar has several examples of this community entrepreneurial effort.
Several decades ago, former West Central Tribune Publisher Paul London started the effort to complete Willmar’s connection to the Interstate Highway System.
Later Northern States Supply business owner Bob Dols and other business and community leaders continued the Willmar interstate connection effort. Various segments, including the Willmar Bypass, Willmar to New London and New London to Paynesville, have been completed.
This effort is now focused on filling the last two-lane gaps on Minnesota Highway 23 between Willmar and Interstate 94.
In a Willmar visioning effort called Vision 2020, created in the late 1990s, a community need was identified for a multigenerational and multicultural recreational facility. Through this private-public effort, the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA became a reality followed by the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center. The combined Law Enforcement Center also became a reality out of this visioning effort.
When the state began phasing out the Willmar Regional Treatment Center, a private-public effort evolved into an agreement to sell the facility to several private Willmar companies, which was developed into the MinnWest Technology Campus. There are now 31 businesses and several hundred employees based on the business development campus.
Another development has been the relocation of the Willmar Municipal Airport and the redevelopment expansion of Willmar Industrial Park on the old airport site. The city has been completing the final infrastructure installs this summer and the city is nearly ready for prospective businesses to expand or build new facilities.
There is a new visioning effort called Willmar Area Lakes 2040 that is a county-wide private-public project. See willmarlakesarea2040.com. The goal is to again review the community needs, identify the priorities and create appropriate plans to achieve those priorities.
Willmar works best when our citizens, businesses and public sectors talk, listen, support and work together. It is only through community-wide collective efforts that this city can build a better future.