In the early 2000s, leaders in Kandiyohi County developed Vision 2020, a map of where they wanted to be in twenty years. Vision 2020 spurred the development of the YMCA, the community pool, the combined law enforcement center, the community's effort to develop Latino entrepreneurs and business owners, and many other important regional initiatives.
Since then, we've wondered what the Willmar Lakes Area could be... in 2040. What's possible? What could we become?
With those questions in mind, a group of community leaders interviewed two companies and selected Next Generation Consulting (NGC) to help lead the Vision 2040 process.
Vision 2040 has been birthed to develop an actionable plan to help the Willmar Lakes Area become an even better place to live, work, and play by 2040.
Since May of 2013, hundres of Willmar Lakes Area residents have been working together with a team of consultants from Next Generation Consulting to determine its Vision 2040 plan.
On Wednesday, November 20th, 2013, that plan was released. Download the complete Vision 2040 plan here: Vision 2040_November2013
The Vision 2040 Plan is divided into two main sections: Key Findings and Vision 2040 Goals. The following is a brief summary. Read the full plan for details, data and charts.
Key Finding #1: The Willmar Lakes Area must attract "Newcomers"
Newcomers are those who've lived in larger cities and want to move to smaller communities with these amenitites: slower pace of life, stronger sense of safety; and affordable homes. Reasearch from the University of Minnesota shows that 36% of Newcomers are people who were raised in the area, left for larger cities, and are ready to come back. The majority of newcomers earn salaries more than $50,000. They are a key demographic for the Willmar Lakes Area's future.
Key Finding #2: The Willmar Lakes Area diversity is a short-term challenge and a long term benefit
What the Willmar Lakes Area faces is not so much a "diversity challenge" as a "first generation immigrant challenge." It takes one and sometimes two generations to successfully assimilate to a community, and in the Willmar Lakes Area, we know the economic impact that a generation of immigrants can make.
Key Finding #3: ALL residents in the region want "more things to do."
The public meetings, chalkboards, and online survey had one overwhelming theme: we want more to do! From restaurants to shopping to events, the young and old, singles and marrieds, families and empty nesters... all want more to do.
Key Finding #4: Compared to Alexandria, Hutchinson, Owatonna, St. Cloud, and Watertown SD, the Willmar Lakes Area's Quality of Life is in the middle of the pack.
The Vision 2040 Steering Committee chose these aspirational communities to compare against and the Willmar Lakes Area ranked third out of six. There are places to improve (e.g. the number and kinds of jobs in the region) and places to boast (e.g. being more affordable overall.)
How can we make the Willmar Lakes Area one of the best places to reloacte for all people -- young families, refugees, immigrants, young professionals, etc? This goal includes eight strategies, from creating an Affordable Housing Taskforce to establishing a Diversity Council to hosting a robust "Come Home" campaign.
To attract and keep newcomers, the region must have more robust career pathways. How can we "grow our own" by supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners and attract companies with middle and high skill wages?
All residents want more things to do, and one of the big transformations the plan recommends is redeveloping Robbins Island to include the amphitheater that's already been proposed, and doing more to develop first rate soccer fields. (Soccer is an international sport and could help bring the region together.)
Note: Although many residents would like to have national chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings, those big chains won't even look at communities with less than 100,000 people in the metro. However, there are thigns we can do to grow our own. The plan includes a restaurant incubator - a partnership with Ridgewater and chefs from St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.
As many experienced leaders in the Willmar Lakes Area march closer to retirement, we must work harder to encourage the region's young professionals to step up into leadership roles. In this section of the plan, we recommend everything from a "Ready to Serve" board readiness training class to candidate school for younger electeds.
The Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 group has been intentional every step of the way to ensure that this is an action plan for the community, by the community. Here's what the process looked like:
The steering committee and NGC team are committeed to ensuring that Vision 2040 is a process that is open and transparent. We want everyone to feel welcomed and engaged. Stay tuned to the projects section of this website and get involved to help make your vision for the future a reality for our communities!
On May 27, 28, 29 and 30 of 2013, a team of three people from Next Generation Consulting visited the Willmar Lakes Area. Charlie Grantham, Marti Ryan, and Rebecca Ryan met with 27 groups to learn:
At the conclusion of these meetings, the NGC team will develop a working paper (sometimes called a brief) to summarize their findings.
NGC has a system to quantify a region's quality of life, and compare it to other communities. The steering committee chose the following communities as comparisons to the Willmar Lakes Area: Alexandria, MN; Hutchinson, MN; Owatonna, MN; St. Cloud, MN; and Watertown, SD.
The consulting team will present the Great Willmar's score in seven quality of life indexes compared to these regions at a date to be determined.
On July 23, 24 and 25 of 2013 the NGC team hosted "futuring" forums at the MinnWest Technology Campus, the New London-Spicer High Schoo, the Willmar City Auditorium and the Willmar Conference Cetner to focus on areas that are likely to affect the Willmar Lakes Area by 2040. All members of the public were welcome to attend.
Working in partnership with the steering committee, residents of the Willmar Lakes Area were encouraged to participate in online polls and share their ideas through public chalkboard installations. These activities took place throughout the summer and early fall of 2013.
With all of the input gathered in Stages 1-4, the consulting team drafted a Vision 2040 plan and posted it for public review and feedback. The steering committee and investors were actively engaged in this process and helped to shape the final plan.
The final plan was shared at public forums on November 20th, 2013.
I am excited to make a difference and feel confident to do so!
“I'm honored to be part of Vision 2040 and the team that is forging the future of the Willmar Lakes Area community. We are a strong vibrant community that works hard and works together through partnerships and collaborative efforts. This spark of leadership for this is caused by people willing to risk failure to reach for success. We have seen there's no limit to what a group can do if the individuals don't care who gets the credit.”
I made connections with community members and found many common visions. I have begun to get more active in the community due to the connections.