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Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040


Vision 2040 Chalkboard Feedback

Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 is a movement based off an evolving plan created by the citizens of the Willmar Lakes Area after a lengthy consultation process with people from throughout the region via interviews, round table discussions, community chalkboards and surveys. The goal of this effort was to create a long range plan for building healthy communities where people wanted to live, work, do business and raise a family.
This resulted in a "roadmap" that identified 4 primary goals for our community through the year 2040. Work on those first four goals spawned a fifth goal - Health and Wellness.
The initial study that created the four goals was conducted in May of 2013 by a third party organization. Next Generation Consulting, who took input from citizens of the Willmar Lakes Area to determine what citizens wanted their communities to look like in the future. To move the resulting goals forward a steering committee was created and goal captains for each of the four (now five) goals were identified and host of specific initiatives were launched to achieve those goals. Your neighbors, friends, and coworkers have been working hard to achieve these goals. Learn more about these goals below.
Goal 1: Attract & Retain Goal 2: Economic Diversity Goal 3: Things To Do
Goal 4: Next Gen Leaders Goal 5: Health & Wellness  



The Vision 2040 Steering Committee


Our History


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.


The Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 Plan

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.)

Goal #1: Attract and Retain Newcomers

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.

Goal #2: Strengthen the Region's Occupational Options

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?

Goal #3: Develop and Enable More Things To Do

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.

Goal #4: Develop Next-Gen Leaders

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 Vision 2040 Process

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:


Guiding Principles

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!


Stage 1: Getting the Lay of the Land

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:

  • What historical forces have shaped the region?
  • What Makes the region a special place to live, work and play?
  • What hopes do people have for this area by 2040?
  • What constraints could hold us back?
  • What do people need to forget, or let go of, so that the region can move forward?

At the conclusion of these meetings, the NGC team will develop a working paper (sometimes called a brief) to summarize their findings.


Stage 2: Assessing Greater Willmar's Quality of Life Compared to Peers

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. 


Stage 3: Futuring Forums

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.


Stage 4: Gathering Additional Input and Ideas

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.


Stage 5: Refining & Finalizing the Vision 2040 Plan

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. 

Download Vision 2040 Plan Here



From our community volunteers

“We are proud to be part of the Vision 2040 effort here at the community foundation because it aligns with our core mission to engage people, connect resources and build community. It was an easy choice to invest not only financial resources to support Vision 2040 but also to lend significat board and staff time to help drive this effort forward. It's transforming our communities for the future our residents dream about-using their ideas and energies to make good things happen organically in real time and for years to come-and we want to be part of making that possible!”

Sara Carlson, Willmar Area Community Foundation

“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.”

Ken Warner, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

“I'm proud to volunteer and support the efforts of Vision 2040 because creating a healthy community takes a collabortive effort. No one person or entity can create a community where people want to live and work and play, but working together we can create it. Vision 2040 started with an inclusive effort to bring together people from across our region to articulate their vision of the future of our region's communities. The goals that emerged from that vision offer everyone the opportunity to share in the collaborative work necessary to create a healthy and vibrant region--and that's a good thing for all of us.”

Dr. Douglas Allen, Ridgewater College
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