Who We Are

Our History

Together, we have already added much value to our communities. Our work originated in the early 2000s when 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 many other important regional initiatives.

Since then, we've wondered what our Willmar Lakes Area could be... in 2040. What's possible? What could we become? It is with those questions in mind that a group of community leaders partnered with Next Generation Consulting to help lead 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.

From a process led by Next Generation Consulting, a plan was developed. On November 20th, 2013, that plan was released and identified four primary goals for our communities: Attract & Retain, Economic Diversity, Things to Do, Next Gen Leaders.  Work on those four goals spawned a fifth goal - health and wellness.

In January of 2018, the community came together to celebrate 5 years of accomplishments and to determine where to go next at the Vision 2040 Refresh Event. Trilium Leadership Development was brought on board to facilitate a community world cafe event as well as assist in the synthesis of that information. From that community discussion has come four key findings. These findings have become the focus of our efforts moving forward.

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Health & Wellness

It is by engaging the dreamers and the doers, and the believers and the thinkers, which has determined what is next for Vision 2040. Health & Wellness is a piece of the foundation for action plans to move forward—what comes of it will be collaborative, community-led and driven, and designed to improve the Willmar Lakes Area.

The Willmar Lakes Area believes that improving the health and wellness of the community as a whole is crucial to the overall “health” of the community.  This focus confirms the continued interest in the last goal added to the Vision 2040 roadmap.  The statistics are clear.  Minnesota has the 34th highest adult obesity rate in the nation, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America released August 2017. Minnesota's adult obesity rate is climbing fast—currently 27.8 percent, up from 16.4 percent in 2000 and from 10.3 percent in 1990.  In 2015, 7.6 percent of Minnesotans were diagnosed with diabetes and roughly 18,000 Minnesotans are diagnosed every year.  By some estimates, the rate of diabetes is closer to 10 percent.

Addressing multi-faceted issues such as health and wellness requires multiple strategies.
  1. To improve access to health and wellness resources, the Willmar Lakes Area will identify health equity issues, developing a multi-faceted approach to address the inequities.
  2. To decrease rising rates of childhood obesity, the Willmar Lakes Area will provide education on healthier choices in conjunction with Willmar Public Schools Family Nights. Education could include topics on increasing physical activity, decreasing screen time, and promoting family dinner time around a healthy home cooked meal.
  3. To improve access to health resources and create a collaborative regional approach to population health, the Willmar Lakes Area will work with the various healthcare providers and systems in our communities.

Though projects will be driven by the community at large, here are some examples of your ideas that could be implemented from our World Café Community Conversation:

  • Fit path
  • Outdoor co-working space with Wi-Fi and charging stations
  • Urban orchard
  • Rentals at Robbins Island
  • Access to activities for all youth
  • Assess walkability and bike-ability
  • Community gardens in neighborhood parks
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Communication

It is by engaging the dreamers and the doers, and the believers and the thinkers, which has determined what is next for Vision 2040. Communication is a piece of the foundation for action plans to move forward—what comes of it will be collaborative, community-led and driven, and designed to improve the Willmar Lakes Area.

The Willmar Lakes Area recognizes that people’s ability to communicate with each other—to talk with and not about the people and communities that make up the Lakes Area—builds relationships and strengthens the entire region.  Recent issues in the community of Willmar point to the opportunities to improve communication and build the relationships necessary to strengthen the community.

  1. The Willmar Lakes region should consider finding or creating technology that would allow people to opt in and receive “push” notifications about community events.
  2. The Willmar Lakes region should consider a county-wide marketing effort to promote a new brand emphasizing the key ingredients of Vision 2040: connection, collaboration, inclusion, and community.
  3. The Willmar Lakes region should consider engaging the Vision 2040 Leadership program graduates to lead the regional branding initiatives.

Though projects will be driven by the community at large, here are some examples of your ideas that could be implemented from our World Café Community Conversation:

  • A system for connecting people to opportunities so they can share their gifts
  • New branding for our communities & county, define the why
  • A central place to get information
  • More collaboration between organizations
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Inclusion

It is by engaging the dreamers and the doers, and the believers and the thinkers, which has determined what is next for Vision 2040. Inclusion is a piece of the foundation for action plans to move forward—what comes of it will be collaborative, community-led and driven, and designed to improve the Willmar Lakes Area.

Willmar continues to face rapid change, with younger, older and more diverse communities. By 2030, more than one in four residents will be over 65 and Kandiyohi County will see a 200% growth in the areas’ black population. Currently, 21% of Willmar residents are of Hispanic/Latino descent, and approximately 8% were born outside of the United States. These changes have posed opportunities, tensions and challenges, and the ways to address them begin with a strong focus on inclusion.

  1. To build awareness and a deeper understanding of the diverse cultures in the Willmar Lakes region, we invite intercultural and intergenerational opportunities where people can learn from one another, ask questions, and deepen connections.
  2. Our communities will continue to create spaces for conversations and also directly engage across the diversity of the community. These conversations will be held in ways that work best for those being reached – with attention paid to the location, time, and tone.
  3. We encourage our communities to consider creating resources for newer community members, including support and mentorship to learn about opportunities to be involved in the decisions that affect their region. Willmar’s ‘Welcoming Resolution’ and similar measures may help socialize the value of inclusion of our region, while concrete supports will allow newer community members to help shape and define the design of our region.

Here are some examples:

We specify that projects will intentionally focus on bridging across cultures and generations, and may include but not be limited to the following:

  • Youth engagement
  • Community connectedness opportunities bringing cultures together
  • Neighborhood night out events
  • Cross collaborations between community organizations
  • Downtown community events
  • Networking events for new residents and hosting new community members
  • Willmar welcoming center
  • Senior and inter-generational opportunities
  • Sharing culture over food events
  • Host community conversations about race and culture
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Engagement

It is by engaging the dreamers and the doers, and the believers and the thinkers, which has determined what is next for Vision 2040. Engagement is a piece of the foundation for action plans to move forward—what comes of it will be collaborative, community-led and driven, and designed to improve the Willmar Lakes Area.

In many ways this focus will define what comes of this Refresh effort.  There is a realization that engagement, with both those who create and those who implement the roadmap, will determine what happens next for Vision 2040.  What happens is truly up to the community, but what seems clear is that the people in the region have a vision for the place they want to call home.

  1. Facilitate opportunities to engage people across the Willmar Lakes Area region as partners to better our communities. Intentional effort will be made to engage emerging leaders, youth as leaders and marginalized voices in dialogue about our collective future.
  2. Convene regional government officials, business leaders, education leaders (pre K – higher ed), healthcare professionals and non-profit leaders to maximize resources and work together, capitalizing on opportunities and addressing emerging needs.
  3. Empower and equip community members to work together, connect possibilities and advance ideas.
Though projects will be driven by the community at large, here are some examples of your ideas that could be implemented from our World Café Community Conversation:
  • Leadership development programs
  • Youth world café dialogue opportunities at schools and colleges
  • Lunch with the Mayor(s) and/or elected of

Meet the Team

Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 is a movement based off an evolving plan created by the citizens of the Willmar Lakes Area. This plan is overseen by a Steering Committee consisting of the following people and includes an inspiring mix of both public and private, non-profit and for-profit in addition to citizens of all types of backgrounds.

Vision 2040 Steering Committee
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