By Aaron Backman
The Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar Economic Development Commission (EDC) has been busy this Fall/Winter on a variety of initiatives, including a proposed Township Broadband project, the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, Willmar Opportunity Zone marketing, exploring industrial hemp, developing a community video, workforce development activities, etc.
One of the most exciting news that we received was on October 25th when the EDC received word from the MN Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) that the DEED Commissioner Steve Grove had approved a $1.3 million IBDPI grant with the City of Willmar for the Epitopix sewer line project. The EDC had prepared and submitted the grant application on behalf of the City.
An aerial view of the Epitopix production facility off 45th Street and south of US Hwy 12.
Epitopix, LLC is a privately-held company located in Willmar, and is an affiliate of Vaxxinova, a company based in the Netherlands. Epitopix has corporate offices at the MinnWest Technology Campus and a production facility off 45th Street and south of U.S. Hwy 12. The company produces veterinary vaccines for the agricultural sector, selling vaccine throughout the U.S. for use in poultry, cattle, and swine. The company currently holds over 50 U.S. and worldwide patents on their biotechnology products.
The parent company plans to accelerate Epitopix’s growth in animal vaccines and is prepared to invest over $15 million in Willmar in capital investment and add 17 well-paying biotech jobs within Kandiyohi County. However, they cannot make that investment if there is inadequate sewer service to the site. Based upon engineering calculations, the estimated cost for extending city sewer service to the Epitopix production facility is approximately $1.3 million. The line runs from the main north-south interceptor near the Willmar Industrial Park, west along the north side of the new Hwy 12, then north on 45th to the Epitopix production facility. Epitopix management was pleased with the news.
The EDC is working with the City Attorney and City Staff on several aspects of the project, including reviewing the grant agreement, addressing questions regarding the requisite property interest, a related waterline extension, the land annexation necessary for the project, and the appropriate zoning. City staff and the EDC have held several follow-up planning meetings in November regarding the project.