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home : opinion : editorial
March 31, 2020

2/13/2020 8:37:00 AM
Risk of doing nothing

Several times this past year, we've heard local citizens utter the phrase, "It's a good problem to have."
A year ago, local employers reported that the local job market was extremely tight. We were told Windom imported far more workers than it exported.
The reaction: "An oversupply of jobs is a good problem to have."
Not coincidentally, we learned Windom had a shortage of market rate (middle income) apartments. A Prime Pork official reported that while there were low income apartments available, the plant's employees often do not qualify for low-income housing.
Due to the community's employment growth, demand was greater than ever for those market rate apartments.
The reaction: "Tight apartment markets are a good problem to have."
Meanwhile, there were reports of a housing shortage. Yes there were still homes for sale, but options were limited and only a few buildable lots are available in Windom. We learned that this problem has hurt recruitment of key employees and forced some to look outside the area for housing.
The reaction: "A tight housing market is a good problem to have."
One year later it appears that, if anything, the problems listed above are more pronounced. Prime Pork's employment surged past 600 and local businesses continue to post help wanted ads.
People love to say Windom has jobs for any residents who want them. However, we sense the line, "it's a good problem to have," is growing stale. When do conversations shift from "good problems" to urgency for solutions?
When do we recognize that "good problems" can disappear as Fast Global Solutions, Toro and Prime Pork get tired of waiting and simply scale back employment?
It is obvious Windom's biggest problem is the shortage of apartments and housing. Fortunately, a new apartment complex is under construction and a major housing development may be in the works.
However, the development is not a sure thing. The Windom City Council wisely resisted the temptation to bet on "potential." City leaders have thus far held out for the security of making sure grants and Tax Increment Financing pay for infrastructure costs such as streets and sewer lines.
City leaders say a recent sealed bid process showed significant interest for duplexes and, to a lesser extent, single-family homes. However, there are signs this development may fall a few projects short of being safe and secure.
Given this uncertainty, it feels like our council should push for a solid Plan B, something safe that could take effect fairly quickly.
Our leaders must recognize there is more than dollars and land on the table. Windom is clearly in a period of growth, one that could be stunted by a workforce shortage. We need to have a Plan B ready, sooner rather than later.
Windom's greatest risk is doing nothing at all.
    - Rahn Larson

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