Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center

Our Story

The city of Willmar, in Central Minnesota, recently registered its 2008 kindergarten class as majority Latino (more than 51% of all incoming students were Latino). Many of the parents of these children are established Latinos who through their hard work have contributed to the vitality and growth of this rural population center.

In 2003, several minority small business owners in Willmar, took note of the Mercado Central on Lake Street, Minneapolis. They believed that a similar model could  also transform their hometown. This was the beginning of the economic development initiative now named the Willmar Area Multicultural Market (WAM-BC).
The initial partnerships between Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, Heartland Community Action Agency, Latino Economic Development Center, S.W. MN Housing Partnership and Housing and Redevelopment Authority did a feasibility study as a first step. A plan was developed to bring together the entities and needed staff to move the project forward.

In seeking experts in this project, Willmar business leaders looked to Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) and West Central Integration Collaborative (WCIC). Through training, support, encouragement and vision, these various business leaders took on the challenge of revitalizing the core of downtown Willmar in a series of successful micro-enterprises.

Inspired by these efforts, Willmar now boats more than 36 minority-owned businesses, including Persian, Somali, Latino and even Celtic! This figure reflects the largest number of minority-owned businesses outside the Twin Cities Metro Area. In late March of 2008, the WAM-BC became registered as 501c3 non-profit economic development organization working to build and enhance small business in Willmar. The WAM-BC has one full time staff Roberto Valdez, he serve as WAM-BC's coordinator, engaging the business owners and city officials in the crafting a steady economic foundation for Willmar's growing ethnic businesses.

The WAM-BC Board of Directors ultimately hopes to establish the WAM-BC as a permanent fixture in Willmar through the purchase or construction of a building sufficient to house all WAM-BC's members together as well as creating a regional economic center in Willmar. An additional goal of the WAM-BC is to bring enhanced skills and participation into the fabric of the organizations that serve the Willmar community through classes, workshops and the creation of opportunities for new small businesses both in Willmar and throughout Kandiyohi County.

The WAM-BC now proudly serves to sponsor multicultural exhibitions and observances from of Willmar's ethnic make-up. It is hoped that this rich and diverse city in the heart of Minnesota will become a shining example of ethnic collaboration and tolerance in keeping Minnesota an economic leader for the next generation of native Minnesotans.