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Local leaders discuss next steps for Worthington Global Market

Worthington leaders and SMAC representatives gather Thursday afternoon to continue discussing the next steps to move a Worthington Global Market forward. (Martina Baca / The Globe)Worthington leaders and SMAC representatives gather Thursday afternoon to continue discussing the next steps to move a Worthington Global Market forward. (Martina Baca / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON  — The discussion continued among city, church and other community leaders Thursday afternoon as they considered the next steps on how to move forward with the Worthington Global Market economic development initiative.

The concept behind Worthington Global Market is to create a venue where vendors of different ethnic groups can share their culture through food, drink, music and history with the entire community. Since an initial meeting in February, leaders have shown support and excitement for the idea.

“Worthington is probably one of the most unique cities probably in the world because it has so much diversity than any other area,” JBS Human Resources Director Len Bakken said. “It’s like the world in one city, so there is a lot to be proud of and to show off.”

The Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, along with other community leaders, are in the process of determining the best ways to make the project a reality. The proposal is also supported by the Marketing Advisory Center (SMAC) of Southwest Minnesota State University and funded by Southwest Initiative Foundation.

Leaders gathered Thursday afternoon to talk about the specific process to make the project happen.

Damilola Ogundiran and Miranda Evers, both SMAC representatives, walked the group through the outline of the project, defining objectives and specifics of the initiative. The main role of SMAC is to gather information, thoughts and comments from residents to see how open they are to the idea of a Worthington Global Market. Throughout this process, SMAC will make recommendations as to whether it’s feasible to move forward with the project.

The first phase will be conducting five to six focus groups with various ethnic groups around the Worthington area. The groups will not only include ethnically diverse individuals but also representation from varying ages, genders and backgrounds. Translators will be present during the focus groups.

Ogundiran and Evers plan to start the study by setting up a booth during July’s International Festival in Worthington to ask questions during the festivities.

“Just knowing that you have these events is proof that there is a desire and a want for this kind of project,” Evers said.

Bakken noted that he’s open to providing a location and participants for the focus group, as JBS is the largest employer in Worthington. Another resource to recruit people for the focus groups will be the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

WREDC Executive Director Abraham Algadi said the Worthington Global Market offers an opportunity to expand consumer options for certain products. He said he and Chamber Executive Director Darlene Macklin visited some of the ethnically diverse businesses in Worthington and were able to realize about the potential of the project.

“So we stood there and it was primarily people (buying) who look like them,” Algadi said. “So if you (business owners) are selling $20,000 worth of stuff …  it’s conceivable to think that if the rest of the world knows how wonderful the things that you have are, you could sell $60,000 worth of stuff.”

The second phase of the study involves conducting a survey based on input gathered during the focus groups. Depending on those results, SMAC will create a promotional strategy to bring awareness to the proposed project.