By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As a Minnesota school district asks voters again to increase their taxes for more classroom space, WCCO is taking a closer look at life in Worthington.  It’s a growing city with one of the highest concentrations of Spanish-speaking residents in the state.

Worthington’s downtown reflects the world, from restaurants to grocery and craft stores.

Miguel Rivas opened his cell phone shop three years ago.  He grew up in El Salvador and, from California, picked Worthington at random on a map to move to.

“Worthington in my opinion is a very nice town to live in,” Rivas said.

His is one of 49 minority-owned businesses in town, a big reason city leaders believe these storefronts are filled.

Jason Brisson. assistant city administrator and director of economic development, says the numbers don’t lie when comparing this city to surrounding rural communities.

“Diversity is a great thing. It’s really been what’s helped grow this community. We’re a community bursting at the seams,” Brisson said. “We’re growing most of them are declining. We had 13%-plus growth over the past two census periods and we’re up to almost 6% over where we were in 2010.”

While Worthington has the luxury of growth, Brisson also recognizes the hurdles ahead. A meat processing plant is the town’s largest employer with a majority immigrant workforce.

“When you have a community that’s changing and you have people coming here who are not like the folks that have been there before, it creates challenges that we’re here to work through,” Brisson said.

Housing and rental rates have been ongoing issues.  In some cases, prices are as high as what people pay in the metro.

Much of moving forward seems to hinge on the outcome of next week’s referendum.  It’s the sixth time in six years the school district has asked property owners to pay more to alleviate crowded classrooms.

Business owners like Rivas hope growth and prosperity go hand in hand.

“I love Worthington. This is my home,” Rivas said.

Between building new apartments, a convenience store and an expansion to the meat packing plant, Worthington has more than $30 million of new construction in town this year.

Liz Collin