Gov. Burgum's 'Main Street Seminar' underway in Bismarck

Feb 12, 2018

Gov. Doug Burgum speaking at the 'Main Street ND Summit'
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

More than 700 people are attending the Governor’s first-ever Main Street ND Summit, being held in Bismarck.

The conference is designed for community leaders, to give them tools to make their cities vibrant, so they can attract new people.

"We're competing against every other state for 21st century talent," Gov. Doug Burgum told reporters at the Summit. "It's not enough any more just to have jobs available."

Burgum said the state needs to have communities available that are attractive and livable.

"We want our young people to stay," Burgum said. "We want to recruit families that want to grow here."

But Burgum said communities must also figure out ways to keep baby boomers in North Dakota.

"If every baby boomer decides their dream is to leave the state at a certain age, and get a house in a warmer climate, that doesn't bode well," Burgum said. "Baby boomers are an important part of our economy."

Burgum said the boomers make up a lot of the doctors, nurses and professionals North Dakota needs.

The summit will feature local and national community development experts to share some best practices on how to revitalize communities.

Sandy McMerty with North Dakota’s Commerce Department said it will be up to community leaders to make those kinds of decisions.

"All communities want to be successful," McMerty said in an interview. "How do we make sure communities are managed well, and have fiscally sound planning?"

McMerty said North Dakota has had very engaged community leaders.

"But sometimes, being able to look at what's possible and what's plausible, and how we make those changes, can be a rough row to hoe," McMerty said.

McMerty said organizers are hoping for a number of takeaways from the summit.

"I hope they leave with relationships with other communities that can help them with best practices," McMerty said. "And I want them to feel energized, to feel that any effort to improve communities is worthwhile. But we need to do it as a group, and with good planning."

Gov. Doug Burgum (i) and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford speak to reporters at the Main Street Summit
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Along with the Main Street Summit, North Dakota’s Commerce Department announced the launching of a tool to provide information to local community leaders that can help them grow healthy and vibrant communities.

It’s called the “Main Street Community Dashboard.” It will include a lot of data from communities on such things as housing costs, property taxes, child care and recreation opportunities.

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford said this will help city leaders do some comparisons with other communities throughout the state.

"As a community leaders, it was hard to get those different pieces of data," Sanford told reporters. "When you could get a comparison of such things as water and sewer rates and property taxes, that was good data."

Sanford said this will help city leaders manage concerns of their citizens.

"When you can show taxpayers in your community what other communities are doing, and say 'This is where we rank,' then they would feel better about what they pay," Sanford said.

The dashboard will be available on the Commerce Department’s Website. And it will be updated and expanded.