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Red River Valley group releases action plan for regional goals

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FARGO — Workforce, water and research are among the priorities in a plan released Wednesday by an initiative to increase cooperation among the Red River Valley’s businesses and institutions.

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The Valley Prosperity Partnership introduced a blueprint outlining its goals for economic development and quality of life, a document it has been developing since the group publicly launched its campaign in February 2013.

The partnership began in 2012 with a $100,000 investment by William C. Marcil, chairman of Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum and the Grand Forks Herald.

The partnership’s steering committee is composed of business and higher education leaders and other stakeholders in the Red River Valley that employ more than 16,000 people with total payrolls of more than $780 million.

Organizers say the plan is a “framework for action” in areas of importance to the valley that groups across the region can cooperate on.

Marcil said he sees the Valley Prosperity Partnership working in a way similar to what happened after Forum Communications Co. purchased the Grand Forks Herald, long a journalistic rival of The Forum when it came to things like covering breaking news.

Marcil said that since the Herald was purchased, the newspapers have found ways to accomplish things together in what he called a spirit of “competitive cooperation.”

The plan laid out Wednesday at a news conference in Fargo focused on six priorities for the Valley Prosperity Partnership:

  •  Attracting, developing and retaining a talented workforce.
  •  Ensuring adequate water supply and proper management.
  •  Expanding the capacity and relevancy of research.
  •  Investing in transportation and other vital infrastructure.
  •  Spurring entrepreneurial activity.
  •  Improving perceptions of the region among residents and in the broader public.

Steps forward

Each of the priorities comes with a call to action laying out needs and goals and is backed up with detailed actions.

For example, the workforce priority sets a strategy of creating an internship network across the valley, which is broken down into steps, such as expanding the Grand Forks Young Professionals Internship Initiative and creating an online database for internships.

The priority of improving perceptions of the valley comes with a strategy of coordinating marketing and branding, with action steps such as conducting resident surveys and working with a professional consulting service.

The pieces of the action plan also identify the groups that would carry out each step, such as banks, investors and economic development corporations for the strategy of encouraging entrepreneurial activity through more investment.

Steve Burian, one of the chairmen of the Partnership, said the group would begin working on the first three goals soon.

“Now the real work begins,” he said.

The plan released Wednesday was assembled with the help of consultants who gathered ideas from partnership discussions and created priorities from recurring issues.

“What they looked for were commonalities that started to rise to the top,” said Burian, CEO of the Grand Forks-based engineering firm AE2S.

The partnership’s promotion of cooperation in the valley does not mean it has not been happening before this, Burian said, but it provides a way to direct it toward a “strategic vision.”

“This just helped formalize that,” he said.

On the Web: For more about the Partnership’s plan, visit: www.valleyprosperitypartnership.com

Forum News Service reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report.

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Christopher Bjorke
Christopher Bjorke is the news and business editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He first worked for the Herald in 1997 and most recently since 2011. His jobs at the Herald include covering local government, state politics, business and economics, and the health care industry. 
(701) 780-1117
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