Rural Grand Forks County discuss ways to attract new residents, businesses
LARIMORE, N.D. — As Henry Borysewicz listened Tuesday to developers of an unmanned-aircraft tech park just down the road talk about jobs coming to the area, he wondered how wide the communication gap is in rural America.
“I live four miles out town and I can’t get the Internet,” the rural Larimore resident said. “In the 21st century, if you don’t have the Internet to your business, it’s like not having a road to your home.”
That’s just one of the quality-of-life issues facing people in rural Grand Forks County, according to an informal survey of residents attending a town hall meeting that is part of a two-day strategy session organized by the Red River Regional Council, in partnership with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.
The goal is to identify opportunities and challenges while developing an economic development road map for the county.
While business retention, expansion and recruitment, as well as entrepreneurial opportunities topped the list of economic development objectives at Tuesday’s meeting, only 58 percent of the attendees believe the community could be successful in attracting new businesses and just 69 percent thought they could develop entrepreneurial opportunities.
The reasons, they generally agreed, were lack of quality-of-life amenities, such as the availability of affordable and accessible housing, availability of adequate child care and, in some cases, lack of Internet access.
“It’s very apparent that we won’t be able to attract young families until we can address the childcare situation,” said Tom Brusegaard, a Gilby, N.D., resident and one of the few from outside the Larimore area to attend the meeting.
The group also listed healthcare expansion, such as bringing new medical services to the area, as both an opportunity and a challenge.
Rural Grand Forks County does have a chance to attract new residents and businesses, though.
The Grand Sky unmanned-aircraft tech park at Grand Forks Air Force Base could generate 3,000 new jobs over the next decade, according to developer Thomas Swoyer.
He’s president of Infinity Development Partners, which owns Grand Sky Development, the Texas company in charge of recruiting tenants and developing the 217-acre tech park.
“Some of those 3,000 jobs are going to be filled locally, in communities outside of Grand Sky.” he said
“Some of the people moving here may look at your community,” said Jeff Donohoe, of Jeff Donohoe Associates, a New Hampshire company working with Grand Sky Development. “That’s a story you have to sell. What do you have to offer?”