Forum chief calls for Red River Valley economic planBill Marcil pledges $100,000 to get effort rolling
William C. Marcil, owner and chairman of Fargo-based Forum Communications Co., is seeking to rally the business community to develop a strategic plan to take the Red River Valley economy to a new level.
By: Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald
The economies of the Grand Forks and the Fargo regions have grown closer over the years, but to really take advantage of that closeness requires a strategic plan, a Fargo-based media magnate told an audience of Grand Forks businesspeople Thursday.
William C. Marcil, owner and chairman of Forum Communications Co., said he thinks such a plan ought to be developed, that he’ll rally the business community to pay for it and that he’s willing to invest $100,000 to kick off the effort.
The occasion was the annual meeting of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., which will be involved in the project with the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp.
Former Sen. Byron Dorgan had created the Red River Valley Research Corridor tying the region together and directing a lot federal research dollars this way, but Marcil said the identity of that corridor is fading and Dorgan, its “rainmaker,” has retired.
The time is right for a new effort, said Marcil, whose company straddles the region, owning the Herald and WDAZ TV in Grand Forks and the Forum and WDAY TV and radio in Fargo, among dozens of other properties in the Upper Midwest.
This time, though, the effort will be driven by the private sector, he said.
The Herald is a longtime contributor to the Grand Forks EDC and Mike Jacobs, its publisher, was elected to join the board of directors at the annual meeting.
Rivals no more
Economic developers in Grand Forks and Fargo have already started talking about working together.
Grand Forks EDC President Klaus Thiessen and his Fargo counterpart, Jim Gartin, said they first broached the topic a month ago.
The economic development profession is often secretive — a company usually chooses just one city out of many suitors to build a new factory — but Gartin said the premise of the “open-source” model he and Thiessen are using is they have more to gain from sharing information.
Marcil’s effort will give their partnership added momentum, Thiessen said.
The Forum Communications chairman said the proposed Red River Valley strategic plan would have such depth that it would require the aid of professional analysts, though local universities and colleges, businesses, and government agencies would still be engaged.
Marcil didn’t say what the total cost of the effort would be, but just his pledge is equivalent to about 14 percent of the Grand Forks EDC’s annual budget.
He said the plan would fit well with the “2020 and Beyond plan that the Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who was in the audience, and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce championed.
That plan sought a way for North Dakota to diversify away from its economic mainstays of energy, agriculture and distribution, taking job creation to a new level.
Marcil pledged that the plan wouldn’t be the kind that gets done and is thrown on the shelf to gather dust, not if he’s investing in it.
Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.