With restrictions lifting to allow vaccinated Canadians to cross the border into the United States on Nov. 8, Grand Forks could experience an uptick in business.

How much will businesses benefit? That depends on how you look at it, said Julie Rygg, executive director at Visit Greater Grand Forks. She is cautiously optimistic about what businesses can expect, but it will probably take time for them to begin seeing the benefits of having the border open.

“I definitely think we’ll start seeing those Manitoba plates again, but I think it will be a process,” Rygg said “I don’t think we’ll just automatically have it all back on Nov. 8.”

Manitobans make up much of the tourism the area gets from Canada when the border is open. Rygg said Visit Greater Grand Forks is working on advertising campaigns in the area, as well as in Canada to attract more tourists.

“One of the things we’re doing is we really want to launch a campaign to welcome Canadians back, and obviously particularly Manitobans back to the community,” Rygg said. “We are going to be distributing posters and banners and window decals welcoming them back. We’re going to do giveaways and social media campaigns.”

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However, Rygg said the timing of the border opening is opportune. With the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching, Canadians coming to the Grand Forks area to shop for gifts could also provide a sales boost.

"I think we’ll definitely feel that impact, particularly in our hotels, in our retail stores, in our restaurants and at our events,” Rygg said. “I know there were Canadians who had planned to come to some of our recent concerts that were unable to, so we’ve always heard, particularly from Manitobans, that the greater Grand Forks area is a great weekend getaway, and we want to continue to provide that. It definitely impacts our economy.”

So, will more people crossing the border mean more attendees for concerts and sporting events?

“Absolutely,” Rygg said. “But, I have to say, in the last month or two months, we’ve really been seeing events come back, and we’ve seen great attendance numbers so far. This is just going to add to that. Our businesses have felt the impact of our border being closed, and I think it will be a welcome sign to have more people in our community.”

Anna Rosburg, general manager of the Alerus Center, is excited for what a possible influx of Canadian traffic could bring to the local economy. On Sept. 17, Luke Combs set new venue records for attendance, beating George Strait in 2013, as well as food and beverage sales, beating Metallica in 2018. More than 14,000 people attended the Eric Church concert on Oct. 1, as well. According to Alerus Center data, the Luke Combs and Eric Church concerts brought in nearly $3 million in direct economic impact in the span of 14 days, while no Canadians had access to the concert by any means other than air travel into the United States.

Rosburg said it is important for promoters to know the border is open when trying to land big-draw events, as those bring in people from a wider range than just the Grand Forks area.

“This building draws quite regionally from Minnesota, from all of North Dakota and from some of South Dakota, and to be able to kind of broaden that circle and draw from the north is really important,” Rosburg said. “I think just (for) events’ success, it’s definitely a positive thing to be able to welcome back our Canadian visitors, for sure.”

Tickets are still available for the Brantley Gilbert concert, one of the last events of the year for the Alerus Center, on Dec. 16. Rosburg is optimistic that the border being open will increase ticket sales.

“I think everything helps for all of our events that we have,” Rosburg said. “We definitely are looking forward to being able to have that traffic back in the community again, so we’re really excited. Brantley Gilbert is in a different setup than Luke Combs and Eric Church were just based on the way that show is designed and built, but it’s going to be a great show. We’re really excited.”