BISMARCK-Grand Forks leaders walked the marble floors of North Dakota's Capitol on Thursday for the first part of a two-day trip to Bismarck aimed at representing the city to state leaders.

Though the highlight of the week-a meeting with Gov. Doug Burgum-doesn't come until today at 10 a.m., the first day had multiple big agenda items. City staff listened in at a budgetary hearing where leaders heard testimony on millions of dollars for local unmanned aircraft funding, and later in the afternoon, a platoon of local leaders-hailing from UND, the city and the private sector-sat in on a roundtable meeting with North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

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Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, speaking after the latter meeting, described it as a chance to build a relationship and a positive dialogue.

"It's a two-way street. We show our support as a community for the university system and the chancellor, and the difficulties they're facing ... and then we get to hear his perspective," Brown said. "The challenges they face and how we can group together to communicate those challenges."

The meeting comes at a time that the state government is pinched for cash amid low oil and agricultural prices, with UND feeling the pinch. The university is bracing for $16 million in cuts on campus this coming biennium, with effects to be felt from faculty staffing levels to athletics.

Hagerott offered extended remarks during the meeting, commenting on the importance of technological exploration at UND. He compared a recent summit at UND on defense against "waves of robotic attack" to the significance of early research on radar, later pointing to his frustration with budget cuts. He suggested at one point that local leaders lobby their legislators on behalf of university funding.

"We have all the tools to even out this spike, and thankfully our state is very conservative fiscally, because ... there are states that are going broke," he said. "It is wonderful we're fiscally conservative, but I sure wish we could carve higher ed out and not have this blip."

Discussion during the meeting riffed extensively on the relationship between a city and a university and how partnerships between the two could be helpful. The city's ability to be a more "welcoming, livable" place, Hagerott later explained, is an important piece of support.

City Council member Bret Weber, who is also a UND faculty member, touched on that line of thinking when he voiced his own frustration with state budgetary measures.

"I'm not frustrated with people, I'm frustrated with timing," Hagerott told a Herald reporter after the meeting, describing his disappointment with budgetary changes in terms of fluctuating state revenues-all at a time when university partnerships are poised for critical outside investment.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the meeting, which also included representatives of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., the local Chamber and UND student government, was aimed at showcasing the community's collaboration.

"The chancellor already knows where things are at," Johnson said. "We're sort of (preaching) to the choir, in a sense. We'll be doing the same tomorrow, and helping everybody understand that we're coming together as a community and supporting our individual initiatives, but also collectively supporting initiatives."

Friday's itinerary for local officials begins at 8 a.m., when Grand Forks officials meet with the commerce commissioner, before continuing at 9 a.m. with officials from the Bank of North Dakota. The visit with Gov. Burgum is slated for 10 a.m., and local officials' trip to Bismarck concludes shortly after noon.