Local drone startup Evolve Analytics touted its partnerships with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. and the UND Aerospace Foundation Monday night, as they sought yet another relationship with the city of Grand Forks.

The Grand Forks Jobs Development Authority, featuring all seven Grand Forks City Council members and Mayor Mike Brown, agreed to give the small company and the Foundation a $50,000 grant from its Growth Fund during its most recent meeting. That money, recipients said, hopefully will leverage $100,000 from Microsoft’s philanthropic “TechSpark” program.

“The name is quite literal,” said Evolve Analytics CEO Josh Riedy, adding the grant is meant to “spark technological innovation” where he said efforts may be sparse.  

Riedy’s group, founded in 2018, is uses drones to gather aerial imagery for Grand Forks agriculture and utility sectors.

With the TechSpark grant and another $200,000 from the UND Aerospace Foundation and the EDC, Riedy told city leaders he hopes to have a product ready by 2019. Through commercialization, he added, his company plans to offer five full-time positions and 10 to 20 local technology positions.

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City Administrator Todd Feland said the the project “hits a lot of (the city’s) boxes” regarding the its priorities regarding economic development, the drone sector and data analytics.

Council member Bret Weber, who chairs the JDA, called the project a “major research opportunity.”

“When I think of all the collaboration that’s been done,” said Weber, referring to contributions from Grand Forks County, the city and UND, “this is exactly the kind of thing we’ve been looking for.”

Council members agreed to move forward with litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors after a closed meeting Monday night.

The city is allowed to have closed meetings related to litigation according to state law.

City and county leaders joined forces earlier this year to hear from two legal teams wishing to represent them in a multi-district lawsuit against opioid companies. The county agreed to have the law firm Motley Rice LLC represent it in October. Council members agreed to have Robbins, Geller Rudman & Dowd represent the city, the second firm they heard from.