City leaders prep for Grand Forks Day
Grand Forks community, city and county leaders will head to Bismarck at the end of the month for their very own Grand Forks Day, with the aim of rallying support for local legislative priorities.
"This is, I think, the fifth session that we've had this partnership with the city, county, chamber, university and the (Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation). That's what makes up the group called 'Team Grand Forks,'" said Barry Wilfahrt, president of The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
Grand Forks Day will begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 with a visit to the state Department of Commerce. The group will meet later that afternoon with leaders from the North Dakota University System and state Department of Transportation before joining Grand Forks-area legislators and state leaders for hor d'oeuvres that evening.
On the morning of March 1, Team Grand Forks will meet with the Bank of North Dakota. At 10 a.m. that day, the group will move into the governor's conference room to meet with Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford.
Wilfahrt said he expects the group will focus on "key things that will really help our community," which includes funding for UND and its research, funding for the local unmanned aerial systems and drone industry, Grand Forks Air Force Base retention and military reciprocity.
"We feel really positive about our successes, historically," Wilfahrt said. "Some of the things that have been on our agenda have been the water treatment plant funding, the medical school funding, the law school funding, Grand Sky (and) base retention. We have a pretty good track record of success, in terms of accomplishing the things we put on this list as Team Grand Forks."
The group usually consists of about 30 people—about 80 percent community leaders and a few business people and interested citizens.
"And we really welcome that," Wilfahrt said of the latter demographic. "I think having a diverse group of people, from all walks of life, is beneficial and it adds some of those real life stories to the conversations we have with those state leaders."
Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown will lead the group during its time in the Capitol.
Brown said Thursday he thinks the state is doing a great job investing in its communities, and he said he looks forward to impressing upon state leaders what's important to his community.
"I think it's important that we keep our relationships fresh with our legislative bodies, and make sure they know our concerns so that they can better serve us and we know what to expect," Brown said. "I think it's a great opportunity to be engaged, and it's important that we're there."
Wilfahrt said Grand Forks Day is mostly about keeping in touch with "key leaders" across the state.
"We time this so it's really the midpoint of the legislative session, so we can kind of get a pulse on, directionally, what we need to do in the second half of the session," he said.