BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday, Oct. 29, touted local examples of his Main Street Initiative in action.

The governor kicked off the three-day Main Street North Dakota Summit in Bismarck, highlighting the initiative's "pillars" and how they've been achieved in communities in North Dakota.

City and business leaders from Valley City, Bottineau, Garrison, Grand Forks and Beach joined Burgum to discuss their communities' economic, workforce and infrastructure developments. Burgum's Main Street Initiative champions workforce development, efficient infrastructure and "healthy, vibrant communities" to reinvigorate mainly rural and small towns.

"If you're here, it means that you've got a growth mindset," said Burgum, who announced his reelection bid Thursday. "It means that you get excited about new ideas, that challenges are things that you think are opportunities as opposed to things to run away from."

Members of the Democratic-NPL Party, which has not yet named a candidate to challenge Burgum, have expressed skepticism about what his initiative is actually accomplishing.

"Burgum brags about being the best leader for a changing economy, touting his hazy Main Street Initiative, but the reality is he hasn’t moved the needle on North Dakota’s business climate,” Democratic-NPL Party spokeswoman Alison Jones said in July.

Burgum and Valley City Mayor Dave Carlsrud pointed to visual appeal incorporated into recent projects in Valley City, such as artful designs in the Sheyenne River floodwall and newly installed streetlamps that Burgum said invoke a "romantic" ambiance like Paris.

"People will go where they're invited but they stay where they feel welcome, and we want people to feel welcome in Valley City," Carlsrud said.

Carlsrud said the Main Street Initiative has made Valley City leaders more aware of the look of their city's streetscapes and its role in attracting visitors and new residents, according to Carlsrud.

"Now we need to have a place that first of all is eye candy and then we have to have people who are welcoming," he said.

Bottineau County Economic Development Corp. Director Whitney Gonitzke said the Main Street Initiative "has really given us these high-level ideas about what we want to go for." She highlighted family friendly events and Lake Metigoshe recreation.

Beach City Auditor Kim Gaugler said she and others went home with ideas from the 2018 Main Street North Dakota Summit and hired a strategic planning consultant who identified areas of focus identical to the Main Street Initiative's principles.

In his 2016 campaign, Burgum championed the Main Street Initiative as an economic development plan to "revitalize" downtowns. His office has made 57 "Main Street visits" to communities across North Dakota, including Bismarck and Mandan.

Democratic-NPL Party Chairwoman Kylie Oversen agreed on the priority of economic development in rural and small North Dakota towns but expressed skepticism about the Main Street Initiative's outcomes.

"In looking at the description on the governor's website about the Main Street Initiative, it's a lot of talk and a lot of nice-sounding words, but there isn't a lot of action items within the plan," Oversen said. "There's not a lot of actual, demonstrated efforts in how they're living out this initiative, and so that's kind of disappointing."

Democrats are "still having conversations" about statewide candidates, who will likely emerge after Jan. 1, Oversen said.

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