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After governor's visit, Grand Forks leaders turn to the road ahead

After a Thursday visit, Gov. Doug Burgum has turned his taillights toward Grand Forks, and city leaders are now thinking of what they've learned--and what comes next.

After a Thursday visit, Gov. Doug Burgum has turned his taillights toward Grand Forks, and city leaders are now thinking of what they've learned-and what comes next.

The centerpiece of the visit was Burgum's "Main Street initiative," which emphasizes community "vibrancy," infrastructure and workforce development. Often that means big changes for a downtown area, where an appealing streetscape and things to do help catch talented workers' interest. It's also tightly tied to a denser community, with Burgum's philosophy calling for growth where it's most efficient, especially when it can boost downtowns.

"It was nice re-hearing his vision, but it was also nice how his visit reinforced how many things we're doing here in Grand Forks," Mayor Mike Brown said. "It reinforced that we're doing a good job as a community."

Burgum's visit began with a bus tour of downtown before a public, roundtable discussion with more than two dozen community leaders. The governor then visited three local businesses and wrapped up his evening as the keynote speaker at a Chamber-hosted banquet.

City leaders have long endorsed the vision Burgum outlined once again Thursday, and now that he's back in Bismarck, that work continues. Multiple city leaders said upcoming construction along a downtown stretch of DeMers Avenue is one such opportunity.


"The governor's a pretty good speaker. That stood out to me," City Council President Dana Sande said of the banquet address. "My overall takeaway from this is that the city of Grand Forks needs to do a better job of utilizing technology to make life easier for our citizens-and potentially save money."

Sande added that he hopes to attend a summit on the governor's initiative in Bismarck next month. And he said the city will consider tinkering with the tax incentive structures that help boost the kind of development the governor is looking for.

At his address, Burgum publicly chafed at the Herald's description of the trip as his "first official visit" to the community. Burgum said his visits included sporting events, a Petroleum Council meeting and for Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's trip to the city.

Local leaders were split his remarks. City Council Vice President Ken Vein said he believes previous visits "for a specific purpose" fit the term. City Council President Dana Sande said he wasn't immediately sure how to define it-though Thursday was Burgum's first visit "engaging with Grand Forks city leaders."

A spokesman said the Governor's Office did not have adequate time to immediately respond to a Friday request seeking Burgum's definition and information about Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford's prior visits to the area.

But for Brown, this was indeed the "first official visit."

"He's visited UND, he visited Red Pepper, he visited the community," Brown said. "I think this is first time I remember when we (city leaders) sat down together and had the discussion. ... It's different because we need to interact, I think. And that was a great opportunity. We appreciate that."

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