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Our view: Approve Grand Forks’ request for Grand Forks’ $10 million tech-education request

If approved, Grand Forks could get as much as $10 million in match dollars; or, it could receive a lesser amount if the committee doles out funding communally.

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The people tasked with fundraising, planning and submitting a grant request to help fund a proposed career technical academy in Grand Forks have completed their work.

The application was sent to the state Department of Career and Technical Education before the required deadline. Funds raised locally for the project have reached $10.995 million, nearly $1 million beyond the goal. The hope is to receive $10 million in matching funds from the state so the local project can move forward to its fullest extent.

Now the community awaits word to see if Grand Forks is one of those chosen for this innovative and needed program. The decision should come by the end of March.

And to the state committee that will make the decision, we say this: Please, approve this application. Approve it with gusto and sign it with an exaggerated flourish of the pen, thus showing the rest of the state what dedication to a project and no small amount of elbow grease can do when minds – and the right people – are put to a task.

The proposal is to create the Career Impact Academy, a place where students of varying ages can earn advanced credit while still in high school or, in adulthood, study for a new career. It’s aimed specifically at generating workers for local employers’ needs amid a labor shortage that could stifle economic growth and development in this region.

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About $88 million in state funding exists, to be given out by the state committee. By anecdotal count, there are probably 10 to 15 communities that have completed their own applications and also are coming to the committee in search of funding for their own tech-education projects.

If approved, Grand Forks could get as much as $10 million in match dollars; or, it could receive a lesser amount if the committee doles out funding communally.

Hopefully, the committee will strongly consider:

● Grand Forks had more than 70 businesses and individuals make contributions to the fund drive. Did other communities see numerous donations across a wide swath of business sectors? Or did they fill the local donor bucket with few donations, or donations of property alone? If that’s the case, it doesn’t match the wholesale buy-in that happened here.

● The Grand Forks fund drive took only 70 days to complete. To raise $10 million in just over two months shows the intense community interest that swelled around the project.

● The school district, the city and the county all made sizable donations. This should move Grand Forks, and other entities who have similar civic support, to the top of the candidate list.

● There was genuine excitement surrounding the efforts here. There were a number of media reports updating the progress of the fund drive and the project’s evolving plans. The PR effort was aided by efforts from the fundraising group.

Selecting the cities to receive these state funds – which originated from federal COVID relief funding – should not be an objective process. Not at all.

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Rather, it should be intensely subjective, designed to lend the most aid to the best plans and those that received the most, and proven, communitywide support.

Disclaimer: Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel is a board member of the Economic Development Corp., which has played a role in fundraising and planning efforts for the proposal academy. 

Related Topics: OUR VIEWCITY OF GRAND FORKS
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A discussion Monday by the Grand Forks Committee of the Whole could lead to changes for public comments at city meetings.