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Our view: For Grand Forks, recent special session was special indeed

Local legislative delegates deserve credit for working together for the community. Also deserving credit is Team Grand Forks – a Chamber of Commerce-coordinated group that includes representatives from the Chamber, the Economic Development Corp., the city, the county and UND.

Herald pull quoted, 1/7/22
Herald graphic
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A Grand Forks Herald story last week declared state Sen. Ray Holmberg the Herald’s 2021 Person of the Year.

In the piece, sources commended Holmberg for helping bring millions of dollars to Grand Forks during the late-year special session of the state Legislature. Over the course of the five-day session in November, lawmakers gathered to dole out some $1 billion in federal COVID funding.

“Grand Forks did exceptionally well,” Barry Wilfahrt, head of the local Chamber of Commerce, said in the Herald’s Person of the Year story. “While Ray will be quick to give credit to many of the other legislators in our community, who certainly played a role, Ray is really the legislative leader in the Grand Forks legislative delegation.”

As Wilfahrt predicted, Holmberg did indeed pass along credit, shrugging and saying “it’s a team effort.”

So, what did Grand Forks’ legislative team, along with city and community leaders, achieve during the most recent session?

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Here’s a sampling, as recently reported by the Herald:

  • $150 million to support infrastructure for a natural gas pipeline that will link western oil fields with eastern communities.
  • $10 million for natural gas transportation to Grand Forks County.
  • $50 million for renovation projects at UND.
  • $10 million for space education and research at UND.
  • $2 million for hyperbaric oxygen therapy at UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Other dollars create opportunities elsewhere, including infrastructure projects – such as the proposed underpass at the corner of 42nd Avenue and DeMers Avenue. If that project is completed, it will be a game-changer for traffic along the southwest edge of UND’s campus.
It was, without doubt, an “unprecedented” session for Grand Forks. That’s how Wilfahrt describes it.

As the longtime head of the Senate Appropriations Committee and an elder statement in the Legislature, Holmberg certainly deserves credit. His position and efforts – as described by so many local leaders, as well as governors past and present – make him the face of the local legislative team.

But, as Holmberg said, it was a team effort, and Grand Forks is much better because of it. Local legislative delegates deserve credit for working together for the community. Also deserving credit is Team Grand Forks – a Chamber of Commerce-coordinated group that includes representatives from the Chamber, the Economic Development Corp., the city, the county and UND. Team Grand Forks comes together to create an agenda, something of a wish-list, heading into each session. The group then focuses lobbying power on an agreed-upon set of legislative goals – almost always structural items and not policy items – that the members believe will benefit the community.

And, importantly, local Reps. Corey Mock and Mark Sanford are on the House Appropriations Committee.

Do residents grasp how well Grand Forks fared during the November special session? After all, Wilfahrt recently asked rhetorically, “when was the last time Grand Forks got this kind of funding?”

Officially, the November gathering was a special session of the Legislature, which usually meets every two years in January.

And for Grand Forks, it was a special session indeed.

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