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Mayor Mike Brown: A great week in ND's 'best college town'

. Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks HeraldGrand Forks Mayor Mike Brown talks with the editorial board Wednesday afternoon.

What better time than this week to talk about why Grand Forks, the proud home of the University of North Dakota, is the recognized best college town in the state and how we get to the “Best College Town.” Period.

With UND Homecoming and Potato Bowl Week merged this week, it reminds us of UND’s and the community’s interconnectedness.

Our favorite Potato Bowl activities share the same calendar and spaces as UND Homecoming. Sioux Awards and the UND Hall of Fame fill out the week’s nights while the combined parades and football game top off the week.

I am excited about this because, more than any other time, the paths of the Grand Forks community and the University of North Dakota are aligned. Our relationship is the best in a long while and also holds the most promise.

UND and community. College and town. College-town.

Of course, we are not just a college town. Grand Forks’ “brand,” or who we are, also includes: Safe and family-friendly; Rooted in agriculture; Staunch supporter of the military - A Global Hawk Community!; and the regional health and entertainment destination city.

But being a college town is at the heart of who we are, always have been, and always will be.

The visible symbols fill the community. Marquees throughout town welcome students. The Homecoming and Potato Bowl parade on Saturday will follow a path adorned with flags and banners and businesses’ painted windows cheering on UND and its athletes.

But perhaps not as obvious are even more fundamental, collaborative actions that anchor our relationship and that have helped set the foundation for future opportunities.

Many of these are, of course, due to interactions forged and strengthened across many years, many disciplines and many levels. I am grateful to all who have come before us and provided us with the college-town foundation on which we stand. It is our privilege.

And with that privilege comes our responsibility to do our part, to be bold, and to be leaders in action to drive future success.

Fortunately, UND leadership, particularly President Kennedy and Provost Tom DiLorenzo, have accepted that responsibility and are working with community leaders to sow the seeds for positive outcomes in areas where we have shared values, like workforce, economic growth and diversification, community health and vibrancy, and solvent infrastructure strategies.

On the workforce front - still the number one local business concern - tangible investments supported by President Kennedy and Provost DiLorenzo help our community recruit and retain young people.

Efforts recently supported by UND include Evolve Grand Forks’ 701 Co-working Space, GGFYP and Community Foundation’s The Longest Table, Empire Art Center’s UND Art Gallery and Gov. Burgum’s Main Street Initiative, as well as becoming a participant in the Air University Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative program to provide more opportunities for Grand Forks Air Force Base airmen and their dependents.

In research, UND is championing real opportunities that impact the state and local community, from investigating neurology, cancer and substance use disorders to advancing oil recovery and carbon capture technologies to innovating and commercializing unmanned systems and related sectors.

In fact, the city and UND are also partnering on “boots on the ground” research to optimize the Grand Forks Regional Water Treatment Plant and keep our roads safe.

UND and the city are collaborating to plan, leverage investments, and construct streets and streetscapes, mixed-use developments and neighborhood infrastructure along the University Avenue corridor through campus and stretching to downtown.

And on the field, President Kennedy’s leadership in promoting a boosted Game Day Experience helps an Alerus Center full of fans to tailgate and cheer on Coach Bubba and our Fighting Hawks football team.

Lastly, I appreciate the leadership in celebrating and marketing the outstanding story that is the University of North Dakota, its renowned programs and faculty, and its hometown. We know as the reputation of UND grows, so does that of Grand Forks and the region.

I hope Herald readers are enjoying the collaborative energy and town-gown enthusiasm of UND Homecoming and Potato Bowl activities this week.

I also hope you get used to it. We have a bright future and a lot more in store.

Mike Brown has been mayor of Grand Forks since 2000.