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OUR OPINION: You're invited: Help decide how Grand Forks will succeed

Research university. Community college. Openness and inclusion for new residents. Craft breweries. These are among the "Eleven signs a city will succeed," as determined by author James Fallows, who has written about community health in The Atlant...

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Research university. Community college. Openness and inclusion for new residents. Craft breweries.

These are among the "Eleven signs a city will succeed," as determined by author James Fallows, who has written about community health in The Atlantic, a commentary magazine based in Washington.

Fallows toured the nation in a single-engine plane, logging some 54,000 miles as he compiled research for a piece titled "Can America put itself back together?" In his accompanying "Eleven signs" article, he wrote that by the time he had been to a half dozen cities, he already had developed an informal checklist of traits that show what makes a town really work.

As far as we know, he didn't visit Grand Forks, but his checklist seems to show our city is on the right track.

Grand Forks has a research university. UND has had its issues of late-budget shortfall, culture concerns and a stinging nickname controversy-but it still stands as a premier research university. That's a coup for the city.

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A community college-Northland Community and Technical College-sits right across the river in East Grand Forks. The two-year school with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. It appears healthy and vibrant.

Grand Forks is an open and welcoming community, and recent efforts throughout the city show that.

And a craft brewery opened downtown last year.

What's left?

According to Fallows, here are the other seven "signs" a community needs:

▇ Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.

▇ An ability to pick out "local patriots," meaning deeply committed boosters and loyalists.

▇ Public-private partnerships are real.

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▇ People know the civic story.

▇ Healthy cities have a downtown.

▇ They have unusual schools.

▇ And they have "big plans."

Grand Forks already has varying shades of all of the above, but today, at least three of these other signs could make some sort of grand appearance. At 6 p.m. at the Herald, the Mayor's Downtown Vibrancy Committee will host an open house and seek input from residents who want to help shape Grand Forks' future. Pizza will be served for about a half-hour, and at 6:30, attendees will hear from the committee and also will be encouraged to visit various "stations" to hear proposals and discuss their own ideas.

Committee members will consider what they hear today and possibly use these ideas and comments in their final report to the city.

So, based upon Fallows' blueprint for a great community, we wonder if today's meeting will be the start of a process that will see real "local patriots" emerge. Of course, many already exist, but there's room for more.

And we hope to hear about public-private partnerships. Again, these already exist in Grand Forks, but there's room for more. Same goes for "big plans."

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Today's event is open to the public, and it truly is a chance for all voices to be heard.

Come to think about it, that's another great trait in Grand Forks. Leaders, planners and idea-makers seem to listen and show they care what others think.

We invite residents to come to tonight's event.

Members of the Mayor's Downtown Vibrancy Committee really want you to hear their ideas and for you to tell them yours.

Don't be shy. Tell them what you think.

-- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald

Opinion by Korrie Wenzel
Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.


As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.



Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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