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Letter to the editor: Investing in western N.D.’s future is a N.D. investment

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If there is one thing that is certain in western North Dakota, it is change. While much of rural America seems to stand still, the 19 counties in the Vision West ND region are experiencing nation-leading change and growth. The recently released Vision West Regional Plan for Sustainable Development outlines the region’s plans to match quality of life with unmatched economic opportunity.

Unique to this plan is the process and the organization that has guided its development. Vision West ND is a community-level coalition of leaders and citizens who have advocated for addressing their individual community needs and at the same time promoted cooperation, unity and volunteerism as a region! Throughout the two-year planning process, more than 2,000 citizens in western North Dakota devoted at least two hours (many devoted more than 20 hours) to develop this regional plan which identified five key issues that are of broadest and deepest concern to the citizens of the region: child care, emergency services, housing, transportation and water.

The Vision West Regional Plan and its summary can be found online at www.vision westnd.com by selecting “Project Initiatives” then “Regional Plan” on the main menu.

The selection of these particular issues may surprise many North Dakotans who live outside of the 19 oil-producing counties. Note that crime is not one of the top issues in the regional plan. We are not saying crime isn’t an issue. However, crime is not a factor in the vast majority of residents’ daily lives. We do know that proper housing, day care, health care and roads are necessary to recruit and retain stable, long-term job seekers and families to our region. These communities are looking for solutions that will answer every day needs and better the quality of life in western North Dakota, now and in the future.

We ask that you review the Vision West ND Regional Plan and consider the challenges that western North Dakota faces with an open mind. A strong energy industry in our western communities can bring tremendous value to the state and the country. More and more, in-state and out-of-state businesses are choosing to expand into not only the Bakken region, but communities across North Dakota. It’s a trend that will continue well into the future as new industries migrate to the state in fields such as plastic, fertilizer and other petrochemical manufacturers invest in North Dakota facilities.

Investing in western North Dakota’s future is an investment in North Dakota’s future as well.

(Dukart is chairman of the Vision West ND Consortium and a Dunn County commissioner)

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