Economic plan being developedA new 10-year plan for the North Dakota’s economic future is in the works — and it includes emphasis on new business and attracting and retaining workers.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A new 10-year plan for the North Dakota’s economic future is in the works — and it includes emphasis on new business and attracting and retaining workers.
The Economic Development Foundation worked on the plan Friday in Jamestown.
“They serve as a private sector advisory board to the Department of Commerce,” said Shane Goettle, commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce. “They are now looking out over the next 10 years to develop a new plan.”
Goettle said the existing plan was finalized in 2002 and was envisioned to carry the department through 2010.
“We’ve had five targeted industries,” he said. “Value-added agriculture, energy, tourism, advanced manufacturing and technology-based businesses. We want to maintain the focus on those things but also focus on new industries.”
Goettle said the priorities of the existing plan have served the state well.
“North Dakota is going to be a leading energy state,” he said. “Not just in fossil fuels but in renewable energy. In some cases agriculture and energy are working together to produce great things.”
And while energy and agriculture are doing well now, some of North Dakota’s manufacturing businesses are struggling.
“Our manufascturers are very stressed,” Goettle said. “It shows we are not immune from the recession.”
Goettle also said tourism has been affected by high gas prices and the economic downturn.
Some of the new industries the Department of Commerce hopes to see expand include vaccine development and manufacturing and unmanned aerial vehicles.
But along with a concentration on growth of industries Goettle said the plan needs to look at the things needed to make that expansion happen.
“There will be a lot more emphasis on work force retention and expansion,” he said. “And we want to support entrepreneurs and innovation.”
Supporting entrepreneurs may be a challenge in North Dakota.
“North Dakota has a culture of being adverse to risks and entrepreneurs,” said Rod Backman, a consultant with Covenant Consultants of Bismarck hired by the Economic Development Foundation. “We want to overcome that and help people with good ideas succeed as a business.”
Backman also saw the need to increase the work force in North Dakota.
“We need to focus on the growth and work force development,” he said. “The old business plan focused more on business development. We need to have the workers with the right skills.”
Goettle agreed that increasing the work force was an important, and sometimes difficult, task.
“Work force development is a challenge,” he said. “We need to retain youth, train people and attract people from outside the border. We should be able to do that because people will move towards opportunities.”
And Goettle believes improvements in the work force will help not only the business sector but the employees around North Dakota.
“The good news is our wage rate has climbed,” he said. “North Dakota has made steps to catch up to the rest of the nation in wages. But it is not just wages that will draw people, it is the opportunities we offer in and out of the workplace that will bring people.”
The Economic Development Foundation meets quarterly to review the status of business in North Dakota. It will complete its new 10-year plan by the first or second quarter of 2010.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com