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Healthy, vibrant city

Vacant buildings, such as the Elks building in downtown Jamestown, could be part of the discussion on how to build successful communities. Gov. Doug Burgum is meeting with community leaders Tuesday as part of his Main Street Initiative. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Gov. Doug Burgum will hear about a lot of different topics on Tuesday when he comes to Jamestown to discuss his Main Street Initiative. Burgum will tour Jamestown before meeting with community leaders at Harold Newman Arena at the University of Jamestown.

The event is by invitation and will include members from the boards of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce, Jamestown City Council and Stutsman County Commission.

"They wanted it to be small enough for there to be discussion," said Becky Thatcher-Keller, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. "We have about 50 people that are invited."

The agenda provided by the North Dakota Department of Commerce breaks the topics down into what Burgum has referred to as the three pillars of economic success: a skilled workforce, smart efficient infrastructure and a healthy, vibrant community.

"All are important and tie to each other," said Ramone Gumke, Jamestown city councilman. "The healthy, vibrant community leads to people coming to Jamestown and building the workforce. The infrastructure contributes to the bottom line for businesses and people."

Other leaders see one category or another being more important for a vital Jamestown.

"Workforce is the key thing," Thatcher-Keller said. "A lot of us are feeling the community needs a long-range plan with priorities to bring people in."

Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC, said infrastructure will be a major topic but vacant buildings and underutilized spaces are also a problem in Jamestown.

"My concern is buildings like the Elks and the Eagles," she said. "How long do we let them set?" Ova said the Buffalo Mall and Jamestown Civic Center are underutilized facilities in Jamestown that might be improved to help draw more conventions and conferences to town.

"It all takes money," Ova said, speaking of the common connection between all the projects.

The downtown area was on the mind of Pam Phillips, Jamestown city councilman.

"What I think we need is to fill the storefronts," she said. "Have the landlords look at these properties and see what they can do to make them viable."

One of the questions listed on the Department of Commerce agenda deals with "infill development."

Infill development attempts to add businesses and potentially new buildings to vacant spots within the current community rather than developing new areas on the edge of town. This type of development reduces the number of miles of road and the amount of water and sewer pipes the city must maintain, reducing costs.

Ova said an infill program could offer incentives to make the downtown area look more consistent or refurbish old buildings to meet building codes.

Thatcher-Keller said the Tuesday meeting is a chance for community leaders to tell the governor what things need to be done to help Jamestown succeed.

"It sets the stage for the next legislative session to justify money for the Main Street Initiative," she said. "As far as Jamestown goes, we'll wait to see what the governor says."