GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Valley Prosperity Partnership has new leadership, which met this week and drew up an early outline of the group’s agenda – one they plan to refine in a second meeting on Dec. 30.
The meeting marks the beginning of a new era for VPP, an economic development group founded in 2012 that’s focused on issues facing the entire Red River Valley. The group’s new leadership has been expanded to include not only two co-chairpersons, but two vice-chairpersons, as well -- one of each pair from Grand Forks and the other from Fargo.
Steve Burian, who has previously led VPP as a co-chairperson, remains a leader with the group, and is joined by Marshal Albright, president and CEO of Cass County Electric. Co-chairpersons include Grand Forks resident Brian Johnson, CEO of Choice Financial, and Judd Graham, a Fargo regional executive for Bremer Bank.
Tammy Miller, the outgoing CEO of Border States Electric and a former co-chairperson of the group, was chosen by Gov. Doug Burgum to become the state of North Dakota’s chief operating officer, and had been expected to resign positions of volunteer leadership by October.
Burian said the leaders’ recent meeting was an opportunity to revisit the group’s top priorities, which center on key themes like local workforce development, water resources and university research.
“The whole origin of it is, there’s going to be things Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo do on their own and do well. There’s going to be things that Grand Forks-East Grand Forks do on their own and do well,” Burian said, adding that the goal of the group is trying to find projects that lift both communities and could use the extra support of their group.
“We’re going to be more of a policy and support organization than someone organically diving into things,” Burian continued. “(And) we’re going to be selective in our priorities.”
Though the group’s chief goals are still being discussed by new leadership, its recent priorities include support for large-scale water supply work as well as an attempt to pass a state bill creating an “economic diversification research grant fund,” which passed the state Senate but failed in the House during the most recent session of the Legislature. As recently as August, Burian also said the group was eyeing workforce development items that help connect students with skilled trades.
The work of the group – and others like it – is as important as ever as the North Dakota economy continues to change. According to UND economist David Flynn, Grand Forks in particular is “running to stand still,” with an essentially static labor market in recent years, mostly flat compared to cities like Fargo and Bismarck.
“Many of the VPP’s members have multiple locations throughout North Dakota,” Johnson said in a prepared statement released by the VPP. “We are committed to ensuring that our policies, plans and actions positively impact communities and people wherever they are and whatever their current opportunities and challenges might be.”
The VPP initiative was launched with the help of a $100,00 gift from Forum Communications Co. Chairman William C. Marcil.