Grand Forks must take economic bull by the horns
It's now looking less likely that the Grand Forks area will get a casino, at least via the proposal in the North Dakota House. House Majority Leader Al Carlson's resolution has met with nothing but setbacks in committee, which means House passage...
It's now looking less likely that the Grand Forks area will get a casino, at least via the proposal in the North Dakota House.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson's resolution has met with nothing but setbacks in committee, which means House passage is uncertain and Senate approval is even less likely than that.
But here's the thing: If not a casino, Grand Forks still needs something.
Something, that is, to reverse the weakening the city has seen in its power as a tourist draw.
Something, to help keep Mayor Mike Brown's "Destination City" dream alive.
What might that something be? Who knows? All we know is that the retail closures, the budget cuts at the University of North Dakota, the Canadian exchange rate and the low commodity prices amount to a series of body blows to the Grand Forks economy.
What's worse, most of the trends are moving in the wrong direction, as far as Grand Forks' interests are concerned. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are under pressure as never before. The internet's stream of pixels turns out to have whitewater-rapids strength in its ability to erode the bedrock from under industries.
That, in turn, hurts Canadian traffic. Because when it comes to pulling travelers off the interstate, the richness of Grand Forks' retail smorgasbord has been the most powerful attraction by far.
Couple that with UND's retrenchments - again, a sobering trend that shows little sign of reversing, at least at the state level - and you've got a city whose growth prospects look a lot less bright.
What to do?
Talking about it and thinking about it would be a great start. That's where ideas come from; and right now, Grand Forks needs all the ideas it can get.
Understand, all is not lost. Grand Forks remains a healthy and vibrant community, with huge advantages that many other cities would envy. We'd rank UND's presence, a diversifying local economy, good schools, a low crime rate, a great quality of life and the oil industry's exciting prospects in North Dakota at the top of the list.
And those aren't the features of a city stuck in decline.
But while many of the fundamentals are sound, the economic shocks of recent months have been enough to raise even boosters' concerns.
Now, we should turn that fretting into determination - and act.
We've mentioned our admiration for Sioux Falls, S.D., before. Although Sioux Falls sits at the intersection of two interstates, it's neither the capital of South Dakota nor the home of a big university. So, the city has had to hustle, and the economy that has resulted has been very impressive indeed.
Grand Forks has been known to hustle, too - especially after the air base's downsizing, and then again after the flood. Now, capitalism's "creative destruction" is prompting a whole new set of changes.
We're seeing the "destruction" part. Let's make sure we unleash the "creative" side, too.