GMNP has excellent turnout, discussion at regional meetings

Attendees share ideas for stimulating economic growth at the Greater Minnesota Partnership's regional meeting in Bemidji on Oct. 18.

Attendees share ideas for stimulating economic growth at the Greater Minnesota Partnership’s regional meeting in Bemidji on Oct. 18.

Every community in Greater Minnesota has its own unique priorities and needs when it comes to economic development, but it is apparent that different cities and regions share many of the same challenges.

Currently halfway through their six-city regional meeting tour, Greater Minnesota Partnership Executive Director Dan Dorman and Senior Lobbyist Mike Miller are learning a lot about the local and regional issues affecting economic development and hearing ideas on ways to stimulate growth throughout Greater Minnesota.

“The meetings have been really successful. We’ve heard a lot of good ideas and questions from community members,” Miller said, noting that there have been between 25 and 35 attendees at each meeting. “It’s been extremely beneficial to hear about what is important to the different groups represented at the meetings.”

The meetings, which have been held in Granite Falls, Thief River Falls and Bemidji thus far, brought together diverse groups of local entrepreneurs, legislators, city officials, economic development professionals, representatives from chambers of commerce and higher education, and others concerned about economic development in their communities.  The Partnership is hosting the meetings to gather feedback from business and community leaders throughout Minnesota, and the information gathered will be used as a framework as the Partnership determines its advocacy priorities and agenda going into the 2014 Legislative Session.

Dorman and Miller agreed that the regional meetings provide a great opportunity to hear about the various concerns different communities face.

“Many of the ideas we’ve been hearing stem from regional needs,” Miller said following Friday’s meeting in Bemidji. “In Granite Falls, there was a focus on transportation issues. In Thief River Falls, lack of housing is a real concern. Here in Bemidji, where a lot of great things are happening in terms of economic development, there was a lot of discuss about access to capital.”

Despite the differences between the communities, some over-arching themes have emerged when it comes to what is needed to advance economic development in Greater Minnesota.

“There is a consensus at every meeting that we need roads, bridges, housing and broadband – to name a few common challenges – if Greater Minnesota is going to attract businesses and jobs,” Miller said. “The Partnership is looking forward to advocating at the State Capitol for resources and policies that will address these issues.”

At least three cities remain on the Partnership’s regional meeting schedule: Red Wing on Oct. 23, Baxter on Oct. 29 and Worthington on Nov. 1. Additional cities may also be added. Go here for a full schedule of the meetings, including times and locations. The meetings are open to the public and anyone who is interested in sharing ideas and voicing concerns about economic development issues is encouraged to attend.