EAST GRAND FORKS – Workforce is and will continue to be a priority in East Grand Forks, and the city’s Economic Development Authority plans to support struggling small businesses with programs and incentives.
One of them is the Northwest Small Business Development Center, which is located locally at the University of Minnesota Crookston. According to the city’s economic development director, Paul Gorte, the NSBCDC. It offers a free service that advises people who want to start a business.
“They help talk about setting up the business, how to run the business and how to help the business survive,” Gorte said.
According to Gorte, having a service that provides both business planning and financial planning is essential to ensuring business success.
“We think it’s important,” he said. “If you have an idea to start a business, we want it to be profitable.”
The center is funded by state and local contributions. Gorte said the EDA provides $10,000 for annual expenses.
The city works with the Northwest Private Industry Council, a private, nonprofit organization that provides training services to businesses throughout northwest Minnesota.
Continued support for the business community is one of the EDA’s top priorities in 2023, and was a top priority for the city last year. City officials regularly meet with business leaders to address issues they face. EDA administers revolving loan programs for businesses of between $1.5 and $2 million this year.
In addition to support for local businesses, another top EDA priority for 2023 is continued support for the North Valley Career and Wave Academy. Both aim to get high school students interested in careers in the region.
In its 10th year in 2022, the North Valley Career Expo brings nearly 1,800 high school students from northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota to the region to explore high-paying and in-demand jobs in the region.
The Wave Academy has been in operation for three years and is run by East Grand Forks Senior High School. The academy helps connect students with local employers in the careers they want to pursue. Students start at the academy as freshmen and finish as seniors. During the four years, they learn how to apply their interests to a career and find job shadowing and job opportunities.
Several other priorities for 2023 were approved by the EDA Board at its meeting late last year. Priorities include:
- “Child care.” The importance of childcare has also been highlighted in the past year. The city has begun working with the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, which is administered by the nonprofit First Children Funding and co-sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education. Public input meetings held in early 2022 allowed parents and caregivers to share their thoughts and a Community Solutions Action Plan was created. Work is underway with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to implement a Child Care Foundation.
“Increasing industrial space – land and buildings.” Gorte said that increasing industrial space is a matter of great concern, but there must be a way to pay for the expansion. The goal is to work in conjunction with establishing businesses, which will provide some financial support so the cost does not have to be absorbed locally.
“It has to be tied to something where we get some revenue,” Gorte said.
- “City Lot Sale” The city owns several residential lots and hopes to continue selling them.
- “Bridges and Infrastructure”. Continued support centers on the proposed City and Merrifield Bridge projects, which will include two additional connections between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Ato Gorte said that in addition to making sure that the city has enough infrastructure to serve commercial and industrial areas, other infrastructures are needed.