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Walworth: Why Beach needs the railport

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opinion Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
(701) 225-4205 customer support
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

There is a lot of talk about the proposed railport west of the city of Beach right now. While some residents demand that the Beach City Council deny it completely, there are many residents that are excited about the railport and support its approval.

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So why does Beach need the railport? Positive economic impact, stemming out-migration, diversification and tax reduction.

There are three people scenarios or economic drivers from people to a community through jobs and employment:

-- People who live in a community and drive elsewhere to work.

-- People who live elsewhere and drive to the community to work.

-- People who live and work in the community.

To capture the highest impact, the third driver is the best scenario.

Beach already has the first scenario, because we do not have much to offer if someone wants to make enough to live on with one job. We have low unemployment because people are not coming to Beach specifically to work and we are exporting our workforce to other communities.

Many of those coming to Beach are coming to find a place to sleep, though their job is in another county. With workers leaving at the crack of dawn and returning well after dark, how much money are they spending within the county in which they are sleeping?

Those types of communities where people sleep are called “bedroom communities.” Yes, they are paying rent, perhaps utilities, but where are they buying their food, gas and other necessities? Likely, they are purchasing what they need during the time they are awake and not in Beach.

Each year, Beach High School graduates about 25 students. Generally about half or so plan to attend college or technical school, one or two usually plan to join the military. That leaves about 8 to 10 students trying to find their way as young adults. Of those, how many would be interested in staying in Beach? Two or three?

Could we retain two, three or more each year if they had a good job that would allow them to pay for their own place to live, groceries, etc.? Without good paying jobs to keep our graduates in Beach or interested in coming back if college is not for them, we are losing our future. We are sending all our youth elsewhere.

In my industry, that’s called outmigration. Outmigration is what North Dakota has experienced for 70 years of our history. We know from experience that outmigration is not a good thing. It is how communities die.

It has not been that long since our communities in Golden Valley County were experiencing a loss of population. Golden Valley County has not yet come far enough to not end up going back to that point.

We already have agriculture and oil in the county. The railport is important because we need to diversify our economy with more industries. The railport provides an opportunity for more industries that will strengthen the current business climate within the county.

Beach needs the railport because we want Beach and the communities in Golden Valley County to thrive. We need to move forward toward growth because we want to retain the bit of growth we’ve experienced in the past few years. We need to offer good jobs with good wages within our county borders for the people already here and to attract new families.

Beach and the surrounding communities in Golden Valley County will have 40 permanent jobs with good wages. Golden Valley County will receive a $60 million dollar increase in the overall property value, which could reduce property taxes about 30 percent to 50 percent. Beach will have additional 1 percent city sales tax revenues that we also enjoy as tax reduction. Golden Valley County will have the opportunity to attract more young families.

If you support the railport, I encourage you to come to the public hearing on the Beach railport scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. Those that are opposed will certainly be there.

The council should hear both sides of the issue.

Walworth is from Beach. She is the executive director of Prairie West Development Foundation, a non-profit organization in Billings and Golden Valley counties. She is also the secretary of the Vision West ND consortium.

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