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Gov. Burgum discusses Main Street Initiative with Bowman community

Gov. Doug Burgum held a roundtable discussion with community leaders in Bowman, N.D., on Thursday afternoon as part of a two-day tour regarding the governor's Main Street Initiative aimed at revitalizing cities and communities across North Dakota.

Governor Doug Burgum met with community leaders in Bowman on Tuesday afternoon and discussed North Dakota's Main Street Initiative. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)
Governor Doug Burgum met with community leaders in Bowman on Tuesday afternoon and discussed North Dakota's Main Street Initiative. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)

Gov. Doug Burgum held a roundtable discussion with community leaders in Bowman, N.D., on Thursday afternoon as part of a two-day tour regarding the governor's Main Street Initiative aimed at revitalizing cities and communities across North Dakota.

Burgum also had meetings in Devils Lake, New Rockford and Hettinger as part of the tour.

"You have to build the community that people want to live in and put their roots in, that young people want to move to," Burgum said, "If every community reaches their potential, then the state of North Dakota can reach its potential. Building blocks come one community at a time."

About 25 residents of Bowman and the region attended the event including city and county commissioners, representatives from local schools, hospital employees and local business people.

The discussion was structured around the "three pillars" of Burgum's Main Street Initiative: creating a skilled workforce, healthy and vibrant communities and smart and efficient infrastructure.

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A theme that Burgum noticed along the tour was a shortage of workers to fill a broad variety of jobs in small towns across the state, and this was echoed by members of the Bowman community.

Chief Financial Officer of Southwest Healthcare Services Sasha Ruggles and other representatives from the newly opened hospital in Bowman discussed the struggles they are having in filling full-time openings for nurses and nursing assistants. In order to fill the shifts, the hospital provides incentives for staff to work extra hours but often they are forced to rely upon contracted labor from larger markets, which costs them double of what it would to just hire locally.
Representatives from the Bowman County school board said that though they have filled their teaching positions this year, it is getting more and more difficult to attract teachers to Bowman.

"In the earlier years we sold them on our community, that was really beneficial," one Bowman county school board member said, "Now we get no applicants ... we can't even get people to come down and take a look."

Local business leaders and tradespeople also discussed the challenges of training workers only to lose them to higher paying work in the oil industry.

In response, Burgum discussed the need to both give communities more power in educating their students and create the type of communities that they would want to come back to.

"There is a big shortage of labor so we've really got to come together to come up with solutions for workforce development," Burgum said, "You look around the room in the smaller communities and it's the same people on, you know five boards, we have to challenge them on how to develop the next generation of leadership. How do we get high school kids engaged now."

Executive Director for the Bowman County Development Corporation Teran Doerr told the governor about the work Bowman residents were doing locally to create a more vibrant community. She noted that Bowman had recently opened a new hospital and airport, and holds one of the best day care facilities in the state thanks to the help of a benefactor.

She also noted some issues that could make the community better were building an indoor pool, keeping the local theater open and trying to land a steak house in the area.

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"The lack of a steak house is actually a big deal," she said, "there is major (economic) leaking in the community."

In closing, Burgum stressed the need to emphasize the uniqueness of communities and the importance of building them around people rather than cars.

"People look at communities how they are differentiated from others," Burgum said, "one of the top things is there has to be some neighborhood that is walkable and mixed-use."

In an interview before the event, Burgum discussed how to create more sustainable development in larger communities like Dickinson.

"At the city level you have to pay attention to your footprint," Burgum said, "in larger communities like Dickinson the development has to be where can we get private capital to where we have existing infrastructure as opposed to using public dollars and hope someone comes. Getting private capital to come to your existing infrastructure is the highest return on investment for the taxpayer."

Governor Burgum met with a few dozen community leaders at the Bowman Lodge and Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)
Governor Burgum met with a few dozen community leaders at the Bowman Lodge and Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)

Related Topics: DOUG BURGUM
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