EAST GRAND FORKS – The workforce is and continues to be a top priority in East Grand Forks, and the city’s economic development authority plans to support the programs and incentives that are in place to help small businesses in need.
One of them is the Northwest Small Business Development Center, which is housed at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Paul Gorte, the city’s economic development director, said the NWSBDC offers a free service that advises people who want to start a business.
“They would help talk about how to start a business, how to run a business and how to help a business survive,” Gorte said.
Having a service that provides both a business plan and a financial plan is vital to ensuring business success, according to Gorte.
“We think it’s important,” he said. “If you have an idea that you want 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 also works with the Northwest Private Industry Council, a private, non-profit organization that provides training services to businesses in northwest Minnesota.
Continued support for the business community is one of EDA’s top priorities for 2023 and was a priority for the city last year as well. City officials regularly meet with business leaders to discuss the issues they face. EDA administers revolving loan programs with between $1.5 million and $2 million available to businesses this year.
In addition to supporting local businesses, another top EDA priority for 2023 is continued support for Northern Valley Careers and Wave Academy. Both aim to get high school students interested in careers available in the region.
The Northern Valley Career Fair, in its 10th year in 2022, brings together approximately 1,800 high school students from northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota to explore the region’s high-paying and in-demand careers.
Wave Academy has been around for three years and is run by East Grand Forks High School. The academy helps connect students with local employers in careers they may want to pursue. Students start at the academy as freshmen and graduate as seniors. During the four years, they learn how to apply their interests to a career and can get job shadowing and internship opportunities.
Several other priorities for 2023 were approved by the EDA board at its meeting late last year. These priorities include:
- “Look after children.” The need for childcare was also highlighted in the past year. The city began working with the Rural Child Care Innovation Program, which is managed by the nonprofit organization First Children’s Finance and funded jointly by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education. Public meetings held in early 2022 allowed parents and childcare providers to share their thoughts and an action plan for a community solution was created. Work continues to create a child care foundation with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation.
“Increasing Industrial Space – Land and Buildings.” Gorte said increasing the industrial space is a high priority, but there has to be a way to pay for the expansion. The aim is to work together with the establishment of enterprises that will provide some of the funding so that the costs are not borne locally.
“It has to be tied to something that we’re going to have some kind of revenue from,” Gorte said
- “Town Lot Sale.” The city owns several residential lots and hopes to continue selling them off.
- “Bridges and Infrastructure.” Continued maintenance targets the proposed Intercity Bridge and Merrifield Bridge projects, which would add two more connections between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Gorte said other infrastructure needs relate to providing the city with adequate infrastructure to serve the city’s commercial and industrial areas.