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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Smart Growth in Fargo Moorhead Area Business

Fargo ND More than ever before the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) is enthusiastic about the opportunities our community of Cass and Clay Counties is facing. Unlike most communities, Greater Fargo Moorhead has the opportunity to proactively define its place in the global economy, and we are taking advantage of it.

The GFMEDC and a number of community leaders have developed a Growth Plan that focuses strategic investments in areas that are vitally important to our ability to compete for the types of businesses and jobs that will be driving growth in the future. These areas include Centers for the Advancement of Emerging Technology, entrepreneurial infrastructure, telecommunications, air service, and K-12 STEM education. Greater Fargo Moorhead now has the opportunity to compete on a global playing field instead of the regional one we have traditionally inhabited. Doing so means stepping up the level of investment we are willing to make in the future of our community.

The GFMEDC is a public-private partnership funded by both taxpayer dollars and private investment. About forty-five percent of our funding is provided by city and county investment, while about fifty-five percent is provided by investments from community businesses. This funding goes to cover the organization’s operating expenses, business retention and expansion program, workforce recruitment efforts, marketing, and various economic development projects.

Every four years the GFMEDC asks the business community to step up to the table and invest in the growth and prosperity of Greater Fargo Moorhead. Our investor base is largely comprised of those companies for which growth in the community is paramount to their success – banks, healthcare institutions, construction, and real estate, for example. Our investors recognize the importance of economic development strategies in bringing new folks to our community for quality jobs, and keeping those who are already here, here.

Like all investments, these businesses would not keep supporting the GFMEDC if they did not feel it was worth their investment. That’s why our organization takes accountability very seriously. Whether it is increases in population, personal income, taxable sales or housing starts, it is the tangible results and responsibility to the regional economy that guides our strategy and holds us accountable to our investors.

The GFMEDC has just embarked on its 2008-2011 campaign, the Smart Growth Initiative. The name signifies our focus on intelligent, progressive growth in Greater Fargo Moorhead; not just growth for growth’s sake, but growth that will make the community a better place to work and do business. Smart growth translates into a new strategy of measuring the success of our organization. In the past, we measured our progress solely on the creation of new jobs; if 1,000 new primary sector jobs were created each year, regardless of wage or skill level, we considered our job well done. Today, we recognize that the new job metric is not the most accurate way to measure smart growth. Instead, we have developed a number of new metrics, all of which center on quality, not quantity, that will allow us to better position Greater Fargo Moorhead for the national and global players that we are competing against.

Our goal for the Smart Growth Initiative is two-fold; we want to raise $3.2 million dollars from private sector investment, and we want to increase our investor base by an additional $1 million. If that means doubling our investor base of 153 companies, we are ready and enthusiastic for the challenge. The GFMEDC has hired Michael D. Gustafson as its campaign consultant to lead the charge for new investment. Michael is working hard to recruit volunteers to help spread the word about the GFMEDC’s vision for the future and the importance of investing in that future. If you or anyone from your firm are interested in reviewing a list of businesses in Cass and Clay Counties, or assisting Michael in calling on businesses, please contact him at or 701.238.2785.

On behalf of the GFMEDC board and staff I sincerely thank all of our public and private sector contributors for their commitment and support. We are looking forward to continuing to pursue smart growth for every citizen of Cass and Clay Counties.

Walters is the president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation. He can be reached at 701.364.1900 or

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