North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, visited Langdon on Monday, November 20, along with members of the District 10 legislators, to discuss his Main Street Initiative program.
By Lisa Nowatzki
To start the meeting, the Governor wanted to meet everyone and hear how everyone was related to the community. He listened intently to each speaker as they told the room about belonging to departments, committees, boards, and commissions. Burgum stated, “I want to know what ties everyone has to the community, to Langdon.”
After hearing from everyone, Burgum then solicited questions and concerns from the crowd. After a few minor discussions, Burgum got down to brass tacks and the three-prong plan to reinvigorate and ensure the economic success of North Dakota through Main Street. The three components are workforce development, healthy vibrant communities and a smart, efficient infrastructure.
The first topic up for discussion was workforce development and how this related to Langdon and every other small town in North Dakota. First in workforce development is the education and training of the next generation of North Dakotans. The Governor listened to Langdon Area School District (LASD) Superintendent, Daron Christianson, discuss the outstanding leadership exhibited by the student body including the Future Business Leaders of America, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, and Student Council leaders.
Burgum then talked about the recent Innovative Education Bill that recently passed. “This bill takes a crucial step in the right direction, empowering local school districts to better shape educational delivery to meet the needs of the 21st century,” Burgum said, “We are excited to put control of education back where it belongs – in the hands of teachers, students and parents.”
Christianson said, “We haven’t determined if we will pursue the Innovative Education Initiative yet. We are trying to get our feet on the ground with some other things first.”
The Governor then wanted to hear from the Job Development Authority (JDA). Shannon Duerr filled the Governor in on the progress made with the purchase of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Missile Site. Duerr included job creation and outlook for possible revenue generated by the site.
The Governor also heard about the JDA’s involvement with child care and the need for more child care in Langdon and the surrounding area. Along with that community success, the Governor also learned how JDA and local communities solved the EMT shortages by offering free training for a commitment for a number of work hours from the EMT.
Next, Burgum spoke about his vision of a healthy vibrant community. He asked, “What are some of the things that make Langdon a unique and desirable place to live?” And on the flip side, he wanted to know some of the things that the community needs to attract more people especially young millennials to Cavalier County and Langdon. For community assets, the group identified the Roxy Theater, the swimming pool, the Langdon Country Club and Golf Course, the Eagles Aerie #3454, the community park, the library, the Bread Pan, our Langdon Area School District, the Cavalier County Memorial Hospital, the Activity Center, our Main Street shops, and many other community assets.
The group also told the Governor about Langdon is and Cavalier County’s needs and areas that we lack. The group agreed that Langdon could use more restaurants and day cares. The area could also use more rental apartments and family housing to draw in younger people who want to stay and invest in the community.
Burgum also spoke to the group about “walkability.” More and more young adults want to live in communities that have businesses and recreational areas that are a quick walk or a bike ride away. The idea works well in Langdon and other small “Main Street” communities. However, Commissioner Elsie Magnus noted that much of her district and many of her constituents are located on rural farms and areas that do not have any “walkability” potential.
Burgum’s reply was positive and upbeat. He agreed that most of the Langdon population are locals who have been “born and raised” in the area, but to be a sustainable community growth is a key factor.
“We do need a net in-migration of people that believe in the same set of values, the same approaches and who appreciate the history who are willing to be entrepreneurs and risk takers to try to revitalize the communities.” Bergum shared.
The final leg of the Main Street Initiative builds on a smart and efficient infrastructure. Burgum asked the crowd what types of maintenance and infrastructure Cavalier County and Langdon need to be sustainable and attractive to new residents. The first project identified was regionalizing the rural water system through the Devils Lake City Water Treatment facility. RoxAnne Hoffarth, Langdon’s Auditor, also identified the city streets and sewer upgrades in Langdon. City Commissioner Marty Tertault elaborated and explained the upgrade phases and city plans to the governor.
In wrap up, the Governor first began with an “expression of gratitude.” He thanked everyone for all that they are doing for the region and the county. Next he touched on “Walk Score,” according to the walkscore.com website, an app that help(s) people find walkable places to live with easy access to the people and places they love.
Walk Score plays a larger part in a future and infrastructure built around walking and biking communities and not automobiles. Burgum’s view of the future does not include very many automobiles; the ones that are available are autonomous. The need for parking and parking lots is eliminated which frees up more space for other sustainable programs and projects.
Another vision of the future Burgum sees as necessary for towns and communities in North Dakota centers on growing up instead of out. The Governor encouraged Langdon citizens to revitalize the building and structures already in place instead of constructing new projects on the outskirts of towns and city limits. Use the bottom floors for businesses and top floors for luxury apartments and living spaces. Millennials and other young groups like this type of setup, and it ties back into the “walkability” of the community.