MADC adds quality of life to development strategies

Quality of life issues are at the top of the agenda for Minot Area Development Corp. as it plots strategies to shape Minot’s future.

Issues such as downtown revitalization, community image, affordable housing and child care were on the minds of about 50 community leaders who met in December to discuss the evolving role of economic development.

Economic development programs must adapt to meet the needs of a community changed by the 2011 flood and a booming economy, said MADC president Jerry Chavez.

“We need to continue aggressive diversification of the economy. That hasn’t changed,” Chavez said. “What has changed for us is we recognize that there’s a renaissance in Minot.”

In three years, the city has seen 10 years worth of growth based on normal building permit values, he said. If construction stays on pace as expected, the city will experience 20 years of growth in five years, he said.

Minot’s continued renaissance will depend on its ability to advance the quality of life and leverage international attention to attract new businesses and residents, Chavez said.

Based on the December discussion, the MADC board adopted recommendations this month that include:

– continue diversification of the economy using new marketing initiatives.

– launch an aggressive public relations campaign.

– organize a business improvement district and main street program to help revitalize downtown.

The recommendations were among those recorded in a report prepared by Odney, which facilitated the December discussion. The report is available to the public by contacting MADC.

With the Imagine Minot project proposing to change the downtown landscape with new housing, retail and parking, MADC sees an opportunity to use its business and funding connections to help facilitate development, Chavez said. MADC will advocate for and take the community-lead in assisting the project.

MADC believes it has a role in downtown development as a clearinghouse for information and in its knowledge of state programs that are available to new businesses.

Chavez said the re-invented downtown will appeal to people from metropolitan areas who understand that type of development.

“We are taking best practices from major communities and adapting them here into our local community,” he said. “This will drive us into the future.”

MADC also wants to partner with a developer to create affordable housing, defined as homes valued in the $150,000 range.

“We feel confident that there’s a style of building out there that will allow us, with all the other variables, to come up with that home at that price point. If we can do that, this town will grow. It will be amazing to see,” Chavez said.

MADC hopes to identify land near existing infrastructure for a project.

“That’s the key to making this work,” Chavez said.

On the child care front, MADC will not have its own initiatives but will look to assist other groups that have ideas for addressing that need in the community.

The proposed public

relations campaign would rebrand Minot as a city on the move, open to new investment, new people and new opportunities.

Chavez said the campaign will seek out a national and international audience but would also target people already here.

The report drafted by Odney noted that MADC is challenged by the public perception that Minot has all the jobs it needs. The perception that there is too much growth is fed by increasing traffic problems, passenger crowding at Minot International Airport and an increase in crime. One of MADC’s biggest challenges is convincing citizens of the need for growth as the city’s population approaches and passes 50,000, the report stated.

The recommendation is for Minot to change its image from a regional hub to a state or tri-state hub.

“By fully understanding its significance, Minot will be better prepared to plan for future economic growth and direct development so the city’s growth is organized and beneficial to the quality of life of all Minot’s residents,” the report stated.

Chavez said MADC won’t be abandoning its past efforts to attract industry. It will continue to recruit manufacturing, agricultural and technology businesses and will investigate the potential for another energy park since its Great Plains Energy Park in east Minot has filled.

“If we don’t continue to do the things we have done in the past, then we fall back a bit in our quality of life, and we can’t afford that,” he said.

The Minot City Council’s discussion to restructure a portion of the city sales tax that includes funding for economic development isn’t necessarily a concern, Chavez said. The city is looking at the tax as a source of money for flood control. Chavez said the sales tax is generating enough revenue in Minot’s dynamic economy to support an additional use for the collections.