The Leadership class had the opportunity to hear from “Mr. History” aka Steve Stark at the December Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo session. Stark is an illustrator and historian who brings history to life with his visual and oral presentations. Stark drew pictures as he talked about how Lake Agassiz used to cover most of the Northern Plains. When the lake evaporated rich, fertile soil was left behind. This farmland paved the way for commerce in our region. Large bonanza farms were started and commerce was conducted up and down the Red River. Our region was the main provider of the wheat used by flour mills in St. Paul, Minn., including Pillsbury and Gold Medal. Who says history can’t be entertaining?
A Tale of Three Cities
After the class heard about our region’s past, we looked to our present. Dan Mahli, Fargo City Planner, Lisa Vatnsdal, Moorhead Neighborhood Services Manager, and Larry Weil, West Fargo Planning Director, held a panel discussion about the growth of our cities. Each panelist said they value public input and try to get the public involved in planning. A few incredible facts about our region’s growth:
- Fargo will have 10,000 new housing units by 2020. In addition, apartment vacancy is incredibly low with a 2-3% vacancy rate.
- West Fargo grew 73% between 2000-2010. They estimate within six years there will be no land left for residential building.
- Moorhead is studying the river corridor to see how they can develop the land. Housing buyouts for flood protection turned private land into public land. The river corridor will be a good future resource for growth.
Our Culturally Diverse Community
As our community continues to grow, so does our cultural diversity. We brought together a panel of experts who work with new Americans and refugees every day. Panelists included: Cristie Jacobson, Fargo Police Department Cultural Liaison Officer; Vonnie Sanders, Fargo Public Schools ELL Teacher; and Heather Ranck, U.S. Department of Commerce and Project English founder. Each panelist provided a wealth of information about how the class can help new Americans adjust to their new community. Most refugees spend between 12-18 years in a refugee camp before they are granted asylum. Only 1% of refugees worldwide are re-settled each year. Once they have been resettled, there are still are still many hurdles to overcome. Cultural and language barriers are two of the biggest. Lutheran Social Services has a 90% success rate with finding new Americans employment.
To help the class understand how leaders plan for the future of our region, Jodi Bruns, North Dakota State University Extension Service, had the class participate in The Futures Game. It is an interactive game where groups have to make decisions based upon different scenarios. Everyone starts with the same scenario: “The Governor has provided a one-time $5 million grant to your county from the state’s Future Energy Fund.” From there, groups need to make decisions on how to use the money. Do you invest in R&D? Or do you create jobs? What do you do when your workforce shrinks? How do you feed your workforce pipeline? The class had to ponder those questions and more to grow their hypothetical county over a span of 20 years.
Thank you to the helpful and dedicated staff at Cass County Historical Society – Bonanzaville USA for hosting the December LFMWF session.
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