As a chamber of commerce, it is critical for us to evaluate our priorities on a regular basis in order to best represent the needs of our metro’s business community. Typically, prioritization happens by ranking the issues in order of importance.
In our case, there are two issues equally so important that we can’t deﬁne which should receive top billing. Those two issues are permanent ﬂood protection for the region, and workforce. I would actually make the case that these issues are, in fact, related. And because of our workforce issues, we can’t afford to delay the critical process of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion.
With dry springs these past few years, it is easy to believe we are already handling the risk of a catastrophic ﬂood. And, based on a great deal of work already done, in some ways we are. But remember 2009? The year that due to the rising Red, schools had to close, workers were let off to help sandbag, dikes were breached, hospitals were evacuated, court trials were suspended, emergency shelters were set up, residents and pets were rescued south of the city, and Mayor Walaker had plans to shut down the city. Now, the city did not actually shut down due to the fear of stopping commerce in the region, but it was a scary possibility. This is exactly why investing in and supporting permanent ﬂood protection is absolutely vital. It’s just not worth another risk.
It will only take yet another “ﬂood of the century” to put us back in the national news and remind people that we are the region with regular ﬂooding issues. That reputation affects our ability to attract and recruit workers for the thousands of open jobs we have and also affects economic development in the businesses that have those job openings to ﬁll.
While we are fortunate that our region has become a hotbed for startups and entrepreneurs looking for a friendly environment for their businesses, there are also companies already based here looking to expand their footprint. Permanent ﬂood protection needs to be a priority for the sake of all these organizations and individuals.
The process to get to permanent ﬂood protection has had ups and downs. While the F-M Diversion celebrated some project milestones, the most recent news has been concerning. Cost estimates are up, and federal funding is down. But the discussion at the April 11 Fargo City Commission meeting, frankly, was deplorable. With more than six years of research put into this project and over $200 million spent, now is not the time to pause. Shifting focus to a temporary ﬁx does not and will not provide the necessary protection that the diversion brings.
The metro business community needs to care about the ﬂood issue here because it can mean a loss of revenue to their organizations and the ﬂow of commerce in the community, a loss of wages to employees, and extra expenditures to keep up operations, not to mention a potential stop to commerce in the city entirely.
I urge you to reach out to members of the Fargo City Commission and explain the importance of this project moving forward. Rather than press pause on the Diversion, we need to hold down the play button and continue positive movement forward.
As one of the top two community needs, it will continue to be at the top of our list. We will work diligently with all of our elected leaders, community members, organizations and congressional members to continue the progress this project has made, and we are committed to seeing it completed.
President & CEO