Western consortium awarded $500,000 Bush Foundation grant

Submitted Photo Vision West consortium leaders shown in this photo from Passenger Productions are, left to right: Donna Scott, Craig Pelton, Tracey Dolezal, Lydia DeJesus, Daryl Dukart, Dawn Nelson, Buster Langowski, Deb Nelson and Reinhard Hauck.

DICKINSON – A consortium working to promote sustainability in western North Dakota will receive a $500,000 Bush Foundation grant to advance its goals.

Announced today, the 2017 Bush Prize for Community Innovation is the largest grant ever awarded to Vision West ND, said Vision West administrator Deb Nelson, Dickinson. “It’s the first time that any organization in western North Dakota has received a Bush Prize. So we are excited about that, and we are excited about the attention it’s going to bring to western North Dakota,” Nelson said. “What we hope to do is be able to leverage a good portion of the dollars so that we can bring in additional funding – additional state and local funding that we will be able to put toward some of the projects.”

With a solid funding base, Vision West will be able to extend its work and consider long-term projects, she said.

Vision West ND is the largest collaborative in the state’s history, with a membership of 19 counties, state and federal agencies, energy industry representatives, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, regional planning councils, universities and the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. Launched with the strong support of Dunn County to address growth challenges related to the region’s burgeoning energy sector, the organization brings communities together to develop sustainable, community-based solutions to regional issues.

In its first three years of operations, Vision West successfully completed a sustainability plan that identified child care, housing, emergency services, transportation and water as the region’s key issues. The organization’s creative approaches produced a significant increase in availability of child care and a measurable difference in housing options.

Vision West plans to continue helping communities address their child care issues.

Vision West continues to work on housing issues and is looking into ways to assist MHA Nation in its development of strategic plans for each of the Fort Berthold Reservation segments. The segment plans will be crafted to fit into the existing economic development plan for the reservation.

The idea for a ferry crossing on the Missouri River to better connect segments of the reservation remains a vision. Vision West is prepared to assist if the tribes are successful in their pursuit of a federal Department of Transportation grant, Nelson said.

Vision West recently began looking at concerns surrounding emergency medical services in western North Dakota. Nelson said gaps in service, aging volunteer ambulance squads and other challenges have created a need to plan for the future.

Even before the governor’s office introduced its Main Street Initiative, Vision West was promoting a Main Street Success Project and Go Local campaign that works with communities to gather public input and then find ways to encourage local engagement in the economy, philanthropy and volunteer service. Vision West is represented on Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative task force.

Nelson said the value of the consortium to its members lies in the ability to connect and network with each other in ways they hadn’t been able to previously.

“Our consortium members are very pleased about the progress that’s been made in western North Dakota. They have a voice that we really didn’t have before,” Nelson said. “Bringing the attention to the western side of the state, I think, has been really beneficial.”

The Bush Foundation awarded prizes to seven organizations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and tribal nations that it identified as having a track record of making great ideas happen.

The only other recipient in North Dakota was the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition for Homeless Persons, which will receive $68,762.

Now in its fifth year, the Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are extraordinary not only in what they do but in how they do it. As models of true problem solving, they work inclusively, in partnership with others, to make their communities better for all, according to the foundation.

“The Bush Prize recognizes organizations that are creative, fierce and dogged in the way they work and in what they accomplish,” said Bush President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “As models for problem solving, they consistently pick a path of innovation that drives profound results for their communities.”

Bush Prize winners receive a package that includes promotional support and materials, and an unrestricted grant equal to 25 percent of the organization’s prior fiscal year budget, up to $500,000.

The foundation received 127 applications for the 2017 Bush Prize. Three panels of community members chose the winners from their respective states.