Trip offers cultural, business benefits

Minot mayor welcomes valuable new connections in Norway

SubmittedPhoto Posing in Skien, Norway, are Minot City Manager Tom Barry, Minot Mayor Shaun Sipma, Skien Mayor Hedda Foss Five and Skien City Manager Ole Magnus Stensrud.

Mayor Shaun Sipma says connections were made that could potentially bring new business to Minot and increase tourism activity in the state during a recent visit to Sister City Skien, Norway.

Sipma and City Manager Tom Barry traveled with a Minot State University choir to Norway May 13 to 25. The Hostfest-Heritage Foundation funded the trip for the city officials.

Sipma said the trip netted valuable information related to business ventures, recycling, tourism and cultural exchange.

Barry and Sipma met with economic development leaders and with business people interested in expanding into the United States. Sipma told the Minot City Council June 3 that there will be an attempt to continue conversations with a couple of businesses in hopes of bringing them to Minot.

“Out of those businesses, one specifically stood out because it opened up an opportunity to actually not only bring an asset to the city of Minot but also something that would enable job creation because of having that asset here,” Sipma said Thursday. “It’s something that’s new in the market.”

He was unable to disclose specifics about the business at this stage but noted it is promising that the company could be operating in Minot within a year.

“It’s now up to us as a city and as economic development agencies, talking with Minot Area Development Corp. and working even with the state, to bring this to fruition,” he said.

The prospective company has 10 years of research and development behind it and already has had one country purchase its product. Sipma added there would be benefit to the U.S. Department of Defense, Minot Air Force Base and Minot to have the company establish a local headquarters as a foothold into the U.S. market. It would require the use of the intermodal facility for imports.

“Because it would be something that operates in a climate very similar to ours, we are the ideal testing ground,” Sipma said. “This plays well into what we are trying to do in Minot in creating a unique sector that isn’t relying on energy, isn’t relying on agriculture.”

Sipma said the venture sounded so attractive that he and Barry held a follow up meeting and toured the company. They also met with trade officials at the U.S. Embassy in Norway, and Sipma said they came away encouraged that the embassy stands ready to assist in facilitating the international business venture.

Barry and Sipma also visited ROAF Recycling Facility.

In the current environment, it is unrealistic to think Minot is going to create a recycling program that is cost effective when many communities are struggling to do so, Sipma said. However, he said he wanted to look at what is being done in Norway to see if it could be applied in North Dakota on a statewide level. He asked about the facility’s cost, government subsidies and size of the population served, which would factor into whether a recycling operation would work in North Dakota, he said.

Sipma also saw benefit to the trip as representatives of Norsk Hostfest because of the cultural exchange. He said the cultural connection opens opportunities to attract Norwegian visitors to North Dakota and to extend the visits of Hostfest-goers to take in other state attractions. He said North Dakota may be missing out on tourism dollars, given the lack of awareness in Norway about what North Dakota has to offer.

In addition, Sipma and Barry brought back potential ideas for Hostfest based on attractions seen in Norway, such as a children’s indoor Norwegian-themed playground.

“The other part that really surprised me – that I wasn’t expecting – is the recent history connection,” Sipma said. In addition to heritage, Norway’s ties to America include the cooperation that occurred during World War II. Sipma said Norway helped the Allied nations to sabotage German efforts to develop the atomic bomb and was the site of German fortifications after Allies tricked their enemy into preparing for an invasion there. The tactic diverted Germany from Normandy, where the D-Day attack eventually came.

Sipma said the trip more than met his expectation for future benefit to Minot.

“I think it was important – more valuable than even I put stock into for myself,” Sipma said. “On the cultural side, absolutely. I knew there was substance there of great value.”

It helped that MSU participated because there were indications that academic sharing is an area of growing Norwegian interest, Sipma said. The potential academic, economic and tourism benefits justify the decision to maintain a Sister City relationship with Skien, he said.

“For some of the folks that may not look favorably upon it, I think it should put the proof in the pudding of why this is important,” he said.

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