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Economic developer Jonathan Rosenthal sets sights on Minot’s downtown

City’s developer sets sights on Minot’s downtown

Jill Schramm/MDN Jonathan Rosenthal, the City of Minot’s economic developer, works in his office in the Public Works Building Dec. 23.

The City of Minot’s economic development specialist defines the mission of his newly created position as making Minot more diverse, stable and economically resilient.

Jonathan Rosenthal has been on the job since September in the office of Community and Economic Development. Tasked with overseeing implementation of many of the 72 recommendations developed from a National Disaster Resilience Program-funded study, Rosenthal is chipping away at that list.

“It starts by starting. And I’m kind of an action-oriented guy,” he said.

Rosenthal said he was looking for new opportunities when he applied to come to Minot from Bristol, Connecticut. His previous employment took him to states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

A New York native who attended the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, Rosenthal holds a master’s degree in public administration, specifically public finance. He also studied political science and economics and is certified with the American Institute of Certified Planners.

“I’m a certified planner, but I like to say I’m an economic development person who knows planning,” he said. “Economic development is such a broad area. It has a broad skill set or multidisciplinary skill set. It’s part marketing. It’s part land development. There is a planning component. There’s a finance component. It can have – although I don’t specialize in this – a workforce development training element. You have to have at least some background in all those areas.”

Rosenthal also has training through the organization that became the International Economic Development Council, interning there while in graduate school. IEDC conducted the economic study for Minot that led to the development recommendations.

Many of the recommendations center on the downtown. Among them are those that call for visioning and strategic planning, an innovation center, a redevelopment authority for vacant properties, a facade grant or loan program, programs that attract people to the riverfront and an outreach to educate property owners on opportunities within the Renaissance Zone.

“Downtown has been under-resourced,” Rosenthal said. “It could go downhill without some attention.”

He sees opportunities to attract more people to the downtown as a place to live and work. Beautification, along with the creation of routes that accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, are among those opportunities.

“There are real quality-of-life issues here that are related to economic development, especially downtown. In the long run this has to be a place where people want to be. The danger in any community is not preserving what you do have and not embracing the things that you need to do to make your community attractive to young people,” Rosenthal said. “We always want to help a broad swath of the people living in the community, but the people who are the new entrepreneurs, the new ideas and new investors, we want to be the kind of community that they want to live in. Downtown plays a pretty important role in that.”

One recommendation Rosenthal is honing in on is a greater public awareness of the Renaissance Zone. Property owners in the zone will be getting letters with information about the program. Rosenthal also would like to be more involved in business retention efforts, including succession planning for owners.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have hampered the ability to meet with business owners and get acquainted with the city in ways that would be advantageous for an economic developer.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Rosenthal said, “but there are other things we can do. We’re getting our website updated. We’re getting our program materials updated, and we’re working on projects. I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with downtown people and businesses and talking about what can be done to improve the conditions downtown, both as a physical place and as a place to do business.”

Certain IEDC recommendations require collaboration with the newly merged Minot Area Chamber/EDC, Visit Minot or other agencies, he added.

“The one thing about the city’s involvement is we are the most accountable element in almost any community. We have a different responsibility,” he said. “The thing that government can do is we can be responsive. One of the things is to make certain that when we deliver service in a variety of areas that we do it well.”

Rosenthal noted the recommendations being pursued aren’t just tasks to check off a list. Most of the items are continuing assignments that require ongoing attention and updates. He said implementing the recommendations is important not only because of the investment made two years ago in getting IEDC’s outside look but also because of the dozens of local residents who then contributed to turning the consultant’s findings into a plan.

The city began advertising for an economic development specialist in April 2019. It took time to fill the position, and Rosenthal said he was impressed by the city’s insistence on seeking out someone who would be a good fit.

Rosenthal said he was attracted to the City of Minot by its well organized operation and its commitment to its employees. He also said the downtown challenges and his background in infrastructure improvements, building facade improvements and financing seemed to come together.

He hasn’t been disappointed since arriving. The quality of the people he’s worked with and their willingness to help have eased his transition into the job, he said.

“People have a pretty cooperative spirit here,” he said. “I just think that the commitment of my fellow employees to deliver good services is really high here, and that does make it easier to do the work.”

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or call 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to eogden@minotdailynews.com.)

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