City rightly identifies key challenge to economic development

At a meeting Tuesday, an economic stakeholders’ group contemplated its next moves after hearing in recent weeks from technical teams with suggestions on topics ranging from business incubators to numerous other possibilities and mechanisms for economic development.

In so doing, they identified one notable challenge leadership must address before any major progress can be made.

“There’s no citywide organization or an entity to serve as, essentially, the linchpin coordinating all the various efforts by the different organizations undertaking the economic and business-support related activities within the city,” said Mayor Shaun Sipma. “Nor is there one that has the capacity and capability to identify the means and resources to fill any gaps in a comprehensive citywide effort. There’s no means or mechanism in place to strategize, prioritize and seek the federal, state and the foundation grants.”

“There’s no citywide economic development strategy, period,” he added. “The question we have to ask is, who should have the lead in this development citywide strategy and how should it be funded?”

This presents a problem, and vocalizes a need. It is also something readers often question Minot Daily News about: Who is in charge of economic development?

As Mr. Sipma points out, there really is no exact answer. The result is minimal coordination, sometimes conflicting agendas and lack of cohesion vision.

Tim Mihalick, chairman of the stakeholders group, said Minot needs to become more competitive with other communities that invest in economic development.

“My directive to the council is to think strong and hard about putting an economic development specialist on staff and let that person become the liaison throughout the community,” he said. “We need to get that done. I think it’s crucial to make things happen for the future of the city.”

A liaison to bring stakeholders together and develop with them, the City of Minot and the public, a vision and division of labor would be hugely beneficial.