Improvement begins with listening

Whether it’s improving downtown, improving communication between government bodies and the electorate, or legislators sponsoring bills in Bismarck, meeting the needs of the public and making improvements starts with listening to the public.

That’s why the survey being conducted and studied of downtown businesses is such a good idea. Businesses are getting a chance to provide input into a strategic plan for development of the downtown. A previous community survey generated 931 responses, mostly from people who visit downtown once a month or more.

Souris Basin Planning Council is conducting the business survey for a Minot stakeholders group implementing recommendations of the International Economic Development Council, while Strengthen ND is analyzing the results of the community survey. The hope is that a strategic plan, in part reflecting the survey results, will be bought into by multiple downtown stakeholders.

Megan Laudenschlager, with Strengthen ND, has cited some preliminary findings from the community survey. People want downtown to include a variety of cultural options, including ethnic foods restaurants and markets, a vibrant arts scene and pop-up shops. Dining was particularly popular with respondents, actually being cited as the top reason people visited downtown. Trees, green space and art were also highly desirable to improve downtown’s aesthetics.

Now, what will the survey of businesses demonstrate? How will the results of the two surveys be integrated into a strategic plan? Will the visions of downtown businesses and of visitors to downtown have strong similarities?

While these last questions remain to be answered in the not-too-distant future, the important thing is that they are being asked in the first place.

A mistake in some communities is relying exclusively on consultant input or primarily on business/development interests, or even just on small pockets of vocal activists. The wider a net is cast for ideas, the more diversity and potential innovation surfaces. It also helps members of the public feel that they are engaged in crafting an overall vision.

The interest in engaging with downtown stakeholders and with the overall community is a good step toward making improvements, for the betterment not just of the city’s core, but also for all of Minot.

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