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Jasper Schneider , Published January 30 2012

Renewed vision for North Dakota

North Dakotans have a long history of controlling their own destiny. It is in this spirit that the initiative called North Dakota 2.0 was created. Due to our unprecedented economic situation, now is the time to be focused and strategic about shaping the future of our state. An essential piece of the ND 2.0 initiative is to engage a diverse cross-section of people and give them an opportunity to provide feedback.

The ND 2.0 initiative began last October with a successful event in Bismarck where individuals from across the state joined together to share ideas. The results showed that people are hungry for leadership to take hold of our future. While the state’s economic success has provided us with incredible opportunity, it is important that we have a vision to address immediate needs and plan for what lies ahead. To capture this vision, ND 2.0 is currently under way, holding interactive meetings in 12 communities across the state. The feedback from these discussions will shed light on issues that communities have in common and where priorities may be different.

At USDA Rural Development, we have partnered with a diverse group of stakeholders to host ND 2.0. Our mission at USDA is a commitment to the future of rural communities. We follow through with this commitment by providing funding and financing for community infrastructure projects such as housing, water systems, utilities and emergency services.

A key component of our ability to lend in rural communities is the long-term viability of an area. Items such as local support, demographics and tax structure are critical to a successful public investment. In addition to providing access to capital, we also provide technical assistance for the development of business, communities and cooperatives. With this mission in mind, engaging people and communities is pivotal to what we do.

The success of any initiative is only as good as the follow-through. I believe that action is more important than words, and that’s why we are actively involved in a grassroots approach. To preserve the quality discussions that are occurring at these community meetings, the data and feedback will be compiled and made publicly available as a resource.

The future of North Dakota is bright. Never before in the history of our great state have we had such an abundance of wealth and opportunities. The worse thing that could happen is to reflect back on this time of prosperity and wish we had made different investments. Through ND 2.0 and other efforts, together we can help build an even better North Dakota that capitalizes on our strengths and provides opportunity for all. Now, more than ever, we need to play catch-up in areas of need, but also take a proactive approach in defining our future instead of allowing the future to define us.

ND 2.0 community meetings: Bismarck, Linton, Devils Lake, Grafton, Jamestown, Oakes, Garrison, Bottineau, Belcourt, Watford City, Williston, Dickinson, Bowman and Fargo.

ND 2.0 partners: USDA Rural Development, Advanced Engineering, Basin Electric, AARP, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota and North Dakota Farmers Union.

Schneider, a former state legislator from Fargo, is state director, USDA Rural Development.