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Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., Published May 15 2012

Grand Forks promotes community's amenities to Oil Patch companies

GRAND FORKS – Community promotion was on the minds of Grand Forks County commissioners Tuesday.

First, they agreed to contribute $10,000 to the Bakken Initiative, a campaign designed to promote the county’s potential to host new or expanding companies working in the Oil Patch of western North Dakota. The $125,000 campaign is designed to market the region’s existing infrastructure.

Second, the commission approved a proposal to produce a Grand Forks County Video Tour Book, a series of streaming online videos that promote a variety of community assets, from quality of life, education and relocation, to tourism and things to do.

Grand Forks will be joining some other eastern North Dakota communities seeking to cash in on the rapid expansion of the state’s oil industry.

The Traill County Economic Development Commission and the city of Grafton are also promoting their areas as progressive communities offering a variety of amenities without the Oil Patch quality-of-life liabilities such as skyrocketing housing costs, nonstop truck traffic and crumbling roads.

The Bakken Initiative, named after the oil-rich Bakken Formation, was launched earlier this month by the city of Grand Forks, which is committing $75,000 in excess sales tax funds. City officials hope to raise another $50,000 from private and other sources.

With the county’s contribution, the initiative will have raised $34,000 of the $50,000, according to City Council President Hal Gershman, who attended the commission’s meeting.

The initiative isn’t waiting for all the money to be raised. Next week, its marketing committee will attend the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck.

Keith Lund, vice president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., told the County Commission he has visited with officials from nine communities throughout the county to seek potential host sites for industry or housing.

“This is such a great opportunity for us, especially in reaching out to other communities within the county,” County Commission Chairman John Schmisek said.

While the Oil Patch campaign program calls for a cash contribution, the streaming video promotion is free, according to County Administrator Ed Nierode.

The Video Tour Book is part of the National Association of Counties’ County Showcase Program, a partnership between the association and CGI Communications, a marketing firm based in Rochester, N.Y.

The firm has produced videos for cities and counties all over the nation, including Fargo and Wahpeton in North Dakota and 21 communities in Minnesota.

The company will film up to 10 videos, each about one minute long, about the community, according to Amy Curran, program manager.

The first four will include a welcome video and videos covering education, quality of life, and real estate and relocation. The topics of the other six will be chosen by the county, and may include economic development, parks and recreation, tourism, business and industry, and festivals and events.

Fargo’s supplemental videos, for example, feature downtown, arts and entertainment, parks and recreation, Earth-friendly initiatives, and public safety.

Nierode said CGI’s film crews likely will be in Grand Forks County in September or October.

Kevin Bonham writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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