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Erik Burgess, Published August 28 2012

Moorhead businesses display signs in response to 'cheap shot' editorial in Forum

MOORHEAD – Businesses here are responding to what the mayor called a “cheap shot” at the Moorhead community by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

Signs have gone up along First Avenue North and in other places in the city that read: “Hey Fargo Forum It’s Great To Do Business In Moorhead.”

Chuck Chadwick, executive director of Moorhead Business Association, said the signs are a direct response to an editorial the newspaper published Aug. 22 that criticized Moorhead for poor business development, among other issues.

“It hit a raw nerve,” Chadwick said of the editorial, which also criticized the city for parking problems near its two college campuses and “shabby” buildings on major thoroughfares.

Les Stenerson, who has a sign in front of his business, Stenerson Lumber, on First Avenue North, said the editorial emphasized negative stereotypes of Moorhead, and business owners wanted to respond.

“We just feel like we’re kind of the red-headed stepchild across the river,” Stenerson said. “We want people to know that we’ve got a good community.”

Chadwick said he has heard major response from the business community about the editorial – which was titled “Chickens top their agenda?” – but the Moorhead Business Association did not endorse the signs.

“We’re not trying to make a war here,” Stenerson said. “We just want people to know that it’s a great day to do business in Moorhead.”

The issues brought forth in the editorial were unwarranted, said Mayor Mark Voxland, because many of them are either already being handled by the city or are out of the city’s control.

“I thought it was a cheap shot,” Voxland said. “It was issues we’ve been dealing with.”

For instance, the editorial brought up a delay in a downtown street construction projects. Voxland said this is because Minnesota Department of Transportation owns Main Avenue, which means the city has limited control over how it’s repaired and upgraded.

The mayor also praised the City Council for its quick response to the editorial. Two letters by council members criticizing The Forum have been published since the editorial.

Chadwick said he hopes the discussion facilitated by the newspaper allows for a more open conversation about Moorhead.

“I would like to see this as a catalyst,” Chadwick said. “I’m pleased that the citizens, the council (and) the business community are all on the same page.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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