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Jim Gartin , Published August 20 2013

Letter: Greater FM EDC connects education and businesses

I read the recent Forum article “Businesses, higher ed leaders talk partnership” and was glad to see the North Dakota State Chamber and its president, Andy Peterson, joining in on this important topic.

The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. has been working with our higher education partners here in North Dakota and Minnesota for years to ensure a strong link between business and education. Those links also exist with our K-12 education partners on both sides of the river. Fargo-Moorhead is a strong regional economic leader and the combined higher education entities, present on both side of the river, makes for an incredible opportunity for businesses to attract bright young talent to fuel their continued growth.

The GFMEDC has been instrumental in establishing programs and events that bring business and our higher education institutions closer together. These programs have been focused on two- and four-year higher ed. Institutions and businesses in the manufacturing, technology, health care, agriculture and life science sectors. The creation of Sector Breakfast meetings at Minnesota State University Moorhead, supporting entrepreneurial programming at North Dakota State University and investing in life science initiatives at Concordia are all a part of focusing on better communication between businesses and our educational partners.

The GFMEDC has initiated business-sector summits, which bring business leaders and representatives from all of our higher education partners together for a daylong frank discussion on key issues. What do businesses need and require from graduates to enter the workforce and be productive, and what challenges do higher education partners face in providing that workforce? The GFMEDC is working with manufacturers and our two-year institutions to help establish programs and curriculum that match and also address the costs metrics on both sides. If manufacturing wants a highly skilled and trained workforce, it is imperative they communicate their specific skill needs and also help support (financially) the higher education institutions’ implementation of new programs and curriculum.

The GFMEDC’s programming reaches further than just higher education; we believe the foundation is at the K-12 level. We partnered on the creation of the “Teachers in Industry Program” that has K-12 teachers doing four-week internships at local businesses and taking their experiences back into the classroom. We worked to help establish the Health Tech & Trades Expo at the Fargodome, where every ninth-grader in our region gets to visit with numerous companies that set up booths and show who they are and what they do. Last Friday the GFMEDC was proud to be one of the sponsors of TEDx Fargo, rethinking education. More than 500 local educators, business people, concerned parents and education administrators heard from 20 speakers from around the world talking about ways to rethink education. It is from these various dialogues that we will implement the change to ensure opportunities for our young people and continued growth and prosperity for our region’s current and future businesses.

Gartin is president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC.