Creating a business friendly-environment depends, in part, on public policy that works for businesses. Oftentimes policies do what they intend and support company growth. Other times, the goal gets lost in translation. Through conversations with regional primary-sector businesses, EDC staff learn first-hand what’s working and what’s not. We quickly communicate to our local, state and federal legislators which policies and programs are helping companies and which ones could be clarified or adjusted to be even more effective.
Our first step is always to reach out to our primary sector leadership to understand their public policy needs. The process can be as simple as meeting with them and listening to their answers to one direct question – “Do you anticipate any federal, state, or local legislation changes that will adversely affect your business in the next few years?” Sometimes, our discussions lead to public policy.
For example, EDC staff has provided requested feedback to the ND Department of Commerce, Economic Development North Dakota, and other supporting groups on great workforce programs like the ND Career Builders Program. Feedback from companies suggests expanding the program to additional states could help make it more effective. In addition, issues such as revising the ND Automation Tax Credit and expanding the Data Center Tax Credit are policies provided by business leaders that can enhance more economic growth for the region.
Critical Public Policy Partners
This year, in particular, has shown the need to build new and more strategic partnerships, as well as deepen the work we are doing with established organizations. Below are examples of some of the many important public policy relationships we maintain:
The Valley Prosperity (VPP) represents a wide swath of the region, led by business leaders driving change at the state legislative level that support region-critical issues like water security, university research and workforce development in both North Dakota and Minnesota.
Led by the GFMEDC and Grand Forks Region EDC, this year, the VPP reset its leadership structure and has worked to solidify a strong legislative agenda for the upcoming sessions. The organization continues to use the expert lobbying skills of the GA Group and Praxis Strategies, and for the first time, stood up a political action committee (PAC) to increase its influence in state legislative elections.
Direct Connections to City Staff
In addition to building stronger state legislative capabilities, the EDC extended its customer relationship management software to connect city staff from West Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead into its database of primary-sector companies. In doing so, we’ve improved our capabilities to share critical public policy (and project) feedback from our clients that will inform city staff and elected officials on ways they can support our growing primary sector base. An example of the outcome of these efforts is the work of the EDC and City of Fargo staff to review and refine some of its economic development incentive policies.
Since March, our region, and the world, have faced a double-edged sword of issues related to COVID-19 – the health of our citizens, and the financial crisis created by the health crisis. Acting quickly, the EDC helped to lead the creation of the COVID-19 Business Task Force consisting of public, private and non-profit leaders focused on assisting the needs of our business community.
One central component to these efforts has been lobbying for local, state, and federal assistance, as well as communicating to thousands of businesses when and how best to apply for support. The Task Force began in March and still meets regularly as the crisis continues.