As budget season approaches, leaders from the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County presented their 2020 funding requests at the Clay County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, July 9.
Joe Raso, president and chief executive officer of the GFMEDC, told commissioners about his organization’s overall mission and goals for the upcoming year.
The GFMEDC pursues projects that promote economic development with the region’s primary sector employers, those who sell their products and services not just locally, but to national and international markets. Of the approximately 13,000 companies in Fargo-Moorhead, about 500 are considered primary sector. In Moorhead, these include American Crystal Sugar and Budweiser.
“Those are the companies the EDC is focused on,” Raso said. “Your investment in what we do is essentially the bedrock of economic growth … (These companies) are really the drivers of the economy.”
Over the past five years, GFMEDC has assisted with 125 primary sector projects, which has led to over $330 million in direct cash investments and about 2,000 new jobs.
These investments creates a “ripple effect,” Raso said, as employees purchase homes, goods and services throughout the region.
“These indirect economic impacts are about equal to the direct are,” Raso said.
The Clay County board has invested about $380,000 over the past five years into GFMEDC operations. That money has helped increase the county tax base by $1.2 million, Raso said, which is a 3:1 return on investment.
In the next three years, he said, the organization’s goal is to support 85 primary sector projects, leading to 1,500 new jobs and a $250 million investment.
Commissioner Jenny Mongeau asked Raso what was being done to make sure economic growth was not just happening in Fargo, West Fargo and Cass County, but also in Moorhead and Clay County.
“We don’t want to be a housing only filter for Cass County,” Mongeau said. “I just want to make sure we work towards an environment so (expansion) makes sense in Clay County, too.”
Raso said his organization has a “macro” focus on the entire region, because a project in one community promotes the overall economic growth of neighboring ones.
“We’re not going to pick winners and losers,” he said.
Currently, the GFMEDC is focusing on expanding private sector investment in the corporation, as well as making sure the region’s workforce needs are met.
“The needs right now are: How do we retain the workforce market within our companies and how do we recruit the workforce that we need to grow our primary sector businesses?,” Raso said.
He requested Clay County budget $100,000 for GFMEDC in the upcoming year, which is the same amount that was awarded last year.
Maureen Jonason, the executive director of the HCSCC provided a brief update and made a budget request at the board meeting. She spoke in more detail about the mission and activities of the organization at a board meeting earlier in the year.
“We are in the middle of doing a wonderful project of an inventory of every object that we have, so we’re going to find out exactly what we have and where it is,” Jonason said. “That’s an exciting thing for the historical society to have that kind of intellectual control over our collections.”
Jonason requested a 2 percent budget increase over the previous year. That money, along with funds from other sources including donors, would help pay for an additional full-time staff member.
Commissioner Frank Gross lauded HCSCC for its commitment to cultural programming.
“There’s great interest in programs going on over there,” he said. “… You see a lot of different things all the time and Maureen’s done a good job over there. Thank you very much for what you’re doing.”
Jonason said the museum at the Hjemkomst Center changes exhibits eight times a year.
“There’s always something new to see,” she said.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a request to add a full-time custodial staff member at the Family Service Center.
• Granted a request to hire one full-time and one part-time motor vehicle staff members.
• Conducted budget reviews for the Soil and Water Conservation District, along with the Technology Services and Information Services departments.