Gov. Doug Burgum today hosted the first workshop of his central policy initiative as 2020 chair of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), “Reimagining the Rural West,” an ambitious effort to address the intractable challenges facing the rural West and to support vibrant and enduring rural communities.
“We can help our rural areas prosper in a 21st century economy by focusing on three areas that are essential to rural prosperity: opportunity, connectivity and community,” Burgum said at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo. “If we want to build a workforce in rural communities, we need to build more livable rural communities.”
The yearlong initiative will examine challenges and opportunities in rural economic development, infrastructure and quality of life, as well as identify best practices and recommend policies to support vibrant rural communities in the West. The initiative aligns with Burgum’s Main Street Initiative for North Dakota, which supports creating healthy, vibrant communities with smart, efficient infrastructure to attract and retain a skilled 21st century workforce.
Today’s workshop is exploring strategies, such as fostering entrepreneurship and building local leadership, that will help rural western communities build on their strengths. Among the featured speakers and panelists are Benjamin Winchester, rural sociologist with the University of Minnesota’s Extension Center for Community Vitality; Mary Anne Carter, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts; and Matthew Dalbey, director of the Office of Community Revitalization at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The daylong workshop is being livestreamed at http://westgov.org/ and may also be viewed live on WGA's Facebook page and YouTube channel, or watched later on those platforms.
The WGA represents the governors of 19 western states and three U.S. territories, supporting bipartisan policy development, the exchange of best practices and ideas, and collective action on issues of critical importance to the western United States such as agriculture, energy, water economic development and natural resource development. Burgum was elected 2020 chair of the organization in June.