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State Commerce delegation visits Kenmare...

Following a bus tour of Kenmare Friday morning, a delegation from the North Dakota Department of Commerce met with city leaders for a strategy session on how to improve and grow the community.

8/13/19 (Tue)

Following a bus tour of Kenmare Friday morning, a delegation from the North Dakota Department of Commerce met with city leaders for a strategy session on how to improve and grow the community.

With the Kenmare Country Club as the backdrop, 10 people representing the state of North Dakota attended the meeting to talk about things that can be done to improve Kenmare.

Led by former Dickinson city administrator Shawn Kessel who is now the deputy commissioner of Commerce, and Emily Brown, the community engagement manager for Commerce, the meeting centered around the pros and cons of the community.

But first, Kessel and Brown asked a number of questions.

Kessel said being in Kenmare helps Commerce better understand what Kenmare is.

“We’re here to listen and to help facilitate,” Kessel said. “We’re trying to emphasize infrastructure.”

He talked about the tour and those things he saw that make Kenmare the community it is. They included the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, the Downtown Square and the community’s manufacturing sector.

Brown asked the group of about 30 why they would convince people to live in Kenmare?

“As an example, we’ve been to a lot of towns in North Dakota and not everybody has a grocery store,” Brown said. “So this initiative is community based.”

Arlen Gartner, who owns Gartner’s Jack & Jill, talked about some of the challenges associated with having a grocery store in a small town.

“We can’t depend on local employees anymore,” Gartner said. “We’re going to have to look at other states or countries. We’re working 60 and 70 hours a week and we’re getting older.”

Kessel asked Gartner if he had a succession plans when he and wife Elaine retire? He said a lot of profitable businesses have closed because there is no succession plan.

“There’s been a lot of that in Kenmare,” added Allan Essler of Farmers Union Insurance.

That’s when Ward County Extension agent Paige Brummund brought up a plan that NDSU has been working on.

“We designed a succession plan for agriculture, but we’re beginning to modify it for small business owners,” Brummund said. “I look forward to it being offered this winter.”

Like Gartner, Kay Garbel, of Garbels Furniture, talked about workforce recruitment and said that despite offering health insurance to their employees, there are still issues keeping staff long term.

Former legislator and Kenmare City Council member Glen Froseth talked about the need for trades people as the plumbers and electricians are aging and will be looking at retirement in the next several years, with nobody to replace them.

He also discussed the need for improved infrastructure that he called a challenge, but that the recent Prairie Dog bill in the Legislature would be a big help to a community such as Kenmare.

“That’s a challenge we hear a lot about,” Brown said. “It takes a lot to pay for that.”

After Kessel asked when Kenmare did its last comprehensive plan, he suggested a new one should be considered since 2012’s model may be outdated.

Housing and the need for a recreation center were also topics that made good discussion.

Unsightly properties were also a topic of discussion during Friday’s meeting. Froseth told the state delegation there is a $3,500 tear-down incentive for old properties.

“That’s a problem in every community in North Dakota and probably the nation,” Kessel said. “I commend you for that. I want to compliment you because that’s unique.”

Terry Froseth, owner of The Kenmare News told Kessel that more than 40 properties have been demolished using the Fund Itt money to clear debris.

State Bank & Trust of Kenmare Vice President Jamie Livingston said about half of them have had new development.

Health care was discussed and although it was generally agreed Kenmare has an excellent health care facility, First District Health Unit public nurse Melissa Burud stated the need for mental health and substance abuse services.

“We don’t have health or hospice services at this time because of us being more than 40 miles out of Minot,” Burud said. “We do have some telehealth, but personally, crisis intervention should be here daily, especially for the youth.”

Burud told the state delegation the population of Kenmare is aging and although there is some senior housing and an active senior center, the need for home health is important.

Kessel asked about emergency services such as fire, ambulance and law enforcement, and how Kenmare is faring in regard to those services.

“I have a grave concern for long-term law enforcement,” Kessel said.

Mylynn Tufte with the state Health Department asked if any business in Kenmare has a “Take your baby to work” program?

“That can be a game changer,” she said. “Healthier moms, healthier babies.”

After a full hour of discussing pros and cons, Kessel said he wanted to walk through the hurdles as well as what is considered good for Kenmare.

“What I see as great are the school, the clinic, hospital, senior center, fire, ambulance, theater and Goosefest,” Kessel said. “Hurdles include workforce, successive planning, trades, infrastructure, a rec center, health care providers, turn over in the work place, young professionals and child care.”

What items become the priorities? What can be implemented within six months or a year?

“We want to walk away with an understanding of what Kenmare needs,” Kessel said. “We’re here to help you and bring you resources. We can’t solve your problems for you.”

According to Kessel, the biggest challenge to the entire group is what three priorities do you come up with and how do you solve those issues?

To work toward that end, Brown suggested Kenmare apply for Main Street Awards for the city’s own good.

“There’s a Main Street Summit in Bismarck at the end of October,” Brown said. “It’s connecting communities with best practices. It would be good for you to be in attendance.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!