Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Another Rendezvous Region...

Posted 1/28/20 (Tue)

There was a recent meeting in Bowbells that had community leaders from surrounding communities attend to talk about forming an alliance to pool resources and work together for the betterment of the “gooseneck” of Ward County and Burke County.

The alliance, that doesn’t have a name yet, would encompass the communities of Bowbells, Kenmare, Powers Lake, Lignite, Portal and perhaps Columbus and Flaxton.

It’s quite similar to the Rendezvous Region which takes in the communities of Langdon, Cavalier, Pembina and Walhalla.

And while the Rendezvous Region is geared more toward tourism, this northwestern alliance would include tourism, industry, technology and immigration.

Dr. Paul Gunderson of Harvey spoke at the inaugural meeting that was held Jan. 9 in the city auditorium in Bowbells.

Gunderson has done some dramatic things to turn the community of Harvey around and he would like to see the same thing happen in the northwest.

There are a number of benefits that could be derived from such an effort.

As far as tourism, everything from the Downtown Square Park in Kenmare to the Northgate Dam could be showcased to draw new people into the area. Activities such as Kenmare’s GooseFest and the Burke County Fair in Flaxton could be better advertised to enhance gate receipts.

There’s also the community of Portal, or what’s in it. Much like Pembina, Portal is a 24-hour port of entry and as overall traffic continues to increase on U.S. Highway 52, the Canadian dollar becomes all the more important along that route from the border to Kenmare, Carpio and Minot.

Bringing immigrants to the region could be another big plus because new people would move to the area and fill the jobs that can’t seem to get filled no matter how much advertising is done or how many incentives are offered.

Several companies are already doing this successfully and could be a model moving forward.

Sporting events could also become a stronger part of the economy of this new alliance.

If you look at the cooperation in the sports co-ops; Kenmare-Bowbells-Burke Central in football and wrestling or Burke Central-Kenmare in cross country, there’s no reason it couldn’t work on a grander scale. 

That’s a good start and who knows, maybe a community like Kenmare could host regional basketball or volleyball tournaments like Hazelton now does in girls basketball and volleyball.

That community didn’t have anything like that in its sports hey day, but since a new gym was built in 2000, the community of 230 hosts one of those tournaments each year and has brought additional revenue into a community that had been struggling for years.

There’s always going to be those people whose glass is half empty and say something like this will never work. But how do we know if we don’t try? Keeping the status quo is unacceptable because we all know what is happening with our school, church and community populations.

You’ve heard the phrase “no risk no gain?” It’s very true when it comes to this alliance. Something needs to be done to secure the future of this part of the state. It’s that simple.

We all know oil is cyclical and, although it was great for the economy for several years, but who knows when it’s coming back.

Looking ahead 50 years, can we rely on oil? Can we rely on farming as we know it today? Can we rely on retail as all these small communities once did?

If you drive through central Minnesota, or eastern Nebraska, you’ll find that every small town has some sort of industry. It might be dog food, candy, breakfast cereal, a saw mill, fertilizer distribution, clothing, turkey farms or even regional breweries.

Yes, all this stuff is going on in small towns in our neighboring states and we sometimes wonder how they make it happen.

They took risks in their communities, putting money, elbow grease and public relations up front so these towns would be recognized and now they are with the strongest economic engine anyone could think of, jobs that fuel the local and regional economies.

Who knows what else could develop from this. The northwest lacks rodeos, farming technology,  remote jobs and packaged food.

Unfortunately, it’s a chicken and egg kind of scenario. Something has to happen initially, but who starts the ball rolling.