A New Kind of Roundtable

Nov 24th, 2003 @ 8:26 am | Author:
Some ideas spring to life in no time at all. One of them is the Valley Development Group Roundtable, which is moving rapidly from pipedream to reality.

Many people are aware that the state legislative committee on higher education sponsored a Roundtable on Higher Education, starting in 1999. A group of legislators, executive branch officials, educators, and private sector representatives met a number of times to develop a state mandate for higher education. They defined higher education as an engine for North Dakota’s growth, with six cornerstones: economic development, education excellence, flexibility and responsiveness, accessibility, funding and rewards, and sustaining the vision.

The members gave each sector a "to do" list in order to implement their vision. Unlike many planning processes that never become reality, each sector has accomplished many of its tasks. The Roundtable meets annually, so a new set of tasks is emerging at the state level, building on what came before.

North Dakota has won at least two national awards for this Roundtable process and its outcomes. Seldom has any state "got its act together" across sectors to this extent. Participants have set aside partisan politics and narrowly defined self-interest in order to prepare together for a brighter future for our state.

Last Monday, the Valley City-Barnes County Development Corporation decided to sponsor a major economic development initiative whose charge is to address "How can corporate leaders and the Valley Development Group capitalize on VCSU’s strengths, forge exciting new business development strategies and services, and work together for mutual benefit?" There is no budget for the activity at this point, and any costs are expected to be small incidentals.

Jennifer Feist, economic development director, presented the concept to the legislators who visited campus on Tuesday and to the State Board of Higher Education, which met here on Thursday. As it happens our visiting legislators are all members of the current state-level Roundtable, as are all State Board members. Their reaction to the first ever regional Roundtable was enthusiastic. Two legislators have agreed to serve on the Valley Development group, and a private sector executive from Fargo has agreed to be its facilitator.

Several people are working with the facilitator to plan membership and meetings that are likely to begin soon after the holiday season and continue perhaps through the spring. We hope the outcomes will include a clearly defined, proactive role for Valley City State University in helping to drive the region’s progress in a variety of new ways.
As the proposal said, "From an economic development perspective, the initiative will enhance the community’s position as an attractive location for growing businesses whose focus is technology or technology driven, which will create quality jobs." The proposal went on to say that, "VCSU has long provided the vision, leadership, and programs to meet the challenges set forth by the Roundtable and North Dakota Legislature. This initiative is the …next chapter’ of growth and economic vitality for our region and the State, accomplished through strategic links between the private sector and VCSU." We’re ready!