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Activate Main Street visits Rugby

By Staff | Nov 16, 2018

Community needs, workforce and infrastructure were among several topics discussed during an “Activate Main Street” listening session last Thursday at the Lyric Theater in Rugby.

Representatives with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Souris Basin Planning Council and other state organizations met with city officials, business leaders and Rugby High School students.

Taking seats in chairs in front of attendees were Paul Lucy, business developer with the N.D. Department of Commerce; Briselda Hernandez, economic development specialist with the Souris Basin Planning Council; Kim Konikow, executive director of the North Dakota Council on the Arts; Riley Zachmeier and Ty Gross, students in instructor Kevin Leier’s community development class at Rugby High School; Lyndsay Ulrickson, SBPC executive director; and Emily Brown, community engagement manager with the N.D. Dept. of Commerce.

N.D. Dept. of Commerce’s Senior Manager Strategic Initiatives Holly Holt led discussions. Holt said events like this give a chance to talk about what the Main Street Initiative is and figure out ways for all North Dakota communities to reach their full potential.

Holt asked attendees what their pitches would be for the community.

Erik Christenson discussed one of his daughters being in dental school and how her time at Rugby High School prepared her for it.

Jodi Schaan described Rugby as a strong “volunteer community.”

Job Development Authority Executive Director Jessica Brossart described Rugby as a “safe community” where kids can walk from place to place.

Holt then asked attendees to “flip the mirror” and discuss “what’s missing.” Common responses included affordable housing, daycare and recreation opportunities.

Ulrickson said she went to school in Rolette and had wondered why Rugby doesn’t have a community college. First International Bank Rugby President Tanner Johnson said that while it would be a good thing to have, there should also be a “swing back the other way” toward trades. Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said that while she wouldn’t know how to “attract another Bottineau,” she would love to strategize about a certificate program.

Leier, who was in attendance with members of his community development class, said a “plethora of ideas” were coming from seven RHS students.

Konikow asked what the city had for art programs. Leier praised Village Arts as one the “best volunteer groups” in local arts, but also said there could be more opportunities.

Holt asked about healthcare resources. Heart of America Medical Center CEO Patrick Branco said developing staff that would not just move to but stay in Rugby was a “huge issue.” Ulrickson said culture is one thing that is overlooked in the recruiting process.

Zachmeier questioned Steinke on what was being done with empty houses on the northern side of town. Steinke said houses owned by private citizens are a challenge, as there are older homes that “need a lot of work.” Steinke said she would love to see older and narrower lots be built on.

District 14 Rep. Jon Nelson said Rugby can be a regional draw.

“We can draw a number of industries to the city,” Nelson said, adding that one thing holding that back is a lack of natural gas.

Steinke said she could think of several places within the community that would utilize natural gas, if available. Johnson said there was a bid for natural gas for $17 million, however the city would’ve had to fund $12 million of that total. Steinke said there could be other communities that would want natural gas branched out from Rugby, and that it would make sense to “think bigger than Rugby.”

“It’s not an easy solve,” Holt said of natural gas.

Prior to the listening session, attendees got to see presentations for HAMC, Rugby Manufacturing-TBEI, and a downtown history presentation made by students in Leier’s class.

State visitors who were part of the Activate Main Street visit toured Rugby prior to the listening session.

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