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Rugby JDA discusses unemployment numbers, programs at August meeting

By Staff | Aug 22, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT The Rugby Job Development Authority reviews budget documents as it ends its regular meeting Aug. 12

Unemployment percentages for Pierce County residents in June sat at 4.8 percent, a number “far below the national average of 11.1 percent,” Rugby Job Development Authority Director Liz Heisey reported last week.

Heisey delivered her report to the JDA board at its regular meeting Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Heisey also shared information on the success of federal and state government programs to keep businesses open and jobs secure in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

One such program, the North Dakota Economic Resiliency Grant, opened its application period Wednesday, Aug. 12.

“The (North Dakota) Department of Commerce, with input from our community and others across the state developed the Economic Resiliency Grant program,” Heisey said. “Eligible applicants may qualify for grant funding for $50,000 for a business up to $100,000 for a business with multiple locations. And that grant portal opened up today.”

Those wishing to apply for the program should

visit ndcom-prod.power-appsportals.us.

Business owners seeking more information on the program may email the department at businesshelpCOVID19@nd.gov.

Heisey said the state developed the program using data from community surveys, such as those produced by the Rugby JDA.

Previous programs, such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program, have also met with success in North Dakota and Pierce County, Heisey said.

“For North Dakota alone, there were 20,000 PPP loans for over $1.7 billion, and that was just for North Dakota,” Heisey noted.

“I wanted to point out that all the surveys everybody’s been taking and through talking with local businesses, you guys have asked and we listened,” Heisey said.

“We’ve provided a lot of input through these surveys,” Heisey said. “We attended with other board members and people in the banking industry multiple think tanks and virtual meetings to make sure our voices were heard and our communities were represented. We talked with senators and representatives to make sure (they considered the community’s needs) all the way up to the federal level.”

“Thanks to the partnerships between businesses and the community we were able to get some of the program funds that we needed,” she added.

Heisey also gave a “big shout out to our Rugby JDA student loan repayment programs. We have been nominated as part of the North Dakota Main Street Champion Community (program).”

“We have been nominated for 2020 North Dakota Main Street 21st Century Workforce Award. Our program that we started in 2016 has grown from six participants to 22. It’s been quite an effective tool for our community for attracting and retaining the best and brightest in our community,” Heisey noted.

“I think that’s a pretty big honor,” she added.

“We also got recognition from the North Dakota University System Career Builders program on how we’re implementing that in our community. They asked us to talk on different platforms on how we’re implementing it.”

Heisey spoke on another JDA focus, economic development.

“There’s always talk about what property tax incentives do,” Heisey explained. “We want to highlight that property taxes for commercial property within the city boundaries provide long-term economic stability. Generally the property tax incentives are one to five years. But city leaders, for the public, they should be looking at the long run, six to 30 years.”

“One commercial property can generate the (revenue) equivalent of multiple residential properties,” she added. “I know there’s commercial properties in Rugby that bring in $25,000 a year in taxes. That’s the equivalent of 20 homes.”

Heisey added, “(Property and sales tax revenues) definitely subsidize residential properties. Even a parking lot. Encouraging more commercial growth within the city helps fund schools, public safety, parks, roads, recreation facilities, community programs and other vital infrastructure.”

Heisey said business growth also increases spending in Rugby, which brings in sales tax revenue.

The board also discussed misconceptions community members have of the JDA.

Board member Gary Kraft said, “At the last city council meeting, some of the new (council members) asked questions about the JDA. It’s a good thing for everybody to understand what we do. Sometimes the message doesn’t get out there enough about why we need it for different things.”

“That’s a huge part of issues that a city like Rugby has, whether it’s with the city council or the county commissioners, because people don’t understand how it works and why it’s done that way.”

In other business, the board heard information about a remodel project for the Rugby armory, which would result in more space for public meetings and other uses.

Heisey updated the board on programs to train workers.

“We’d like to offer more adult-based training opportunities and we’re working on getting some upgrades to the armory to get some more workspace and working with local businesses,” Heisey noted.

“Rugby Manufacturing of course wants to get an apprenticeship program going,” Heisey said. I’m going to get a committee together to try to make that come into fruition.”

Heisey said she would research state and federal training programs in areas such as welding and construction and cooperate with Rugby Public Schools to implement them.

The board voted to purchase two updated computers to enable members to attend remote meetings with state agencies. Heisey said the purchase would save travel expenses and increase safety by keeping board members away from cities with high COVID-19 infection rates.

The board also reviewed the JDA’s 2021 preliminary budget, which showed a net cash decrease of $76,150. The budget will go before the Rugby City Council Sept. 10 for a vote.

The JDA will hold its next regular meeting at its office in Hartley’s Mall Sept. 9 at noon.

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