Strong Towns President, Charles Marohn, spent several days this week in Bismarck, North Dakota, speaking at the Main Street ND Summit. It's part of a unique initiative created by the North Dakota state government focused on empowering local leaders and creating "vibrant cities poised to attract and retain a 21st century workforce, helping North Dakota compete and succeed in a global economy."
It's rare to find a state entity that's so dedicated to success at the local level, particularly for small towns like those in North Dakota, and Strong Towns is proud to be part of this movement. In addition to Charles Marohn, the Summit also featured prominent speakers like Governor Doug Burgum — a long-time member of Strong Towns.
Local news outlets including radio, television and newspaper were keeping a close watch on the Main Street ND Summit and came out with several reflections on Marohn's presentations.
Minot Daily News' senior staff writer Jill Schramm recapped Strong Towns' key arguments in an article on February 13:
Marohn, a civil engineer and planner, explained why building slowly and incrementally from the city’s core rather than spending millions on sprawl can be a more sustainable, resilient style of development that won’t bankrupt cities.
He suggested cities look back in history to see how development had been done successfully for thousands of years, even without planners, engineers, zoning laws, grants or tax subsidies. The first change is to forget the line, “build it and they will come,” which works in the movies but is devastating as an economic development strategy, he said.
“We are so desperate for growth, we will do anything to get it,” he said. As a result, cities have fallen for an illusion and invested far more money than will ever be returned on projects that look good on the surface. [...]
The solution is not another $10 million business park but a $16,700 investment into a series of small changes, such as extending a sidewalk or painting a crosswalk. Marohn called for these least-risk investments that improve people’s lives so growth can happen incrementally and naturally.
Marohn was also featured on Prairie Public Radio in a short segment entitled "'Main Street' Presenter: Big isn't necessarily better," as well as spotlighted on West Dakota Fox News.
Strong Towns looks forward to continuing this momentum in North Dakota communities and helping it spread around the nation.
(Top photo source: Fargo-Moorhead CVB)