November 6, 2017
Nominees and recipients were recognized at the Third Annual
Ideas to Actions Summit on November 2
The Red River Regional Council (RRRC) honored 13 nominees and provided four awards at its 3rd annual Ideas to Actions Summit held November 2 in the Minto Community Center. Attended by more than 130 people, the event was designed to celebrate people striving to build their communities, provide an opportunity for leaders in the region to collaborate and discuss issues, and celebrating the big ideas and hardworking, creative people living in the small towns of northeastern North Dakota.
“We are grateful for the Minto Community Center – it was a perfect venue to cultivate regional synergies and a classic example of the embodiment of our theme for this year’s Summit – Small Towns. Big Ideas,” Said Dawn Keeley, RRRC Executive Director.
A caucus of regional city and county leaders was held prior to the Summit. The caucus featured speakers including Lt. Governor Brent Sanford, Mark Schill of Praxis Strategy Group, and Blake Crosby, Executive Director of the ND League of Cities.
The keynote event, in addition to the awards program, included presentations by Benjamin Winchester, Senior Research Fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality, and Christopher Ingraham, reporter for The Washington Post, as well as presentation of the awards.
Winchester, in his presentation entitled “Changing the Rural Narrative” discussed how rural America is changing, not dying. As agriculture became mechanized, labor and jobs changed.
“Roll with the punches and figure out what we are doing next,” said Winchester. “Newcomers choose the rural lifestyle for the following top three reasons: a simpler pace of life, safety and security, and low housing cost. Jobs were not in the top ten driving factors for relocation and therefore, economic development efforts need to change to a ‘resident recruitment’ strategy. With 46% of North Dakota residents moving every five years, there are opportunities for recruitment.”
According to Pew Research, 51% of people would like to live in a small town or rural area.
Ingraham shared his professional and personal story after writing in the Washington Post that Red Lake County, MN, was the worst place to live in the United States in 2015. Red Lake County promptly invited Ingraham to visit and his editor was “suspiciously enthusiastic” of the idea of sending him to MN.
His first impression, upon arrival, forced him to pull over during his drive four or five times to take in the landscape.
“The land was flat and the sky was huge – so peaceful,” said Ingraham. “I was struck by the sense of community pride and that everyone here was trying to make it a better place.”
Upon his mom’s suggestion to consider moving to MN, he and his wife considered and concluded it would be economically irresponsible not to move. He, his wife, three sons, two rabbits and one beagle now live in Red Lake Falls, MN.
After relocating in May 2016, Ingraham heard from people all over the world – some who had always wanted to make a similar move but had regretted not doing so.
“People already want to live here, you don’t need to sell them – show them it’s possible,” said Ingraham.
Great Ideas, Projects and Leaders Recognized
The RRRC awards program was designed to recognize and reward the leadership and commitment demonstrated in communities across the Red River region. A total of 13 nominations from across the four-county region were received for the three categories. Winners were selected by the RRRC Board of Directors. The three categories included:
Catalyst Award. This award recognizes an individual who acts as a kick starter for an idea or project.
The winner of the Catalyst Award was Dr. Doug and Dr. Laura Munski. The Munskis have given a more than 30-year commitment to provide great STEM learning opportunities for students and STEM teacher resources in northeast North Dakota and across the state.
Determination Award: This award recognizes successful projects that create a significant impact on a community.
Winner of the Determination Award was Thunder Robotics Team 876,
Northwood/Hatton Schools. This team includes students from five North Dakota counties and has made it to the FIRST Robotics World Championship each of the last three years.
North Star Award: This award recognizes ideas to illuminate opportunities or create a guiding light for progress within a community.
Winner of the North Star Award was North Star Housing Development by the Park
River Development Corporation. The addition was a private public partnership with North Star Cooperative that resulted in 22 residential lots for single-family housing. In five years, 11 lots have been sold and nine homes have been constructed which are valued at more than $2 million.
Intrepid Award: The Intrepid Award is reserved only for the most audacious, bold organizations or thinkers who have transitioned a visionary idea to literal, concrete results. The Intrepid Award was selected from the nominations in the other categories.
Winner of the Intrepid Award was the Northern Valley Career Expo. The Expo is a collaboration of education, economic development, and workforce organizations in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota to introduce approximately 7,500 high school sophomores to careers in the region with 90% responding that they are more likely to pursue a career in the region as result of attending.
“We are so proud of the quality and quantity of individuals and groups of community builders that contribute so much to the communities of this region,” said Chris Lipsh, RRRC President. “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to celebrate them and their work that is so impactful.”
The four award winners were presented hand-crafted glass creations by Jason Lindell, Sundog Glass Design, Park River. All nominees were also provided a “Community Builder” recognition keepsake from Dakota East of Grafton. For a complete list of all nominees, go to the RRRC’s website at www.redriverrc.com or the Red River Regional Council’s Facebook page.
The overall purpose of the Ideas to Actions Summit is to provide an opportunity to inform the public of the goals and activities of the Council, to create excitement about the potential of the region’s communities, and to recognize the excellent work of the region’s people and communities. The RRRC serves a four-county region including Grand Forks, Nelson, Pembina and Walsh counties.
2017 Event Sponsors include:
- Bank of North Dakota
- City of Grafton
- City of Grand Forks
- Construction Engineers
- Grand Forks Region EDC
- Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson
- Nelson County JDA
- Park River EDC
- Pembina County JDA
- Red River Regional Council
- Walsh County JDA