Main Street ND Summit to build statewide network, resources, inspiration


Community development experts and advocates from around North Dakota will gather in Bismarck Oct. 29-31 to share best practices, learn, network and be inspired at the Main Street Initiative Summit.  

This year’s event will cover a variety of topics applicable to all North Dakota residents. Vibrant communities are a fundamental element of workforce development, and the Main Street Initiative Summit aims to provide resources and tools that will benefit every community – both rural and urban.   

The three-day summit will serve as a forum for information on the community planning principles behind the three pillars of Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative: a skilled workforce; smart, efficient infrastructure; and healthy, vibrant communities. 

“Most of the communities engaged in the Main Street Initiative are rural, and it’s important to ensure everyone knows that you don’t have to be an urban community with a big downtown to participate in the Main Street Initiative,” said Emily Brown, community engagement manager for the North Dakota Department of Commerce. 

Brown added that in addition to rural focus, the summit will also feature breakout sessions specifically targeting the needs of the state’s urban communities. 

“While our state’s urban and rural communities have many of the same priorities, they also have some very different needs, particularly when it comes to smart, efficient infrastructure development,” Brown said.  

As a leader of one of North Dakota’s communities and an active participant in the Main Street Initiative, Valley City Mayor Dave Carlsrud attended last year’s summit while Valley City was in the middle of the planning and funding phase of its Downtown Main Street project. Carlsrud said networking with other communities helped him learn from shared experiences that related to Valley City’s project.   

Although topics are designed for specific communities in mind, all attendees will be able to cross-reference resources that will relate to their communities.  

Executive director of Strengthen ND, Megan Laudenschlager is familiar with both rural and urban needs. Based in Minot, Strengthen ND is a multi-faceted organization that works across North Dakota to elevate nonprofits and rural communities. According to Laudenschlager, both urban and rural communities can benefit from each other’s scenarios and solutions.  

“It’s important to focus on urban specifics as well as rural, because each community is going to have its own different needs, resources and assets, Laudenschlager said. “The urban-specific sessions will provide learning opportunities for the rural communities to also learn from.” 

Laudenschlager said she is looking forward to learning about rural livability for aging communities at this year’s summit. 

“We need to learn not only how to make our communities work for the young people, but also how we can retain our older community members,” Laudenschlager said.  

Laudenschlager also will be a participant at this year’s summit. 

“I am really excited to talk about real-life North Dakota examples such as Tuttle Rural Innovation Center and the Maddock Opera House,” Laudenschlager said. “Along with building momentum in small towns, we will also be talking about generating local champions that can lead growth and development.” 

Laudenschlager said she hopes participants learn that every community has something unique it can build upon. 

“Every community has the tools and foundation to be successful and can access complementary skills or toolsets from other communities, and from their service providers within their communities, to be successful,” Laudenschlager said.  

Carlsrud also will participate in this year’s summit and encourages community members to attend. 

“Conferences like these provide insight into new programs that could change the future of your home community,” Carlsrud said. “Conferences always provide continuing education and networking, making us more effective in our work.” 

Please visit for information about the 2019 Main Street Initiative Summit. 

The North Dakota Department of Commerce works to improve the quality of life for North Dakota citizens by leading efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth. Commerce serves businesses and communities statewide through committed people and partners who offer valuable programs and dynamic services.  

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