Gov. Doug Burgum encouraged developers and city authorities to consider investing in making our cities smart and efficient.

He was speaking at the Main Street Summit 2021 in Fargo.

The Main Street Summit was organized to bring together like-minded people to discuss the future of cities in North Dakota.

Burgum said the state needs smart cities, those that create experiences rather than just infrastructure.

The governor said the experience is how North Dakota could overcome its labor unavailability problem.

“This workforce is not gonna move to our communities because we have one more overpass over the interstate that might cost $70 million,” said Burgum.

He explained North Dakota cannot attract labor by infrastructure alone but by creating amenities that can also retain the labor force. Burgum estimated there are about 30,000 jobs that need to be filled across the state.

When cities are efficient, they minimize the burden on low-income residents who may be subsidizing the lifestyle of high-income earners, according to development experts who spoke at the Summit.

In order for such cities to pay for themselves, they need to invest in infrastructure that can generate revenue.

The governor cited the impact of free parking on the taxpayer.

“We’ve got to look with new eyes at all the parking”, he said. “When you leave today and drive around, allow yourself to be shocked by the amount of surface area that we have for parking, and all of that surface area is ringed by infrastructure; sewer, water, roads, lights that you’ve all paid for and it’s all being underutilized.”

Burgum said the high cost of parking is “public infrastructure with very little revenue coming into it.”

He also reiterated the state’s federal-government-funded investment drive dubbed Accelerate ND.

That program aims to attract investors and make cities more profitable without raising taxes.

Meanwhile, Grand Forks emerged as one of the 2021 21st Century Workforce award winners. The honor recognizes their efforts in providing meaningful work experience for local teens.

To learn more about the award recipients visit the summit website.