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Recipients of Governor’s Choice awards recognized for outstanding economic development

Among the 2021 winners is the City of West Fargo and EPIC Companies for their collaboration on Essentia Health Plaza at the Lights.

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WEST FARGO – Gov. Doug Burgum presented the Governor’s Choice Economic Development Awards during the Economic Development Association of North Dakota Fall Conference on Wednesday, Oct. 13, in West Fargo.

The Economic Developer of the Year Award is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution that will have a lasting impact on the economic health of his or her community or region.

The 2021 recipient in the Rural Community Division is Danielle Mickelson with Rolla Jobs Development Authority. Mickelson’s successful projects include organizing the creation of Main Street Park and Business incubators and support for local food initiatives throughout North Dakota.

The 2021 recipient in the Urban Community Division is Brandon Baumbach, who has worked with the Grand Forks Region EDC since 2016 and is now the director of business development. A few of his successful projects include recruiting unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business Mobile Recon Systems, data processing facility Core Scientific and the Red River Biorefinery.

The Project of the Year Award recognizes a project that has made a significant contribution to the economic health of the community or region in terms of job creation, partnerships and overall economic impact.


The 2021 recipient in the Urban Community Division is Grand Forks Region EDC and Minnkota Power Cooperative for their collaboration to bring Core Scientific’s $114 million data processing and cryptocurrency mining facility to Grand Forks.

The 2021 recipient in the Rural Community Division is the Traill County Economic Development Commission for its work bringing natural gas to its community. Residents and businesses will see cost savings immediately. The county expects to grow its tax base, and most importantly, Traill County will be on a more level playing field in terms of attracting major businesses to the area.

The Community Development Award recognizes a development project that has increased the quality of life in a community.

This award is being given to two communities: Adams County Development Corp. for the creation of The Rural Collective, and the City of West Fargo and EPIC Companies for their collaboration on Essentia Health Plaza at the Lights.

After a survey of Hettinger residents found the community had a need for an educational learning center, Hettinger Chamber of Commerce and Adams County Development Corp. purchased a dilapidated building and opened The Rural Collective, a co-working and collaborative workforce center in Hettinger. West Fargo and EPIC Companies collaborated to create Essentia Health Plaza at the Lights, a mixed-use area downtown that supports retail, office, recreation, entertainment and housing.

A new award, the Program or Promotion of the Year Award, was given to an economic development organization or entity that helped to facilitate an outstanding economic development program or promotion.

The 2021 recipient was McKenzie County JDA for its housing development program. An inadequate supply of quality, affordable housing was identified as one of the biggest hindrances to the continued economic development of McKenzie County. Since the first house closed in December 2019, 26 high-quality, single-family houses have received $1.2 million in subsidies.

The Governor’s Choice Economic Development Awards are given annually through a collaboration between the North Dakota Governor’s Office, the North Dakota Department of Commerce and EDND.

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