Economic development efforts in the Red River Valley are nothing new. There have been – and are – several programs designed to stimulate investment, create jobs and encourage partnerships. Often the models are similar. Some succeed, some fade away.

The Valley Prosperity Partnership is different in two fundamental ways. First, its membership is comprised almost entirely of stakeholders, rather than analysts, observers and bureaucrats. Second, it is a truly valleywide initiative that is tapping into the natural collaborative and cooperative instincts that business people from Grand Forks to Wahpeton, N.D., employ every day.

VPP members are investors not only in the valley’s broadly defined economic future but also their own interests. In the long pull, they are one in the same. Business success must be defined by business. Good jobs and investment opportunities are created by visionary entrepreneurship and smart public policy. That’s the foundational combination of the partnership. Executed well, it can’t lose. And the VPP leaders who have been putting their time, expertise and resources into the initiative since 2012 can show progress in identifying priorities and developing strategies.

To accomplish what?

VPP has identified six broad areas of focus, but the first two are pivotal to almost everything else. They are attracting and retaining workers; and water supply and flood control. Those factors in the valley’s economic development equation affect all other aspects of the regional economy. Without good workers, business and industry cannot grow. The threat of water shortage and/or catastrophic flood inhibits investment.

The partnership also is working with legislatures in two states, and will hire a lobbyist who will advocate for putting more resources into appropriate education programs. Other areas of concentration include expanding research, boosting entrepreneurial activity, improving infrastructure, and promoting the region as a great place to live, work and do business.

It’s an ambitious agenda, but not an impossible one. The timing could not be better because the region is growing in population and is prosperous. The potential is immense. The partnership is developing pragmatic and sustainable ways to tap it.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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