Business strategists are promoting long-term tourism and investment opportunities in Grand Forks, delivering on key planks of the city’s post-flood recovery plan.
Sandy Elzinga, manger of economic development at Community Futures Boundary, said she and Discover Grand Forks’ Sarah Dinsdale expect to launch their initiative in time for this year’s tourist season. The aim is to draw tourists to Grand Forks and neighbouring Christina Lake, where it is hoped young families and professionals will buy homes and spark small businesses.
Business opportunities range from real estate development to the agricultural sector, which Dinsdale and Elzinga said will take off through the West Boundary’s recent food hub initiative.
Noting pandemic restrictions against non-essential travel, Dinsdale said their approach would first target regional tourists. “We don’t want to build our plan entirely around COVID, because we’re hoping to come out of this relatively soon,” she qualified, adding that any successful plan would have to be “flexible enough to grow with us.”
Discover Grand Forks is eager to start promoting the city as a tourist spot, she continued. Destination consultant Roger Brooks highlighted tourism in his June 2019 plan to re-start Grand Forks’ flood-damaged economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic froze planning efforts until 2021.
Meanwhile, housing starts are up across the city, according to Building Inspector David Bruce. The city has seen around 30 building permits come in as of mid-month, compared to the 19 which came in last April. The estimated value of this year’s construction projects, including five new homes and nine new apartments, has come in at around $3.6 million. That figure more than doubles the roughly $1.5 million in valued construction by this point last year.
“Builders and developers see the market for new residential construction,” he said, adding that the appeal has shone through recent spikes in construction costs.