An assortment of residents, stakeholders, developers and more came out to gallery 2 for the City of Grand Forks’ Development Showcase.
The showcase featured three different presentations for investors including a development lands overview by Doug Allin, city administrative officer, and James Kay of Focus Engineering. The presentation talked about how Grand Forks is looking into selling several city-owned properties.
In all, there are 114 properties in Grand Forks that are available with 66 of those being owned by the city.
Kay told the Gazette he was brought in by the city to give advice to staff and to prepare the poster boards, and help prepare the analysis of the properties.
“From here staff will be going to different industry groups,” he said. “We’re affiliated with a development industry group, the home builders’ group, the construction association—all of these industry groups where we can take this information and showcase Grand Forks. That’ll be the next step for staff and for the showcase.”
Mayor Brian Taylor said the showcase was well attended and was good chance for people to see what the city has to offer.
“It was a really good turnout,” he said. “We had different people than we normally have at our regular meetings. What I witnessed was a really clear presentation of why we’re doing it and defining the difference between strategic properties and surplus properties and potentially commercial properties. The presentation really laid out the opportunity for entrepreneurs and hopefully there will be an uptake. Certainly from the level of interest, I would expect a follow up from a number of the people there.”
Taylor credits staff for having the diligence to put the properties up for sale at this time.
“We haven’t had that diligence in terms of being ‘open for business’ that we have now,” he said. “It’s part of an overall strategy that council and administration have put together to really capitalize on the assets we have and to promote the community as being ‘open for business.’”
The ‘open for business’ tagline is in line with the city’s new mantra of being run like a business, said Taylor.
“Clearly, if you were running a business wouldn’t you look at what assets you had that weren’t making you any revenue and weighing you down? We have properties that could be tax-producing properties if they were not in our hands but in someone else’s hands.”
Later sessions dealt with the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and how foreign investors can invest in the region. The final session talked about how businesses can use the PNP program to bring in skilled immigrant workers.
Wendy McCulloch, director of Community Futures Boundary, said the PNP sessions went very well.
“We had about 16 actual employers at the second session (skilled immigrant workers),” she said. “Folks who were looking for welders and fabricators and all those skilled trades that we aren’t able to attain locally for whatever reason. There was huge interest in it.”
McCulloch said they were able to help connect some of the employers with the people involved in running the PNP program.
“There was some really good information that was provided to the local business community,” she said.