A variety of important issues including Minnesota’s fiscal health, the relationship between the state and local governments, the future of the state’s manufacturing industry, the arts and the upcoming 2020 Census were explored at the CGMC’s annual summer conference, which was held Aug. 2-4 in Fergus Falls. Throughout the three-day conference participants were also treated to tours of city attractions like Fergus Falls’ historic downtown and the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, and an awards dinner that honored 26 legislators and city leaders for their work on behalf of Greater Minnesota during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Read on to find out more about the conference highlights. To see photos from the event, please check out our conference photo album on Facebook.

Presentation performs a ‘checkup’ on Minnesota’s fiscal health

CGMC Executive Director Bradley Peterson kicked off the conference by performing a “checkup” on Minnesota’s fiscal health. During his presentation, he provided analysis on the recently passed state budget and past fiscal trends to determine whether the state was still on solid financial footing. He concluded that while the state is currently healthy, there are some concerns on the horizon that could lead to budget troubles in the future. You can view the Power Point presentation here.

Veteran Capitol Press Corps journalists participate in panel discussion

One of the highlights of the conference was a panel discussion titled “The Minnesota Capitol Press Corps: Front-Row Seats at the Circus” featuring journalists Brian Bakst of Minnesota Public Radio, Lori Sturdevant of the Star Tribune and Bill Werner of Minnesota News Network, each of whom has at least 20 years of experience covering state politics.
The panelists discussed everything from whether Greater Minnesota gets the news coverage it deserves to the biggest challenges they have faced in their years covering the state Legislature and lawmakers. They also provided advice to city leaders on ways to can keep the media — and the public — interested in the issues that are important to their cities. All three panelists said the most important thing city leaders can do is be in touch with local and state media and keep sharing their stories.

In addition to participating in the panel discussion, the journalists also used the CGMC Summer Conference as a chance to talk to city leaders and get caught up on Greater Minnesota issues. Sturdevant wrote an excellent editorial for the Sunday Star Tribune about city officials’ concerns about lingering unmet needs. Werner also did a great story and a radio interview with CGMC President Sara Carlson about issues that are important to the CGMC and rural communities.

You can watch the full panel discussion here.

Teaching cities to unlock their creative assets for economic success

Springboard for the Arts Executive Director Laura Zabel and Rural Program Director Michele Anderson led a presentation and discussion about ways cities can use the arts to help drive economic development. They provided examples of how rural cities of all sizes are utilizing the arts as a powerful tool to engage their communities, promote tourism and enhance quality of life. In their presentation, they shared techniques that communities across Minnesota and the nation have used to address local challenges and opportunities related to the arts.
Their presentation also included some small-group discussion and an exercise in which attendees were encouraged to design a flag that showcases their city. The flags were displayed on Wednesday evening at the city-sponsored dinner at Pebble Lake Golf Course.

Bob Kill shares an update on the ‘State of Manufacturing’

Enterprise Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill provided the Thursday luncheon keynote address on the “State of Manufacturing” in Minnesota. During his presentation, he shared the results of a comprehensive survey of manufacturers across the state. The survey explored a wide range of issues such as confidence in the economy, the state’s business climate, future concerns and the prospects for business and job growth. You can read his full presentation here.

Legislative panel discusses the relationship between the state and local governments

One of the themes that emerged from the 2017 legislative session was the topic of local government control: what issues should be left to local governments to determine and when should the state step in? This topic was explored during a panel discussion featuring four state legislators who have all previously served as elected local government officials: Sen. Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville, former mayor of Lakeville), Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids, former Park Rapids City Council member), Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins, former Hopkins City Council member) and Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley, former mayor of Browns Valley).
In addition to the discussion local government control, it’s important to note that the legislators were asked about the prospects for a bonding bill in 2018. They all agreed that a bonding bill is likely to pass next year, with a size ranging between $800 million and $1.3 billion.

Presentation provides an update on the Minnesota Rural Equity Project

In 2016, the CGMC and our sister organization, the Greater Minnesota Partnership, joined forces with Growth & Justice and the Minnesota Asset Building Coalition on the Minnesota Rural Equity Project, an ambitious endeavor that aims to reduce economic and racial disparities both within Greater Minnesota and between Greater Minnesota and the metro area. Presenters Dane Smith, Anna Odegaard and Matt Schmit provided an update on the project’s accomplishments in 2017 and outlined potential issues that the project could focus on in the future, such as childcare, housing and workforce development.

State demographer stresses the importance of preparing for the 2020 Census

With the 2020 Census just around the corner, State Demographer Susan Brower provided a presentation about the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program and why it is critical to ensuring your city gets adequate state funding. She noted that the LUCA program is a once-in-a-decade opportunity for local governments to make sure the Census Bureau has a complete and accurate address list of all the housing units in your city before the 2020 Census forms are mailed. Brower provided information on why the program is important and how cities can participate. You can see her Power Point Presentation here and video of her presentation is available here.

CGMC elects 2017-18 officers

At the full membership meeting on Aug. 4, members elected a new slate of officers to lead the organization for the rest of the year and through the 2018 legislative session. The new officers are:

  • President – Dave Smiglewski, Mayor of Granite Falls
  • 1st Vice President – Ron Johnson, Bemidji City Councilor
  • 2nd Vice President – Audrey Nelsen, Willmar City Councilor
  • Secretary – Tom Stiehm, Mayor of Austin
  • Treasurer – Scott Hutchins, City of Moorhead

Smiglewski replaces Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, who served as CGMC president for the previous year. We extend our gratitude to Mayor Carlson for being an excellent president over the past 12 months!

Exploring Fergus Falls

While the conference mainly focused on informational sessions, there were also several opportunities for attendees to have fun, mingle and explore the city of Fergus Falls. On Wednesday evening, the city hosted a rib dinner and live music at the city-owned Pebble Lake Golf Course. Later that evening, attendees belted out tunes during karaoke night at the conference hotel, the Country Inn & Suites.

On Thursday morning, attendees had their choice of one of four tours: a downtown walking tour, a “lakes & prairies” tour featuring stops at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center and Lake Alice, a bike tour along the Central Lakes Trail or golf at Pebble Lake Golf Course.

A special thanks to Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer, City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, Jean Bowman at the Fergus Falls Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, city staff and the staff at the Bigwood Event Center/Country Inn & Suites for being excellent hosts!

Awards dinner honors legislators, city leaders

The capstone of the conference was a cocktail reception (hosted by sponsor Bolton & Menk) and awards dinner held Thursday evening. The dinner recognized 26 legislators, city officials and other leaders who were instrumental in advancing CGMC’s goals during the 2017 session. The full list of award winners can be found on the CGMC website.

Special thanks to our conference exhibitors!

We want to extend a special thank-you to our conference exhibitors, whose continued support of the CGMC helps us put on events like this. They are:

– Aiphone
– Apex Efficiency Solutions
– Apex Engineering Group
– Bolton & Menk, Inc.
– Commercial Recreation Specialists
– Community and Economic Development Associates
– Cooper’s Office Supply
– Ehlers
– Flaherty & Hood, P.A
– Four Seasons Energy Efficient Roofing
– Interstate Engineering
– Landmark Environmental, LLC
– Miller Architecture Inc. 
– Moore Engineering Inc. 
– National Insurance Services
– National Joint Powers Alliance
– Northland Securities Inc.
– PFM Financial Advisors LLC
– PMA Financial Network
– Springsted Incorporated
– SwedeBro
– Widseth Smith Nolting