Lewis & Clark RDC awarded $400,000 to help coordinate economic response to pandemic in ten-county region

Lewis & Clark Regional Development Council (RDC) has been awarded $400,000, through the CARES Act, by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help coordinate a response to the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects in ten south central North Dakota counties.

Lewis & Clark RDC is a federally designated Economic Development District (EDD) serving Burleigh, Emmons, Grant, Kidder, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan, and Sioux counties. It is a part of the Lewis & Clark Development Group, which is a collaboration of three separate non-profit organizations: Lewis & Clark RDC, Lewis & Clark Certified Development Company (CDC), and CommunityWorks North Dakota.  

Scope of Work
 
The EDA CARES Act award funds a defined scope of work by Lewis & Clark RDC, key elements of which include:

  • Developing a Regional Economic Recovery and Resilience Plan: The development of an economic recovery and resilience plan to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic throughout the region. 
     
  • Disaster Recovery Coordinator: The hiring and deployment of a disaster recovery coordinator to orchestrate Lewis & Clark RDC’s response to the pandemic.
  • Technical Assistance: Providing technical assistance, as necessary, to local governments, businesses, and other stakeholder organizations within the region.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic demands a coordinated and strategic approach,” says Brent Ekstrom, Lewis & Clark Development Group executive director. “Lewis and Clark RDC has the infrastructure and capabilities to bring businesses, lenders, economic development groups along with city, county, and tribal leaders together to address these unique challenges.”

Paulson named EDA CARES Director

Ekstrom says the award allows Lewis & Clark RDC to be a primary provider of recovery assistance services for the next two years. The task of organizing and directing these services will be done by Paulette Paulson, recently hired as the new EDA CARES Director.
 
Paulson brings 22 years of experience in community development in both the government and nonprofit sectors to the new position. Through the years Paulson has especially focused on the creation and management of affordable housing in rural communities. In a previous role with USDA Rural Development, she facilitated work groups and developed partnerships to allow communities to solve specific economic, housing, and infrastructure challenges. According to Ekstrom, this experience is what made Paulson an ideal fit for this new role.

“Paulette can hit the ground running. She understands the dynamics within community and economic development, knows many key players, and has experience in bringing parties together to get things done,” Ekstrom notes.

“I am excited to join Lewis and Clark Development Group as we emerge in the coming months with a process to help communities recover from this pandemic,” Paulson says.

Benchmark Survey is the First Step

According to Paulson, Lewis & Clark RDC has mapped out a preliminary 24-month action plan to guide its work. The first step is to gather information to identify the pandemic’s economic effects on businesses within the ten-county region. The benchmark online survey is being finalized.

At the start of the pandemic back in March, Lewis & Clark Development Group developed a special COVID-19 Info page with news and links to resources for businesses and communities. The page will serve as the primary information center for the CARES recovery process. The benchmark survey will be posted on the page by September 1, which may be found at www.lcdgroup.org/covid-19-info/.

“The survey is a first step. The data we collect from our benchmark survey will allow us to develop more specific and targeted research avenues,” adds Paulson. “Our objective is to collect as much information as possible so we can get a good look at what the economic impact has been. This will be crucial to developing recovery and mitigation strategies for businesses and communities.”

Paulson says once the data will be shared later this fall with stakeholders in each county.

“We strongly encourage every business in our ten-county area to complete the survey. It is only with your input that we can create economic development tools to assist regional businesses,” Paulson emphasizes.

“The pandemic continues to touch every aspect of our lives. Mitigating its effects and helping businesses and communities come out of this crisis better and stronger is now the central focus of Lewis and Clark RDC,” states Ekstrom.  

For more information about EDA CARES services, please contact Paulette Paulson at (701) 667-7606 or at paulette@lcdgroup.org.