Lewis & Clark RDC to visit with counties on future preparedness post-pandemic

Lewis & Clark Development Group’s EDA CARES planning grant report has been submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). Submitting a report is not usually worth noting but what LCD Group is recommending moving forward in this particular report is worth sharing.

The report is in compliance with the federal grant Lewis & Clark Regional Development (RDC) received in coordinating an economic and community response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal dollars were awarded to Lewis & Clark RDC in its role as the federally designated Economic Development District (EDD) for a ten-county region consisting of: Burleigh, Emmons, Grant, Kidder, McLean, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sheridan, and Sioux. Lewis & Clark RDC is part of LCD Group.

“We outline in our report the importance of crisis mitigation. Most of our ten counties have crisis mitigation plans but some fall short of what we all confronted during the pandemic. We have taken the liberty to provide recommendations moving forward to be prepared for the next inevitable crisis,” Ekstrom said.

LCD Group consolidated the feedback and data collected during the crisis and will be meeting with county commissioners from each county later in July and August. Ekstrom along with LCD Group’s Ashley Hruby will present findings along with a set of recommendations to the region’s leaders. Among some of the key recommendations are…

Greater Collaboration with Political Subdivisions. Ekstrom said it was clear early in the pandemic that many counties lacked a single point of contact to direct public information efforts among county government, cities, and other political subdivisions. “With so many information and misinformation channels out there, a coordinated response is essential,” adds Ekstrom.

Housing and Childcare Strategies are Needed. Based on the data collected, the pandemic exposed disparities in housing security among rural communities. Ekstrom says this challenge was further exacerbated by childcare issues that impacted many working families. “Counties, communities, and school districts need to collaborate on identifying each county’s housing and childcare needs. Counties that develop strategies around these issues will be at a competitive advantage moving forward,” states Ekstrom.

Apply Data to Decision Making. Ekstrom says the pandemic resulted in the collection of significant data that counties should incorporate into their decision making process. “Taken together with Census data, counties have perhaps more information at their disposal than at any time in recent memory. This information should be used to inform decisions on immediate and long-term needs,” advises Ekstrom.

LCD Group’s recommendations have no force in law but can help steer the conversation and, if appropriate, help fund initiatives to address the recommended areas.

“We can’t tell counties what to do. That’s not our role. We’re a partner to our counties and have long-established relationships with every commission. We are approaching this from a best practices standpoint,” Ekstrom says.

“Our region consists of 21 percent of North Dakota’s population and the state’s second-largest metro area. Every county in our region is interconnected economically and socially. We cannot afford to not be prepared. As we’ve done for the last 53 years, Lewis and Clark Development Group will be there to help our counties every step of the way.”

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