Spontaneous combustion in Hankinson

Polka Fest is one event that Hankinson does right. It attracts more than 1,000 people in its two-day run. Shown here at this year's Polka Fest are Kathy Holdeman of Harlan, Iowa, and Bob Belisle of Lansford.

With an estimated population of almost 1,000 people, Hankinson is a city on the grow — by design.

Community events, new housing developments and vibrant downtown are hallmarks of this southeastern North Dakota city. Hankinson leaders continually look to the future and add events to draw people here. The hope is once people come to Polka Fest, they may be impressed enough to stay, said Bob Wurl, president and CEO of Lincoln State Bank, and secretary/treasurer of the Hankinson Community Development Corporation.

This effort has not gone unnoticed. Now Hankinson will showcase its talents to North Dakota Department of Commerce officials Wednesday, Oct. 31 as part of Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative. A panel of 12-15 Hankinson residents made up of a cross section of people in business, healthcare, school system and parks, will answer questions posed by Commerce officials, Wurl said.

The public is invited to attend this session. Although they cannot ask questions during the formal session, there may be an opportunity following the presentation, he said. Commerce officials will be in Wahpeton that same afternoon.

Rep. Cindy Schreiber Beck, R-District 25, said Hankinson could write the book for Main Street North Dakota. Between the city’s leadership, its approach to economic development, improvements to downtown and new housing developments, Hankinson has been successful in opening new businesses, she said.

Schreiber Beck was on the board that attracted an ethanol plant here 15 years ago. She said she saw firsthand how community members banded together to attract this vital industry. Not done there, a full roster of events offering everything from the Cares for Cancer banquet to Oktoberfest to December’s Holiday Train.

“It’s almost like spontaneous combustion when people have ideas in Hankinson,” Schreiber Beck said.

Burgum’s initiative helps engaged communities become even stronger and is based on three key pillars — healthy communities, 21st century workforce and efficient infrastructure, Wurl said.

Hankinson Mayor Loren Hovel is expected to issue a proclamation declaring Hankinson a Main Street North Dakota community that Wednesday.

For the first time in the country’s history, there are more jobs than job seekers, Burgum said, making this initiative important to keep businesses open. It also means North Dakota communities can attract newcomers as people seek these jobs, he said.

Hankinson has two infill projects, including the Dakota Drive development on the city’s east side and Prairie Pines in an empty field along the city’s northwest corner, Wurl said.

The city has a strong business community, public education, healthcare and vibrant downtown, he said, which makes it attractive to newcomers. This work requires funding. Two grant funding programs were recently announced, both of which will be used for the state’s workforce issue. One includes a $2.3 million community development block grants. Those federal dollars will be directed to the state level for projects. The second grant is $450,000 over three years.

Wurl and CDC teammate David Paulson attended the Main Street summit in February to learn more about the program. Through this, the CDC applied for a Partners in Marketing grant that was approved. Funds were used to market the new Prairie Pines development on a billboard south of Fargo.

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