Jamestown, North Dakota offers the best of both worlds: friendly, small town living with the amenities and business opportunities of a much larger community. “What makes Jamestown such a great place to live is that you have a community that is small enough to know your neighbor and feel safe and comfortable, yet it is big enough to participate in commerce and have great employment opportunities,” says Mayor Katie Andersen. “It is just the right balance.”
Being located in North Dakota gives the city of 16,000 a distinct advantage right off the bat. “North Dakota is experiencing great economic success across the entire state,” Mayor Andersen explains. An added plus is that Jamestown sits at the intersection of an interstate, a major highway, and a railroad, making it a regional hub for commerce. “We have great economic activity happening all around us, and then we have our own little pocket of activity because of our location.”
The city government is working hard to ensure that Jamestown lives up to its potential. “We are business friendly,” says Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation (JSDC). “We are working very hard to make it easy for businesses to come to Jamestown.” Mayor Andersen’s first initiative as mayor was to lead a planning effort focused on making Jamestown an even better place to work. As a result, the city boasts a range of new infrastructure, from additional water storage and sewer systems to expanded transportation networks. The team also implemented new incentives to bring in business. “We really want to see our primary sector grow,” says the Mayor.
Manufacturing and agriculture are big in Jamestown, and there are great opportunities for advanced manufacturing, value added agriculture, and food processing. For example, French fry manufacturer Cavendish Farms is an ideal fit for Jamestown, and has found great success operating a plant there. The city’s new incentives also target the retail sectors. “We really want to see our retail sector grow so that we all have the opportunity to purchase what we want locally and recycle those dollars within our community,” Mayor Andersen explains.
Jamestown already has retail, office, and industrial space ready for incoming businesses. Located at the junction of I-94 and Hwy 281 and within minutes of rail travel and an airport, the I-94 Business Park enjoys an ideal location. Space is going fast; only 11 of the park’s 22 lots are still available. “We already have several business located there that would be good neighbors to any primary sector business wanting to move there,” Ms. Ova reports. Spiritwood Energy Park boasts 500 acres of shovel ready land also conveniently located near the interstate, highway, and railroad. With natural gas, water, sewer, electricity, and internet already in place, the park is “a perfect location for any type of business interested in an expansion or any entrepreneur interested in starting a business,” Ms. Ova says.
A $3 billion fertilizer plant will soon be breaking ground at Spiritwood Energy Park and Dakota Spirit AgEnergy is in the final stages of construction there. Set to begin production this spring, the trail blazing facility is the first corn biofuels plant to be built in more than five years. Renewable energy is a great fit for Jamestown, and there are several potential projects on the horizon in addition to the new corn ethanol plant. “We have a lot of wide open space and a lot of opportunity,” Ms. Ova points out. A wind farm already has plans to begin construction in Stutsman County this year.
City planners are also working to create more STEM activity within the community. “North Dakota has always been the home of an agricultural college and an engineering school, so we have always done a great job of growing our own workforce in math and science,” Mayor Andersen shares. “We just need to make sure that Jamestown is a place where we can not only grow those workers, but also attract them back to the community to work.” With an unemployment rate of just three percent, maintaining that workforce is key. “That [low unemployment] makes it very difficult to find employees, especially in math, technology, and engineering fields. We are starting at the grass roots to make sure that we are meeting our employment needs.”
Thus far, the community has done a remarkable job drumming up more interest in STEM. “We are a pioneer for rural communities,” says Holly Miller, Vice President of Economic Development at JSDC. The city has partnered with the Great Plains STEM Education Center at Valley City State University, the North Dakota STEM network, and The American Association of University Women (AAUW) to create a supportive environment – and new opportunities – for young people interested in STEM. “We are really gearing up,” Ms. Miller remarks. For example, a $20,000 dollar grant has been secured to fund a STEM-centered pilot program with local second and fourth graders. In addition, public school teachers are getting an opportunity to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math through an exciting continuing education program at North Dakota State University. “They bring that STEM learning back into the classroom,” Ms. Miller explains. And, recent Tech Savvy and STEMtastic! events for middle school students – featuring Mars Rover scientist Dr. Heidi Manning – saw great success.
Jamestown’s new focus on STEM is certainly making waves. “A lot of things have changed in the last couple of years with STEM coming into the school system,” says Ms. Miller. “We are building that entrepreneurial, collaborative atmosphere for those kids, growing our own workforce, and retaining those families.” And the benefits don’t stop there. “We are recruiting new families too. Bringing in that diversity is really, really exciting.”
These STEM employees aren’t sticking around just for the employment opportunities – Jamestown also offers a high quality of life. “People should not be afraid of North Dakota or small town living, or rural living in general,” Mayor Andersen believes. “We enjoy a fantastic quality of life here and we have lots of opportunities for experiencing everything from arts to athletics. You don’t have to be in an urban area or a densely populated area to enjoy your life – you can get what you want right here in Jamestown, North Dakota.”
For starters, the public school system is “absolutely wonderful,” Ms. Miller points out. “Jamestown is a great place to raise your children,” adds the Mayor. And, with over 45 miles of shoreline, the Jamestown Reservoir provides plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. The reservoir has seven boat launches, public beaches, disc golf, rental cabins, two marinas, camping, and fishing. “The birding and hunting opportunities are amazing,” Ms. Miller adds. “It is a really great – and gorgeous – area.” Mountain biking is also a huge draw, and the reservoir’s popular Pipestem Creek Trail hosts the well-known XTERRA race every year. In the winter, outdoor enthusiasts enjoy activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. There are also plenty of healthcare facilities conveniently located in Jamestown, including nursing homes, a veteran’s clinic, physician’s offices, and a hospital.
With so much to offer, it’s no surprise that Jamestown is expected to grow substantially in the near future. “We see a lot of growth coming our way,” Ms. Miller reports. And city planners are working hard to ensure that this growth remains healthy. “I think the city is headed down a great path for responsible growth,” Mayor Andersen observes. “We’ve seen the dips that happen after you have a huge boom in an economy, so what we really plan for is consistent growth and sustained offers of employment.”
The future that Mayor Andersen envisions is already well underway; with industrial parks ready and waiting, strong agricultural and manufacturing sectors, a growing focus on STEM, and a high quality of life, the business friendly city certainly has the groundwork laid for ongoing success.