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Economic Development

Q&A with Matt Marshall, Minnkota's economic development administrator

Creating connections and finding solutions is what Matt Marshall does best. Since starting in a new economic development administrator position at Minnkota Power Cooperative in 2020, Marshall has been a conduit between Minnkota, member systems like Cass County Electric Cooperative (CCEC), communities, and potential project developers.

Working together in true cooperative fashion, Marshall helps CCEC promote natural growth in its service territory and attracts new investments that create resiliency and opportunity. CCEC VP of Member and Energy Services, Paul Matthys, expands on that, saying, “Cass County Electric Cooperative supports and promotes economic development in our rural communities, which is crucial to the survival and prosperity of those communities.”

During his time at Minnkota, Marshall has navigated a pandemic and changing economic circumstances while helping bring various projects from concept to reality – including a data center that won North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s Economic Development Project of the Year in 2021.

Marshall sat down with us and answered five questions about the connections he’s made and why he is excited to continue assisting with CCEC’s economic development efforts.

Is there a big difference in the techniques you use to support CCEC’s metro area and CCEC’s more rural areas?
Absolutely. We look at Cass County Electric Cooperative’s entire service area and come up with strategies based on need, local resources, available property, utility and transportation access, and a host of other considerations to find opportunities that are the best fit and bring the most value to the area we are working in.

What opportunities do our rural areas outside of the Fargo market have to offer potential companies coming to North Dakota?
Rural areas throughout the Minnkota territory have much to offer companies looking to relocate or start a business. A few good examples of things rural areas can offer businesses are locations that have underutilized utilities, low-cost land, and buildings relative to locations in more densely populated areas. In some cases, we have underserved markets that allow companies to establish a foothold within a region right away. Other rural areas have financial assistance or programs that can assist businesses in expansions or relocations that are not available in large metro areas. As you look at Cass County Electric’s territory outside the Fargo market, rural areas have all of previously mentioned opportunities as well as a chance to “work where you play,” which has increased in importance as younger generations enter the workforce. A great example of this would be the southwestern edges of CCEC’s territory – businesses can leverage the quick access to the Sheyenne National Grassland and Fort Ransom State Park as a way to recruit employees.

Why is it important to diversify the economy of Minnkota’s service territory?
Diversifying Minnkota’s territory is all about creating resiliency during downward economic trends, thus making the region more stable for our member-owners. An added benefit to that diversification is the increased potential to recruit new workforce, which is a critical need for the vast majority of businesses within the Cass County Electric membership. Additionally, growth helps CCEC members beyond lower electrical rates. Healthy growth of population and business investment help to keep property taxes stable and ensure higher levels of service to members from their local political subdivisions.

What do you foresee for Cass County regarding economic development over the next few years?
While we will continue to focus on expanding existing businesses and attracting new industry to the region, community development efforts will still need to be a significant focus. Businesses and communities within Cass County Electric’s membership are seeing their growth hindered because of the lack of workforce availability. This elevates the need for new housing solutions, childcare, and quality-of-life elements that may be needed to help attract workers to the region. Additionally, Cass County members will likely see the continued blossoming of exciting new tech companies in the area, particularly in the med-tech and ag-tech spaces. The recent sale of Aldevron and the expansion of Grand Farm, coupled with state programs and local efforts, are fostering an environment that is gaining national attention. The actions of so many entities have come together to make this a great place to do business.

What has been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on since joining Minnkota?
One of the greatest aspects of being part of the economic development team at Minnkota is the ability to fully embody the cooperative principle of concern for community. Assisting businesses and communities is an extremely rewarding career. I can’t pick a particular project, but I enjoy helping companies like TheraTec [based in Horace, N.D.] get their needed funding and watching their businesses thrive, or working with a community and development team on a unique attraction like The Wave [a waterpark coming soon to Fargo]. I have been fortunate to be a part of a team that gets to help bring projects like those to life.


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