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Grindberg: It's premature to rank locations for a convention center

Tony Grindberg, candidate for Fargo City CommissionMichael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The recent editorial in The Forum listed a number of valid reasons why a new convention center for our region should be located in downtown Fargo. In addition, there have been several letters to the editor expressing opinions on location, and even one questioning the need for a convention center at all.

The renewed interest was triggered by a new study funded by the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fargodome Authority. While they should be commended for advancing the dialogue on this important project, I believe it is premature to jump to any conclusions regarding ranking locations of potential sites. The information in the study is certainly useful, but does not represent the "deep dive" decision makers will need to make a truly informed decision.

As a Fargo city commissioner, my interest goes beyond a passing interest in where a new convention center may be located. As an elected representative of the citizens of Fargo, it's my obligation to make sure we have done all the due diligence required to demonstrate a strong business case exists that can be shared with the public. In my opinion, there is much more work to be done.

As most know, discussion of a convention center has been around a long time. When I was executive vice president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Association, the topic was brought up several times. There was agreement then, as there is now, that this type of facility would enhance our region's ability to attract out of state commerce by hosting conventions and trade shows that otherwise would not consider us.

There are notable differences between then and now. The most dramatic is the evolution from the need for a specific Fargo Convention Center, to one that can serve our whole region and operate by attracting new events. That fact alone should make us explore in much greater depth where a center of this kind should be located. Further, any deeper study of this issue should not be funded by any parties with a vested interest in where a convention center finally ends up.

I truly have no "dog in this hunt." Whatever the location, the city of Fargo will reap many benefits. But, that doesn't mean I don't care where it is finally located. As mentioned, it will need to be the site that best suits the needs of our entire region. To that end, I recommend key stakeholders organize a task force to decide the best way to accomplish the "deep dive" I believe is necessary before ranking or choosing a location that will be best for all.

A location that our CVB, Chamber of Commerce, educational institutions, businesses large and small, and most of all, our citizens can be proud of, will provide us the opportunity to showcase our region to the rest of the world.

Grindberg is a Fargo city commissioner.