For over five years, I’ve been part of a large group of folks who have worked tirelessly to create the community they wanted to live in. We’ve stood on the shoulders of the giants that have come before us, building the fabric of our region. Most of us seem to work independently of each other, yet are connected with a common goal of helping our region reach its full potential. Fargo has been recognized on countless lists as a great place to live and work, and has been celebrated for our vibrancy. Our metro has become a new model for energy, connectivity and possibility.
How? It is our Fargo Thesis—three simple steps that seem to be the common thread in a variety of events, communities and efforts. Let’s break it down:
1. BELIEVE IT
I’ve come to the conclusion that the only election a person needs to win to contribute to positive impact is the one held every day in their own head. If we believe in ourselves, and our community, moving from a position of contribution over consumption anything is truly possible. There are countless examples in our community of folks who have committed to being world-class. Our banker friends at Bell Bank have committed to serving their customers like no one else, and have activated their “Pay It Forward Program” as a philanthropy tool to support those in need. They aspire to be a world-class institution.
The leadership team at Kilbourne Group counted themselves in and believed they could contribute to the development of a downtown where folks of all ages would want to live, work, play, study and dream. They’ve dedicated countless hours into imagining how our urban core can connect and activate spaces to ensure our region’s growth and prosperity. Their efforts have gained national recognition and are a driving force of opportunity for our region.
Take a stroll through Ecce Art Gallery and you’ll see the work of Mark Weiler, a curator who is an art purist and dedicated to lifting up top talent from the region. His gallery has been celebrated around the world in publications as a cultural hub, highlighting his efforts to create a unique opportunity for visitors and locals to embrace local art.
It takes all of us to believe our place is special. It isn’t about being on someone’s payroll to make change, it’s about a daily dedication to believing we have enough skills, resources and opportunities to make our community thrive. Personally, I’m grateful for the folks that serve as examples on how we can make our home a truly special place.
2. CONNECT IT
It has been said that everyone knows everyone here. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in a unique metro with folks from across the world. We must continue to connect people through social gatherings, events, festivals and business activities. We have unique organizations in our region that are doing this, both locally and beyond, and it makes a big impact.
The Downtown Wine Cooperative lead by Jean Taylor and Cam Knutson shows off wine and unique venues once a month. The Red River Market brings farmers, makers and consumers together every Saturday for a festive environment. Our local breweries, including Junkyard Brewing Company, Drekker Brewing Company, Flatland Brewery and Fargo Brewing Company, host live music, bag tournaments and trivia nights to help people meet each other.
Emerging Prairie‘s work on the Community Activities Office has allowed the Prairie Den to become home to 140+ members and host over 100 events a year. The meet-up groups, from the Virtual Reality club to the Bitcoin Meet-up, allow niche interests to connect. Each smaller group is able to develop and grow, helping folks care and support one another.
The work of Spotlight Media and its publications connect our community in a meaningful way. They highlight new efforts and folks taking risks, bring the community together to taste burgers and enjoy fancy drinks and show off the talented culture creators. The collective impact of the publications lift up the unique and creative voice of our community and share opportunities with locals and guests alike.
If all of us can take the time to welcome new folks to the community and connect them to our friends and families, our engagement will only grow. With a strong showing of New Americans and folks coming to our region from across the world, we are blessed with a unique perspective that highlights new ideas and possibilities. By connecting more and more, we gain a better sense of empathy and awareness for the broader world and our very own neighborhoods.
3. LOVE IT
Nathan Clark of Wondermade shared during his TEDxFargo talk that his company was committed to loving their customers so much that they could not resist buying more marshmallows. I think the same can go for the community. If each of us commits to loving our place by caring for it and celebrating it, it will lead to attraction and interest from others.
My teammate Annie Wood talks about the gathering she puts together. Her commitment is to think of them as if she is throwing a party for her best friends versus hosting an event for strangers. We see this level of care in the work of Sandy’s Donuts, whose staff continues to wow us with their treats and offers the special love and care for each of us. Our City of Fargo staff keeps their doors open and engages in the community in a special way. Their commitment to engage with citizens can best be understood when they bring out the ice cream trucks and deliver treats to neighborhood kids, reminding them that they are special and valued.
Marlo Anderson and the team at National Day Calendar have made a business out of celebrating every day. They are the folks behind the creative days in our country, such as National Grilled Cheese Day or National High-Five Day. They bring fun into their work and into our lives and give all of us a chance to celebrate the strange and mysterious world we live in.
We live in a fascinating place that has much to celebrate and much to love. I’ve found that the more we can offer our gratitude, love one another, and highlight the quirkiness of Fargo, the more fun we get to have and the more delight our visitors and guests can enjoy.
The Fargo Thesis is not doctrine. It has not been widely accepted. Yet, it seems to continue the three principals that many of us subscribe to. We are committed to believing in ourselves and our place, connecting friends and visitors and loving the heck out of it. For many of us, our joy comes from watching others connect, being celebrated and discovering the magic and whimsy of this place we call Fargo.