Updated: Aug 16
By Sally Miskavige, Grand Forks Children's Museum Board Member
On Monday, August 7th the Grand Forks City Council unanimously approved the city budget, which included their intention to donate $10 million to the capital campaign to build the Grand Forks Children’s Museum. This is the largest donation to date and on behalf of the museum’s Board of Directors, volunteers, and donors, Thank You City
To date, the Grand Forks Children's Museum has raised over $20 million towards its $45 million capital campaign to fund the planning and construction of the Grand Forks
Children's Museum building. The funds are a mixture of grants and both public and private funding. With this donation it is anticipated that the Grand Forks Children's Museum could break ground and begin construction as early as 2024.
As a finance person, I always consider the return on investment, especially with the use of public funds. There are obvious social and educational benefits to building a museum in Grand Forks, but let’s consider how this new Grand Forks Children's Museum will benefit the community from a financial standpoint.
The Grand Forks Children’s Museum will have a multifaceted, positive impact on the economy of Grand Forks and its surrounding communities. The museum will bring in tourists, who in turn will support complementary businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers.
Currently, the closest museum offerings for children and families are all at least a 3+ hour drive from the Grand Forks and NE North Dakota Region and are in Bismark, Brookings, Minot, St. Paul, and Winnipeg. This creates an opportunity to provide a world-class children’s museum in our community, and a local tourism offering.
The unique nature of this Grand Forks Children's Museum ensures that it will not compete directly with other tourism offerings; instead, it will complement those across North Dakota and within the Northeastern Region of the state. Many of the tourist attractions in Grand Forks are sporting events such as tournaments that bring families to town for long weekends - where they have significant downtime. The museum will provide a wonderful way to enrich visitors' experience while creating additional general and tax revenue for the community.
Investments made to local and regional parks not only raise the standard of living in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities, but they also spark activity that can ripple throughout a state’s economy. The Grand Forks Children’s Museum will have a positive economic impact on the community in three unique ways:
Tourism and Job Creation
According to the 2020 Grand Forks Metropolitan Statistical Area Retail and Attractions Economic Analysis, there is a $5.2 million demand for museums, historical sites, and similar institutions within our region. Due to a lack of cultural attractions, 89% of our community leaves the region to seek out cultural entertainment, thus resulting in an economic impact loss to the city of $4.6 million annually. With the addition of the Grand Forks Children’s Museum and Destination Playground, that gap will be significantly reduced, and the revenue will stay in the region.
Economic studies show that homes located near park lands have higher values. Investments made to local and regional parks and museums not only raise the standard of living in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities, but they also spark activity that can ripple throughout a state’s economy.
Tourism and Job Creation
The museum itself will likely employ 8-10 full-time staff, 15+ part-time staff, and numerous volunteers. Additional volunteers will be utilized for camps, special event programming, and floor attendants to interact with children and exhibits.
In 2017, local park and recreation agencies across the country generated more than $166 billion in economic activity and their operations and capital spending supported more than 1.1 million jobs.
The economic impact in North Dakota resulting from local parks and recreation agencies was an economic activity (transactions) of $946,766,748, a labor income of $255,756,065, and 6,806 jobs, according to IMPLAN Center for Regional Analysis of George Mason University for the National Recreation and Park Association, U.S. Census Bureau of 2017.
There has been wonderful community support, financially through individual donations and grants, via attendance at the events, with volunteerism, and with positive social feedback. The city council’s approval of $10 million will create the opportunity for our city to receive a positive financial return on its investment in the years to come.
Thank you, Grand Forks City Council!