- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - It’s not the same old Minot anymore. Not by a longshot. Minot is a city that is transforming daily. The evidence can be found at all four corners and the center of the city.

“If you drive around town you see growth everywhere. We are growing. The days of old Minot are gone. They’re gone,” said Alan Estvold of Minot.

Estvold is the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce chair. He took over the post Oct. 1 and heads up a 19-member board of directors supported by 15 ex-officio members. He had been a member of the board for about seven years prior to moving into the chair.

“I’m a businessman and that’s what the chamber of commerce is for. I’ve always enjoyed it because it is about the business of business,” Estvold told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1DlOkux ).

Estvold is uniquely qualified for the post as chamber chair. He is enthusiastic about Minot’s future and has witnessed the rapid growth of an engineering firm bearing his name, Ackerman-Estvold.

“I opened the business here in 2003. In 2010 we had 20 people. Last summer we were at 80 and that’s just to keep up with the clients we have,” Estvold said. “The opportunity is there, if you are paying attention, to make money and grow and expand your business.”

While the Bakken oil boom has influenced Minot’s growth, Estvold says the community’s diversity will insure continued development. He cites the impact of intermodal-shipping on Minot’s east side, a strong agricultural region and downtown improvements as examples of Minot on the move.

“We’re on the cusp of becoming a metropolitan planning organization for a community over 50,000 people,” Estvold said. “(North Dakota State University) did a study that said in the near future we could have 70,000 people. I’m embellishing a bit, but it’s conceivable that we could be 100,000 fairly easily.”

Some of the added growth, concedes Estvold, will be tied to the price of oil. However, he doesn’t see high oil prices as a necessity for Minot to continue to expand. The city may see a slowdown in building while oil prices are low but, Estvold says, Minot will still grow. If a slowdown occurs he sees it as a chance for the city to do a bit of catch up with the rapid rate of progress.

As an engineer, Estvold understands the need to replace aging infrastructure. Minot and many other northwest North Dakota communities have outgrown their original planning and have relied on aging infrastructure to support growth.

“Possibly downtown Minot illustrates that better than anything,” Estvold said. “Downtown wants to modernize and expand. We have to get the infrastructure in place for them do to that. Some of that stuff is over 100 years old and has to be replaced before we pave streets and sidewalks.”

A new sewer and waterline project is in the works for downtown Minot. Another key to Minot’s growth, Estvold says, is flood protection which he says will be a long process but one he feels is necessary for Minot’s growth.

“Minot is going to become a very, very modern city, especially when we get the flood control in and boardwalks and such. I don’t know how many years,” Estvold said. “There might be something said for staying small but it’s going to happen. We better manage it correctly.”

Estvold served as county engineer in McKenzie County from 1981 through 1994. It was a period of “boom and bust” that Estvold remembers well. Today his work involves numerous communities in northwest North Dakota that are experiencing sudden needs to keep up with rapid growth. An example is New Town where consideration of a Main Street renewal project began in 2007.

“We did traffic counts and projections. They exceeded the 20-year projection in three years and then the oil hit,” said Estvold, who grew up in New Town. “It became obvious we needed to get those trucks out of town.”

A truck bypass was built around New Town to alleviate truck congestion. On the table now are plans to completely rebuild New Town’s Main Street. It is hoped that money for that project will be included in Senate Bill 2013, also known as the “surge” bill. According to Estvold, he received assurances that legislative scrutiny of the bill would be finished by the end of February so that key construction projects in much of western North Dakota could begin as early as mid-April.

As for Minot, Estvold remains very optimistic about the future. He’s excited to see Minot and the surrounding region continue to grow, all of which he sees as good for the trade area. He also says Minot has the right people in place to get the job done.

“The one thing I’ve noticed around town is that most everybody is progressive. We have to move forward. We know we have to move forward,” Estvold said. “I think we’re ready for it.”


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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