Five Strategic Initiatives for North Dakota

Main Street

“To create a 21st century economy, we need to build on three pillars of economic success: a skilled workforce; smart, efficient infrastructure; and healthy, vibrant communities. By reinventing education, we will create a skilled workforce that matches the high-paying jobs of today and tomorrow. Utilizing our current infrastructure to its fullest potential, we can reduce the cost of local government and create vibrant, healthy cities.” Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota.

Three Pillars Of Economic Success

A Skilled Workforce  |  Smart, Efficient Infrastructure  |  Healthy, Vibrant Communities


The Main Street Initiative will focus on utilizing existing infrastructure to its fullest potential to reduce costs and create vibrant, healthy cities. We will partner with city leaders from across the state to ensure they have the tools, programs and empowerment they need for smart, healthy growth.

The Main Street Initiative was built on a foundation of values: respect for the past, gratitude for the present, and inspiration for the future. By focusing our efforts on creating vibrant main streets with smart infrastructure, we will attract and retain a skilled workforce and realize our full potential as a state.

Main Street Progress in 2017

  • Visiting dozens of cities across the state, including attending 14 community discussions on the Main Street Initiative, to listen and gather information to help create a dashboard with metrics for communities to evaluate themselves and identify steps to becoming more vibrant, healthy communities that will attract a skilled workforce to fill the state’s thousands of job openings.
  • A website,, was launched as a contact point and information resource. The community dashboards are now accessible on the website and will continue to be enhanced based on user feedback.


Behavioral Health and Addiction

“We need to start treating addiction like the chronic disease that it is. By moving resources upstream, we will save lives and save money.” Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota.

Continuum of Care

Prevention | Early Intervention | Treatment | Recovery


As drug addiction and overdoses take their toll on North Dakota families, the state must start treating addiction differently. Seventy-seven people died in North Dakota in 2016 from overdoses, and more than $260 million was spent in the past decade on new jails at the city, county and state levels.

Many of those in our system are there because of crimes rooted in addiction. Jail time without rehab is not a cure for addiction.

Behavioral Health Progress in 2017

  • Signed justice reinvestment legislation and additional bills that together form a comprehensive plan for supporting those who suffer from behavioral health issues and substance abuse, while substantially reducing corrections costs and moving $7 million upstream to improve access to effective, community-based treatment. The North Dakota Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Behavioral Health Division and the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) have begun training to launch Free Through Recovery, an innovative community-based program designed to increase access to recovery services for individuals engaged with the criminal justice system who have serious behavioral health concerns.
  • Hosted Recovery Reinvented with First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum in September. The event gathered national speakers and more than 800 people to discuss the need to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction and find innovative approaches to addiction treatment and recovery. Life-saving doses of Naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose, also were distributed. More information is available at
  • Supported and signed Senate Bill 2206, which transferred the funding responsibility for social services from counties to the state during a two-year pilot program, creating $161 million in permanent property tax relief while repealing an unsustainable 12 percent state-paid property tax buydown program. The bill also directed the Department of Human Services to develop a plan to look at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how social services are delivered to clients.


Transforming Education

“We can’t prepare our kids for the 21st century using a 19th-century model,” Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota.

Opportunities in Education

Innovation | Governance

With nearly all of the world’s information now available for free online, educators, parents, businesses, community organizations and legislators must all play a role in transforming the education system.

It’s not enough for students to do well on traditional measures. The challenge is how to equip them with the skills and mindsets they need to be creative problem solvers, effective communicators and informed, responsible citizens who are strong collaborators.

Transforming Education Progress in 2017

  • Appointed a 15-member Innovative Education Task Force to create a system for identifying and supporting schools and districts implementing innovative practices, building on the passage of Senate Bill 2186. Members are tasked with providing direction on how state government can empower districts to adopt student-centric learning practices designed to support a 21st century economy impacted by rapid technological change. An Innovative Education Summit drew more than 400 educators and other stakeholders to Bismarck in June. Since then, the website has been launched to help schools create a culture of innovation, and there’s a grassroots movement using #InnovativeND on social media. The governor has challenged schools to submit at least 20 SB2186 innovative education plans by the 2018 school year.
  • Signed an executive order creating a Higher Education Governance Task Force to assess the existing governance structure for higher education in North Dakota and determine whether changes are needed to ensure the system meets the state’s educational and workforce needs in the 21st century. The governor received 235 applications to serve on the task force and plans to announce the selected members soon.


Tribal Partnerships

“I pledge my administration to a fresh start in our relations with all tribal nations who live with and among us. Our goal is to understand each tribe’s individual issues and circumstances so that we may move forward together.” Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota.

Focus Areas for Partnership

Engage | Listen | Learn

Through the course of meeting with tribal leadership from every Native American tribe headquartered in the state: the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation in New Town, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates and Spirit Lake Nation in St. Michael, we continue to identify areas of opportunity for government-to-government collaboration. The issues range from water rights, taxes, emergency management and law enforcement to addiction, infrastructure, historic sites and tourism.

Collectively strengthening our tribal communities across North Dakota will happen when we genuinely engage, listen and learn about each tribe’s individual challenges and opportunities.

Tribal Partnership Progress in 2017

  • Met with tribal leadership from every American Indian tribe headquartered in North Dakota and continuing to identify areas of opportunity for government-to-government collaboration on issues ranging from water rights, taxes, emergency management and law enforcement to addiction, infrastructure, historic sites and tourism.
  • Held a two-day session titled “Understanding Tribal, State and Federal Relations,” hosted by the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, in January 2018.


Reinventing Government

“Anything being done simply because ‘that’s the way we have always done it’ should be and must be rigorously and respectfully questioned. And no matter what, we must have the courage to admit that we can always do better.” Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota.

Four Elements of Reinvention

Unification/Shared Services | Delivery of Service | Digital Transformation | Cultural Transformation


We have an opportunity to reinvent state government and embrace technology to hold down costs and build an economy and workforce for the 21st century.

These powerful technological forces are fueling an underlying change in our economy and will challenge all of our existing approaches, systems and institutions. Harnessing these forces can lead to lower costs and better outcomes in health care, education and infrastructure. And these areas are some of the biggest cost drivers of our state budget. To do that we need a culture in state government focused on the willingness to grow and change and leaders who will lead us through that change.

Reinventing Government Progress in 2017

  • Launched an information technology (IT) unification effort to boost capabilities and collaboration between teams toward a singular strategy and goal of better serving the citizens of North Dakota through world-class IT.
  • The governor also is taking meaningful steps to transform the culture of state government, starting with a comprehensive survey of state employees. Nearly 4,000 team members completed the survey – a response rate of 61 percent – creating an opportunity to share best practices, identify areas for improvement and continue to build on a foundational culture of service. The survey results will be incorporated into overall efforts to reinvent government.