Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 11:25am

Gov. Doug Burgum will kick off the Western Governors’ Association’s 2019 Winter Meeting on Friday by highlighting progress on the Reimagining the Rural West Initiative, his central policy initiative as WGA Chair for 2019-2020.

“The Western Governors’ Association provides us with a bipartisan platform for working on shared interests and seeking common ground on addressing the important challenges facing our states,” Burgum said. “Since launching the Reimagining the Rural West initiative last June, we’ve made significant progress toward identifying best practices and recommending policies to support vibrant rural communities in the West, with a focus on creating new economic opportunities, expanding connectivity and building great places where people want to live and work. I’m deeply grateful for my fellow governors’ efforts on this initiative.”

Stakeholders and policymakers have gathered at workshops this fall in North Dakota, New Mexico and Idaho to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing rural communities, with a fourth workshop planned for March in Oregon, home of the WGA’s current vice chair, Gov. Kate Brown. Results of the first year’s work of the initiative, as well as proposed next steps, will be released next summer at WGA’s 2020 Annual Meeting in Medora, N.D.

Topics of discussion at the 2019 Winter Meeting in Las Vegas will include the need for more effective state-federal partnerships, cutting-edge energy innovations, growing precision agriculture, behavioral health in education, cybersecurity, and bipartisan efforts to address the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women, with North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis among the panelists.

Among the featured speakers will be Land O’Lakes President and CEO Beth Ford and Segway inventor Dean Kamen, whose FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization aims to inspire young people to enter STEM fields.

Western Governors joining Burgum at the meeting include Brown, Sisolak, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Jared Polis of Colorado, David Ige of Hawaii, Brad Little of Idaho, Steve Bullock of Montana, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Gary Herbert of Utah.

The WGA represents the governors of 19 western states and three U.S. territories, supporting bipartisan policy development, the exchange of best practices and ideas, and collective action on issues of critical importance to the western United States such as agriculture, energy, water economic development and natural resource development.