Herald Opinion: Thiessen did grand things for Grand Forks

Klaus Thiessen may be the most popular Canadian in Grand Forks who isn’t a noted hockey player.

Thiessen, the longtime executive director of the Grand Forks Economic Development Corporation, recently retired. At an event in his honor at Sky’s in downtown Grand Forks, Thiessen was feted by several dozen and all seemed unanimous in their analysis of Thiessen’s time in this city.

Former City Councilman Hal Gershman said Thiessen’s ability to get everyone to “row together in the same direction may be (Thiessen’s) greatest legacy.”

Current EDC Chairwoman Tammy Peterson noted the many jobs and great capital created by Thiessen and said he “has created a legacy of collaboration and partnerships.”

Bill Burga, head of manufacturing for LM Wind Power, told Thiessen that he created “a team here that will always value the work you have done.”

And, importantly, the EDC chose to name its prestigious and annual Impact Award after Thiessen.

Thiessen notably doesn’t talk much about his accomplishments. His quiet demeanor was noted throughout the weeks leading up to his retirement, and was mentioned — and joked about — during the event last week at Sky’s.

Although Thiessen doesn’t talk much, others have been loud in proclaiming what Thiessen accomplished during his 14 years in Grand Forks — where he arrived after working in community development in Winnipeg.

He was instrumental in forming the Base Realignment Impact Committee after Grand Forks Air Force Base lost its tanker mission in the 2000s. Eventually, that helped lead to the Grand Sky UAS business park, touted as the first of its kind in the United States.

He was involved in the efforts that led Cirrus Aircraft and LM Wind Power to expand to Grand Forks. He was involved in numerous other expansions and helped bring millions of dollars in capital improvement to the city.

More recently, he was instrumental in developing the Valley Prosperity Partnership, formed to boost collaboration throughout the Red River Valley. He also recently has pushed for efforts to better promote Grand Forks, and also to open up the tight — and expensive — housing market in Grand Forks. Those efforts will continue without him.

In a world of critics, true cheerleaders aren’t always easy to find. Thiessen was a fervent booster of Grand Forks and led countless efforts to make Grand Forks a more vibrant, healthy community.

He announced that upon retirement, he would move back to Winnipeg. He’s probably there today, but we suspect his thoughts are still wandering south of the border as the Economic Development Corporation moves on without one of its most influential leaders ever.

Grand Forks Herald: June 28, 2017