North Dakota Tourism Development

Tourism Development Assistance

Recreation Development Assistance

Tourism Development

In North Dakota, individuals and communities have embraced our natural and cultural environment to provide a tourism experience. The common question for individuals and communities is “Where do we go for assistance?” Below is a listing of agencies and organizations that can help you with a variety of issues from strategic planning, developing a business plan, marketing advice and directing you to funding sources.

2020 Tourism Main Street Expansion Grant Program

The purpose of the Main Street Expansion Grant Program is to support new or expanding businesses that provide an improved visitor experience, with an emphasis on attracting visitors to a city or town’s downtown.

“By developing more enjoyable experiences in our downtown cores, our communities will have more to attract residents and visitors, Tourism Division Director Sara Otte Coleman said. ”Today’s visitors are drawn to the unique architecture, local culture and diverse activities that are offered by creating a vibrant downtown.”

The program’s intent is to fund new projects that attract visitors from outside of North Dakota for at least one overnight stay with the goal of giving the community and state another experience to entertain visitors and potential new residents.

Grant funds are to be used for building new attractions, expansions offering a new experience and supporting services for visitors. Funds are not allowed to be used for marketing or ongoing operating expenses.

Applications will be judged on individual merit. Stronger emphasis will be placed on projects that address the following.

  • Projects that clearly demonstrate a role in attracting and retaining visitors to their community and region. The project will enhance or expand the visitor attraction or amenity. 
  • All project funding is in place and grant funding will complete a project rather than provide money to start a project. 
  • The demand for the project is clearly demonstrated through research and analysis.
  • Restoration and/or repurposing of existing buildings serving as an attraction or destination to visitors.
  • Creation of a unique niche in a downtown business district that can be used as an asset to attract visitors.
  • Projects that fill gaps in visitor services, such as unique dining or lodging in a downtown business district.
  • New entertainment venues that could attract not only locals but out-of-town visitors and tour groups.
  • Downtown beautification projects – planters, benches, unique lighting, pocket parks, alley utilization and directional signage.
  • Businesses with the potential to be a catalyst for downtown core vibrancy, attracting visitors and residents year-round and during evening hours.
  • Projects will score higher if they retain or attract regional and out-of-state visitors to a community hub, creating an activity-based culture of entertainment, recreation and personal interaction.  

The required match is 1:1, and all grant payments will be made on a reimbursement basis. Matching dollars cannot be from other North Dakota state grants.

The match must be an actual money investment. In-kind services will not be considered as part of the reimbursement amount. 

Money that has been put toward the project in the current and previous fiscal year may be considered as part of the hard match but must include documented verification. Pledges for future donations will not be considered part of a reimbursement match.

Click here for complete details!

Applications are due by Jan. 3, 2020. Successful candidates will be notified by Feb. 3, 2020. The grant-eligible portion of the project must be completed by June 1, 2021, with all documentation due by June 20, 2021.

Contact Tammy Backhaus at 701-328-2526 for more information.

Tourism Development Assistance

NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE TOURISM DIVISION: 1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 2, PO Box 2057, Bismarck, ND 58502-2057, 800-435-5663/701-328-2525. Tourism Division can assist with promoting the tourism experience that you offer. There is no charge to link your tourism-related business, attraction or event to the Tourism Division website. You can also have free listings of an attraction, accommodation and event in the official North Dakota Travel Guide. All we need is your information. Contact Scooter Pursley at 328-2874.

NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE/ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & FINANCE: 1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 2, PO Box 2057, Bismarck, ND 58502-2057.  The North Dakota Development Fund may be the perfect source for many primary-sector businesses. The fund provides "gap financing" not available from most conventional lenders. Click here to view the application. Contact Scot Long at 701-328-5310.

NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE/DIVISION OF COMMUNITY SERVICES: 1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 2, PO Box 2057, Bismarck, ND 58502-2057. The Community Development Block Grant Program may be a source of gap financing for tourism-related projects.  Contact Shantel Dewald at 701-328-2618.

REGIONAL COUNCILS: 1600 E. Century Ave, Suite 2, PO Box 2057, Bismarck, ND 58502-2057, 701-328-5300.  Regional Councils are non-profit organizations authorized by state statute and charged with the responsibility to assist units of local governments in carrying out economic development planning and technical assistance, including funding of tourism business. 

NORTH DAKOTA SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTER: Gamble Hall Room 140; 293 Centennial Drive, Stop 7308; Grand Forks, ND 58202-7308; 701-777-3700. The center provides free individual counseling to small business owners. It assists businesses in solving problems or taking opportunities in all areas of business endeavors. The center's needs assessment process helps target the kind of help a business owner needs. Information on the Eight Regional Centers can be found on the website

NORTH DAKOTA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: 1025 N 3rd St, PO Box 387, Bismarck, ND 58502. The foundation serves North Dakota communities statewide with the goal of improving the quality of life for the state's citizens. The foundation administers many different types of funds. Most of the funds are restricted to a specific purpose. 701-222-8349.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION: The NDSU Extension Center for Community Vitality offers many programs to help develop tourism, from community leadership development, strategic planning to agri-tourism workshops. Contact Director Lynette Flage at 701-231-7782 or Glenn Muske, Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at 701-328-9718.

NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: 608 E. Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, N.D., 58505-0700, 701-328-2500

  • Transportation Enhancement Program: Funds for items such as bicycle-pedestrian projects, landscaping projects and projects involving historic transportation. Annual signup in fall, applications due early November.
  • Special Road Fund Program: The program provides funds for construction and maintenance of access roads to and roads within recreational, tourist and historical areas. Application deadline is late spring. Contact Pamela Wenger at 701-328-3555.
  • Tourism Signage: Signing requests for recreational, tourist and historical features are to be by application to NDDOT's Tourism Signage Advisory Committee. The TSAC will determine funding based on classification: 1) National importance, 100 percent funding by NDDOT; 2) Statewide importance, 50 percent funding by NDDOT, 50 percent local funding; 3) Local importance, 100 percent local funding.
  • Tourism Oriented Directional Signs: TODS are signs that provide identification of and directional information for tourist-related businesses, services and activities. They are defined as rural agricultural business and tourism attractions, including recreation, historical sites, festival and cultural events, lodging and food services which are singularly and uniquely related to historical, cultural or recreational tourist attractions. Signs are funded 100 percent by the requestor. Requests are by application. Contact 701-328-2546 for signage programs.

: 1600 E. Century Ave., Suite 6, Bismarck, ND  58503.  Grants are available to organizations, communities and schools for a variety of projects that involve at least one arts discipline. Grants are also available to artists, volunteers, board members and administrators for workshops and other forms of professional development. The council will provide outreach workshops on writing NDCA grants and other technical assistance. Contact Kim Konikow at 701-328-7592.

Recreation Development Assistance

NORTH DAKOTA PARKS AND RECREATION: 1600 E. Century Ave. Suite 3, Bismarck, N.D., 58503. 

Recreation Grant Programs: Two funding opportunities for outdoor recreation development programs: Recreation Trail Funds and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, application deadline of May 1. Contact 701-328-5348.

NORTH DAKOTA GAME AND FISH DEPARTMENT: 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095. The agency provides a wealth of information on hunting and fishing regulations and conservation and education programs. It also has a small grant program for watchable wildlife. Contact 701-328-6300.

NORTH DAKOTA FOREST SERVICE: 307 First St. E., Bottineau, ND 58318.  Technical, financial and educational assistance relating to the management of private forest lands, state forest lands, urban and community forests, tree planting and fire protection are administered by the agency. Contact 701-228-5422.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: 601 Riverfront Drive; Omaha, NE 68102-2571. The Rivers and Trails Program provides assistance in reaching community goals. Contact 202-354-6900.

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT: 5001 Southgate Dr., Billings, MT 59101. The Challenge Cost Share Program is focused on BLM-managed lands, specifically in the areas of recreation site management. Contact 406-896-5037  

UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE: Offers technical assistance by giving birding advice on identification and location of wildlife. Contact 701-355-8528.

NORTH DAKOTA NATURAL RESOURCES TRUST: 1605 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 101, Bismarck, ND 58501.  The purpose of the trust is to preserve, enhance, restore and manage wetlands and associated wildlife habitat in the state of North Dakota, and conserve grasslands and riparian areas. Contact 701-223-8501.

NORTH DAKOTA OUTDOOR HERITAGE FUND: State Capitol, 14th Floor, 600 E Boulevard Ave. Dept. 405.  North Dakota's Outdoor Heritage Fund was established in 2013 as a multi-million dollar program to provide grants to state agencies, tribal governments, political subdivisions, and nonprofit organizations, with higher priority given to projects that enhance conservation practices in the state.  The Outdoor Heritage Fund will receive up to $40 million per biennium from oil and gas production tax revenue.  Contact 701-328-3722.