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Tuesday, August 21, 2018


BIG SALES JOB AHEAD  “We consider a historic investment in UND and NDSU a legitimate, innovative and even realistic request that will benefit not just UND and Grand Forks, but the entire state.” A GF Herald editorial embraced the idea of the two universities splitting $100 million of state research money.  The state’s preliminary budget for the next biennium includes only $10 million for research at the two schools.  The $100 million idea met with enthusiasm in the Red River Valley, but the rest of the state may wonder why none of the money is coming their way.  UND and NDSU have a big sales job.  The Herald said the money could come from unexpected improvements in the oil industry.

IT’S NOT OVER, UNTIL . . .  Forum columnist Rob Port has been a consistent critic of U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp and a supporter of her election opponent U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer.  Columnist Mike Jacobs, former editor and publisher of the GF Herald, compared the campaigns and careers of the two candidates.  His lengthy column was clearly sympathetic to Heitkamp — here is his final paragraph which is a shortcut to understanding the column:

  • “I read the Herald and I know that some whose views appear here believe that Heitkamp's campaign is in freefall.  I'm not saying Rob Port is wrong.  I'm just saying some people think otherwise. Nor am I predicting that Heitkamp will win.  I'm just saying, don't count her out until the votes are counted.”

ON THE FENCE  Heitkamp met with Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh, but is not indicating how she will vote.  She said her office received about 4,000 calls about Kavanaugh of which 60 percent urged her to vote for him.  Observers believe Heitkamp will be influenced by whether the vote takes place before or after the elections.

SPEARHEADING  "We greatly appreciate Secretary Perry coming to see first-hand what makes North Dakota an energy powerhouse and a top 10 coal-producing state.” — Gov. Doug Burgum re the visit of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.  Perry applauded the state for its role in energy security and said, "This renaissance of the energy industry in America, North Dakota is right at the tip of the spear.”

GRAND SKY ON CUTTING EDGE  "In 2016, the Northern Plains Test Site (Grand Forks) became the first place in the nation with authorization to fly large UAS beyond line of sight (but accompanied by a manned plane).” — U.S. Sen John Hoeven.  A new authorization allows Northern Plains to fly larger UAS aircrafts up to 30 miles at higher altitudes and eliminates the need for an observation plane.  U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson visited the Grand Sky commercial testing site this week to commemorate the authorization.

THE UPPER GREAT PLAINS is favorable to small business.  Thumbtack selected South Dakota as the top state for small business.  ND (#9) was followed closely by Minnesota and Montana.  Wyoming, for unexplained reasons, was ranked a place for small business to avoid.

RADISSON HOTELS is an international business with 1,150 hotels based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  Radisson is represented in ND by hotels in Bismarck and Fargo.  In 2016, a Chinese company purchased the Radisson Hotel Group from Minnesota’s Carlson family.  Now, Jin Jiang, another Chinese company with 6,800 hotels, has acquired Radisson.  A hotel executive in Minneapolis said the transaction represents the shifting of control of Radisson’s assets from one arm of the Chinese government to another.

CHRISTENSEN FARMS in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, is one of the largest pork producers in the country.  The company directly employs about 1,000 in Sleepy Eye, a town of 3,500 in southwestern Minnesota.  Christensen also obtains workers through a contract agency in Nebraska which was the subject of an ICE raid that detained or arrested 150 employees at a number of companies.  About a dozen of the detained employees fed and cared for hogs at Christensen Farms, which claims a clean employment record and says it verifies the status of its direct employees.  It relied on the Nebraska contractor to vet other employees — the contractor was accused of not verifying workers’ identities and failing to complete paperwork required by law before placing workers in jobs.

R.D. OFFUTT’S ELKHORN RIVER FARMS in Nebraska were caught in the same net as Christensen Farms.  Offutt, a Fargo-based company, had 20 employees, including two supervisors, detained or arrested and also blamed its problem on a Nebraska labor contractor.

U.S. CITIZENS RELUCTANT TO WORK IN RURAL ND  Last week, it was mentioned here that many ND farmers rely on seasonal foreign workers recruited through a special visa program.  A GF Herald editorial said the program was vital for farmers in remote locations, but was an inefficient, bureaucratic quagmire that needs to be fixed.  The editorial noted that the state is also dependent on special visas for foreign nurses and doctors.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS  The 14-mile western outlet for Devils Lake is leaking into adjoining farmland.  Costs for solving the problem range from nothing (closing the outlet) to solutions which costs millions per mile (canal lining).  The state Water Commission is going into a deep head scratching session.

THE BISMARCK PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT with 12,000 students is the largest in the state, followed closely by Fargo (11,500) and West Fargo (11,300).  The W. Fargo district is growing rapidly and is expected to pass Fargo.

DAKTOIDS:  UND police make ten times as many DUI arrests in Grand Forks as NDSU makes in Fargo.  The reason for the difference is a little vague, but UND has a bigger campus which includes busy city streets . . .  The man who stole and crashed an airliner from Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle was once recruited for football at Valley City State . . . Cream of Wheat is considered ND’s most famous invention.

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