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Monday, February 25, 2019


EXPECT MORE TULIPS  The greater Grand Forks area faced discouraging news last year — continuation of a soft farm economy, a weak Canadian currency and the closure of major retailers.  You would never know this from GF Mayor Mike Brown’s State of the City speech.  He said Grand Forks is poised for a 'billion-dollar boom” and backed it up with a list of major projects underway.  A GF Herald editorial hailed the talk as “a tulip in a snowbank, reminding us not only what is good now, but also what's to come.”

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS  GF residents were not as ebullient as the mayor.  A Herald poll found a 63 percent majority thought the city was doing well, but had problems, 28 percent thought it was “not good,” while only only 9 percent thought it was great.

SUBTLE LOGO  Mayor Brown also unveiled GF’s new logo.  It has the city’s name in “airman” blue ( think GFAFB) and a paddle wheel (a steamboat captain founded GF) colored green (UND’s school color).  Sorry, but the new logo requires an interpretation guide.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: Forum columnist Jack Zaleski is known for his “take no prisoners,” somewhat hyperbolic opinions.  His column this week praised Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, but quickly sidetracked to go after UND President Mark Kennedy.  Zaleski rated Kennedy’s performance in a 2006 political debate as arrogant, clumsy, sexist and crass.  What’s left?  Kennedy also received a shot from a different angle — columnist Rob Port saw Kennedy’s recent unexplained generosity to his chief of staff (using university money) as evidence the school needs greater oversight.

LATE BLOOMER  Dick Karlgaard was an outstanding athlete who became a teacher and athletic director for Bismarck Public Schools.  He is better known in ND than his son Rich, the publisher of Forbes magazine.  The younger Karlgaard spoke to the F-M Economic Outlook Forum this week.  He has a book due out in April called “Late Bloomers: The power of patience in a world obsessed with early achievement”.  Rich was a slow starter, a mediocre Stanford graduate who knocked around in entry level jobs.  The book appears based on his career:  “Literally, in a very small period of time, I went from being a guy who had the lowest level of jobs, to founding a magazine, to catching the attention of Steve Forbes and getting hired by Forbes.”

I-29 TECH CORRIDOR  In addition to promoting his book, Karlgaard has a theme about Fargo.  He said Gov. Doug Burgum “set the tone” by investing in Great Plains, turning it into a business software firm worthy of a buyout by Microsoft.  He said that type of leadership could change F-M in much the same manner that Bill Gates and Paul Allen revolutionized Seattle, once a sleepy city, but now a world powerhouse.  Karlgaard senses entrepreneurial vibrancy in F-M and sees the success of Bison athletic programs as one example.  He believes the region’s economy can be diversified by harnessing the research power of NDSU and UND.

LEGACY FUND  The GF Herald interviewed four members of the 2009 Legacy Founders Committee.  The principal question: Are proposals for the $6 billion Legacy Fund, which receives 30 percent of ND oil and gas revenue, consistent with the founders’ intent?  While the four had some disagreement, they were all alarmed at numerous attempts to use the fund for short-term purposes.  They felt the Legislature had already made the state overly dependent on oil by reducing taxes.  If the fund is truly to be a legacy, they believe it must reach a minimum of $20 billion and probably a good deal more.

OIL AND CRIME  There has been a perception that the Bakken oil boom also produced a crime increase.  The perception has been validated by a study from the Bureau of Justice.  From 2006 to 2012, serious crime in ND Bakken counties climbed 38 percent, while it fell 4 percent in non-Bakken counties.  An author of the study said, “When you have a region whose infrastructure cannot support this mass and rapid population influx, it can create a number of social problems.”  Crime abates as the areas stabilize.

TIME HAS RUN OUT  ND lignite plants and the mines which supply them may be running on borrowed time.  Montana-Dakota Utilities announced plans to close coal-fired electrical generation units near Mandan and replace them with a new natural gas facility.  In addition to environmental considerations, the new plant will be much less costly to run than the old.  The units planned for closure use about 500,000 tons of lignite each year, supplied by Dakota Westmoreland at Beulah.

NO SURPRISE  WalletHub ranked 500 cities on a diversity scale.  Ten ND cities were on the list — all ranked in the bottom quarter.  Williston (385) was ND’s highest, while Jamestown (491) was the lowest.  The other eight cities were between the two points.  For mid-size cities with populations between 100,000 and 300,000 — Fargo was eighth least diverse.

OVERREACH?  A Minnesota teachers union wants to spend $4 billion more every two years for education.  Where do they see that kind of money — taxing the wealthy.  Minnesota is already a high tax state — a move against the wealthy could cause a run for the exits — South Dakota is one alternative, Arizona another.  

DAKTOIDS:  WalletHub ranks Fargo as third best city in the nation for football fans after Clemson, S.C. (Clemson U.) and Tuscaloosa, Ala. (U. of Alabama) . . . Mild December weather permitted record ND oil production of 1.4 million barrels a day; January is expected to be flat, but February is expected to be down because of severe cold . . . In December, 19 percent of statewide gas production was flared . . . Hotel magnate Gary Tharaldson is billed as ND’s richest man.

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