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Wednesday, January 17, 2018


THE NCAA FCS CHAMPIONSHIP returned to Fargo as NDSU edged past James Madison 17-13 in Frisco, Texas, a match described by the Bison coach as “a great football game between . . . two great programs.” The Bison have been national champions six of the last seven seasons -- part of the growing legend of “North Dakota Tough.” The potent Madison offense was brought to its knees -- evidence of the Bison belief that “defense wins championships.”

SMALL TOWN BIG DREAMS NDSU scours small prairie towns for beefy big boys. Drake, Anamoose and Balfour are a cluster of small towns on Highway 52 between Harvey and Velva -- the largest of the three has 280 residents. The three towns support the Volson brothers, Tanner and Cordell, each 300 pound, 6-foot-5 Bison linemen. Fifty friends and relatives from the area caravanned to Frisco wearing yellow jerseys with the boys’ numbers. Some of the group sprouted silly buffalo horns -- a measure of Bison zeal.

AN INCREDIBLE ASSET Former ND and federal energy regulator Tony Clark observed that utilities look for low-cost energy options and today that is a mix of natural gas plants and utility-scale renewables. He says ND has “an incredible asset” in the form of a premier wind resource and a large natural gas formation. Additionally, Clark said lignite should not be ignored, “The state's ongoing investment in lignite research and development gives this industry an opportunity for continued economic and environmental viability.”

ANOTHER PIPELINE Oneok announced plans for a 900-mile pipeline from Sydney MT to Bushton KS to carry gas liquids from ND. The proposed $1.2 billion line will parallel the existing Oneok Bakken NGL Pipeline. ND natural gas production is outstripping pipeline and processing capacity resulting in excessive flaring with adverse environmental and economic consequences.

YES, IT’S STRANGE James Henrikson of Watford City is in federal prison for various crimes including arranging murders. He was a business associate of former Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall. Rene Johnson was the CPA for Henrikson’s businesses and has been federally indicted for investment frauds tied to Henrikson’s oil field ventures -- her trial is set for late March in Bismarck. Hannah Lloyd of Watford City, one of Johnson’s employees, has been charged with financial crimes after being reported (ironically) by Johnson. Lloyd embezzled from the Watford City Park District, a client of the Johnson firm. As you can see, Watford City produces more than oil.

PLAYING FAST AND LOOSE As described above, in the early days of the Oil Boom money flowed “fast and loose” -- controls seemed to be missing. Melinda Strom worked for an oil field company in Steele ND -- she is charged with a $200,000 felony embezzlement, her employer says it’s a lot more. The money has disappeared -- Strom diverted some of it to her Beary Tweet Tasty Drive-Inn, which she subsequently sold. Strom and her employer victim, Larry Magstadt, were high school friends.

“THE HOSPITAL’S BOARD ALL LEFT” -- From a GF Herald article about the Cavalier County Memorial Hospital in Langdon where two doctors and a nurse were overpaid a total of $2.5 million. The hospital will pay a $750,000 fine to the federal government and the feds will attempt to recover $2 million from the three medical professionals. Langdon (pop. 2,100) is about 15 miles from the Canadian border.

THE ENCHANTED HIGHWAY running 32 miles from Gladstone on I-94 to Regent is one of southwest ND’s main tourist attractions. The appeal is Gary Greff’s large metal roadside sculptures. Greff is running short of money to maintain and build his sculptures. “Geese in Flight,” his latest creation, is 110-feet tall and weighs 78 tons. Owners of the land under the piece have fenced the access road near I-94 saying the sculpture is unsafe, in disrepair and attracts trespassers. The Enchanted Highway has a wobbly future.

ND’S COMMODITY-DRIVEN RECESSION appears to be easing, or ending. The state’s second and third quarters showed an increase in taxable sales over the same periods last year. The improvement appears to be driven by the Oil Patch -- Williston’s taxable sales were up 30% in Q3 and Dickinson’s up 13%, while the state’s four largest cities had declines. Williston’s sales were easily third in the state, greater than Grand Forks or Minot.

ND FARMERS should prepare for another difficult year according to the NDSU Extension Service. Soybeans should be profitable, wheat will be about breakeven and corn will likely be a loser.

DEPARTMENT STORE CLOSINGS continue in the new year. Kmart is closing in Devils Lake and Sears is closing in Bismarck. Montana Kmarts are closing in Helena and Butte and a Sears is closing in Rapid City, SD. Neither chain has closings in Minnesota.

HENRY was the most popular name for boy babies born in 2017 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. But, wait, look in the rear view mirror, another name is coming up fast. The second most popular name was Mohamed, expected to be number one in 2018. St. Cloud is the largest city in central Minnesota and has the biggest Somali population outside of the Twin Cities. Somali began arriving in St. Cloud in large numbers about 2010 and now are near 10 percent of the population.

DAKTOIDS: According to the Forum’s Jack Zaleski one of the worst ideas of 2017 was Gov. Burgum’s appointment of a “chief people officer,” which Zaleski views as a “fashionable corporate culture thing” . . . The Forum’s Bob Lind reports six ND towns have three letters in their name: Ayr, Jud, Max, Orr, Ray and Zap . . . F-M has become an “urban heat island” raising winter temperatures at the airport 3 to 6 degrees.

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