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Thursday, January 11, 2018

SCHMID: LOOKING BACK FROM THE LEFT COAST - JANUARY 8, 2018

PERSON OF THE YEAR is UND President Mark Kennedy. The GF Herald chose him for decisive management in a turbulent year. A UND professor said Kennedy “hit the ground running” immediately facing additional large budget cuts. Kennedy sold the cuts to his faculty and moved on to reduce the structural footprint of the campus and develop a 5-year strategic plan. It wasn’t painless -- some popular campus figures retired and Kennedy may have given them a push. All in all, the university was behind him -- Kathleen Neset, former chair of the State Board of Higher Education, said “we needed a strong business leader, and that's where he captured the moment.”

CHRIS KLIEMAN is head football coach for NDSU. The Forum reported, “Klieman has won four Missouri Valley Football Conference titles and has two FCS national championships in his four years as the Bison head coach. He has a 53-6 record.” The Forum article discussed intangible reasons why he stays with the Bison. Football coaches in the top tier of Division 1 earn over $1 million a year; top FCS coaches earn $500,000 to $900,000. The FCS championship game between NDSU and James Madison will be televised from Frisco, Texas, at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

SALLY SMITH appeared to be out in June as CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings. The Grand Forks native and 1979 UND accounting graduate announced her retirement at that time -- the victim of an activist investor. But the tide turned. Smith quietly engineered the sale of BWW to Arby’s Restaurants for $2.9 billion -- she will leave after the sale with a payout over $5 million.

ISSUES PENDING FOR GOV. BURGUM in 2018 were the subject of a column by Mike Jacobs. He sees funding and governance of higher education as the biggest and thorniest. A legislative committee and the governor’s task force are addressing those issues. The F-M Diversion is another -- Minnesota is the principal problem and the two governors and a commission are attempting to grind out a compromise. Burgum’s much heralded Main Street Initiative is not out of the barn yet; Jacobs expects specific ideas from a talk Burgum will deliver in Grand Forks.

THE BIGGER THEY FALL What may have been ND’s largest farm, became the state’s largest bankruptcy with debt of $64 million. Secured creditors of McM Inc. received 14 cents on the dollar; unsecured creditors and employees received nothing. Major creditor BMO Harris Bank received $4.9 million for its $43 million claim. The farm’s failure is a symptom of back-to-back years of low prices for farm products. McM was inadequately capitalized to withstand those conditions.

MAKING A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW’S EAR It involves a lot of esoteric chemical processes, but basically the Dakota Gasification Company in Beulah makes valuable urea fertilizer pellets from cheap lignite coal. The plant formerly produced synthetic natural gas, but that business went sour when natural gas from the Oil Patch became plentiful. DGC turned on its heels and made a $740 million addition to their plant to produce urea -- It will be the only producer in ND, where farmers import large amounts of urea fertilizer. The plant makes 1,100 tons a day.

CUBAN OPPORTUNITY A study report from two universities and the USDA concluded that ND and Minnesota are two of the top states to be hurt -- or helped -- by U.S.-Cuba trade policies. If sales restrictions to Cuba were lifted, ND could have annual potential food sales of $30 million. Since 2004, ND sold only $12 million of food to Cuba.

BRRRR! The National Weather Service said when temperatures in Hettinger ND reached minus 45 degrees on January 1, it may have been the coldest spot on the planet. This was consistent with readings in much of the state, which went well into the negative 20s with much lower wind chill warnings. Nodaks have seen this show many times before.

BREATHE FREE Minneapolis is celebrating the positive aspects of living in the “North.” John Wheeler, a Fargo meteorologist, would add Arctic air to their list: “When arctic air is accompanied by a clear sky, which it often is, the air is as clear and as free of particulates as any air you will ever see. The daytime sky is a deep, almost dark blue. At night, the stars shine with a clarity not seen in milder weather.” He suggests taking a walk on a clear, calm 20 below night.

HAPPENINGS IN MINNEAPOLIS Two Wall Street Journal articles this week focused on Minneapolis. The first noted that the Minneapolis metro area had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, presaging above average wage growth. Will there be spillover into the Dakotas? The other was a sports column by Jason Gay predicting the Vikings could be the first NFL team to host a home Super Bowl. There is a ND twist, Gay thinks the wheels may have come off the league leading Philadelphia Eagles team because of the December injury to ND star quarterback Carson Wentz.

DAKTOIDS: U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is considering running for Heidi Heitkamp’s Senate seat. If he did, he would relinquish six years of House seniority and key committee assignments . . . In one hour, Trinity Health of Minot sold $350 million of 4.45 percent tax-exempt bonds to finance a new hospital campus . . . A Forum editorial praises the Dakota Access Pipeline saying it makes Bakken crude more competitive and helps ND’s economy and budget . . . Nearly 500 state-level DAPL criminal cases have closed; over 300 more await disposition . . . ND traffic deaths were 113 in both 2016 and 2017, down significantly from the five preceding years.

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