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Monday, July 10, 2017


WHEN BAD NEWS IS GOOD State officials put a bright face on news that ND first quarter 2017 sales dropped 5 percent. They saw the decline as evidence that sales were leveling after double digit declines in two prior years. Fargo was typical of eastern ND cities with a 7 percent sales decrease; while Dickinson had an increase of 9 percent reflecting improving conditions in western Oil Patch cities.

SHAPING THE CABINET "You can't transform government unless you have transformative leaders." -- ND Gov. Doug Burgum. New appointments to his 17-member cabinet come largely from the private sector.

THINK BIG "We need to think beyond our borders about energy just as we do with wheat." -- Dr. Brian Kalk, a leader at UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center and former ND Public Service Commissioner. He believes ND needs a combined strategy for its energy (coal, oil, hydro, gas and wind) to supply electricity for a world market.

NURSE PRACTITIONERS are a way of compensating for the shortage of doctors in ND’s rural areas. There are 900 licensed nurse practitioners in the state -- double the number ten years ago. Nurse practitioners can write prescriptions and provide comprehensive primary care. NDSU has received a $500,000 federal grant to train nurse practitioners -- students who commit to completing at least half of their clinical hours at a rural health care site will receive "priority points" for admission to the program.

“WORKFORCE ACADEMIES provide a new twist on an old idea, the apprenticeship.” A Forum editorial applauded a decision by the Board of Higher Education to permit the ND State College of Science to seek private financial support for a proposed career workforce academy in Cass County. The editorial noted the area’s low unemployment rate is an “invisible drag” on the economy. Business enthusiasm for the academy is high and, If private financing is obtained, a collaboration between NDSCS and five public high schools will link high school and two-year training programs.

GET WITH IT ND’s governor and the UND president have warned that online learning will disrupt the current model for higher education. The former director of the Minnesota Office of Strategic Planning agrees, he says that if online learning disrupts higher education comparable to what the internet did to the newspaper industry, 700 colleges will be forced to shut their doors. He urges the U. of Minnesota to acquire an online institution, such as Minneapolis-based Capella University, in order to remain relevant. Purdue University recently acquired for-profit Kaplan University, a provider of online higher education.

IS COMPETITION THE ANSWER? Jeremy Jackson, the director of the NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise, said there is a conflict between Gov. Burgum’s call for innovation in higher education, and pressure for increased centralization from legislators and the State Board. He said, “Higher education in North Dakota needs more competition and decentralization, not increased hierarchical bureaucracy.” He noted “North Dakota has the highest number of four-year universities per capita in the United States.” He advocates using competition to reduce the number of schools.

IT’S REALLY NOT JUST ABOUT GROCERIES As small ND towns dry up, losing their schools and churches, there is a desperate desire to hold communities together. The answer in a number of towns is a community grocery store run by a combination of a few full-time employees, part-time employees and volunteers. The central ND towns of Bowdon (pop. 140) and Wimbledon (pop. 240) are examples. The concept requires a large commitment of work and financial support and has met with mixed success. Wimbledon uses 75 volunteers.

HAS TO BE A BETTER DETECTION METHOD Police in Berthold (25 miles west of Minot) stopped a speeding teenage Minnesota driver on U.S. Highway 2 -- the result, discovery of 122 pounds of marijuana valued at $600,000 -- possibly the largest seizure in ND history. The teenager was merely the mule, he was led by another car with two Asian males from the Twin Cities. He said this was the seventh trip he made with them to bring marijuana from Sacramento to the Twin Cities. This illustrates how unlimited amounts of illegal drugs easily flow down major highways without detection, unless the drivers can’t stay out of trouble.

MINNEAPOLIS approved a minimum wage of $15 an hour for larger businesses by 2022. Those employers with fewer than 100 employees have an additional two years to reach $15. A number of large coastal cities, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have similar laws. There is a concern that the Minneapolis requirement could have unintended consequences and cause an exit of businesses. The cost of living in Minneapolis, while high, is much lower than other cities which have adopted the $15 minimum.

MiINNESOTA has a minimum wage of $9.50 for larger businesses and $7.75 for the rest -- the highest in the Midwest. ND uses the national minimum of $7.25, but its minimum wages are effectively higher because of labor scarcity. SD is currently $8.65, but indexed to go higher.

THANK YOU PHYLLIS A 98-year-old retired piano teacher died last year in Webster, a small town near I-29 in the northeast corner of SD. The town was astonished when her attorney announced Phyllis Hanse had given $4.2 million to her hometown of 1,900 people. She was an only child who had no children and inherited a farm.

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