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Monday, June 12, 2017


IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN After years of topping lists of leading states, ND’s rankings are coming down to earth. Depressed ag and energy industries caused the state to be included among WalletHub’s 10 worst state economies in 2016. A GF Herald editorial was dismissive, saying the report relies heavily on limited factors and "we read the story with a shrug and turn our attention elsewhere.”

ND’S LEGACY FUND has a diminished, but still significant future. The $4 billion fund has been created by setting aside 30 percent of the state’s oil and gas revenues. The projected future size of the fund is down because of lower oil prices and lower state tax rates. The Great Plains Institute urged the ND Legislature to adopt a long-term investment strategy. The GPI estimates that if all fund earnings are spent the fund will have a balance of $20B in 2060; if all earnings are reinvested the balance could be $102B at that date. More likely scenarios include some strategic investment resulting in a 2060 balance somewhere between the two extremes. $200 million of fund earnings will be used to bolster the 2017-19 state budget. That is hoped to be a temporary use of fund earnings.

OLDER WORKERS From 2010 to 2015 the population of Jamestown remained unchanged at about 15,400. But, surprisingly, the city’s workforce during that period increased from 7,900 to 8,300, about 5 percent. How did they squeeze out more workers? The answer was found in the number of people working who were between the ages of 65 and 74 -- in 2010 there were only 160, but by 2015 there were 460. In 2010, Jamestown’s median family income was 96 percent of the national average; by 2015, the Jamestown average was about $66,000, nearly equal to the national average. The pattern can be noticed statewide -- Nodaks are increasingly interested in working after reaching age 65.

FRIENDS OF THE RIVER in Minot conducted a survey among people living near the Souris River. The results seemed surprising -- about 45 percent of people responding were negative about the river. One said, “The river is a sleeping giant, and dangerous.” An organizer of the survey said, “I think the results point to what we already knew. People in Minot are still a bit traumatized by the flood (2011) and don’t think of the river in the best light. We’re hopeful we can start to change that.” The mission of the Friends “is to renew and restore Minot’s river culture.”

WHAT’S UP? I always wondered -- was Amy Dalrymple, the Forum New Service correspondent covering the Bakken, any relation to the former ND governor? The answer is she is not. But after 14 years with the Forum, she is joining the Bismarck Tribune as a reporter. This is puzzling, since the Tribune has been reducing its footprint and increasingly relies on state news from the Forum News Service.

SALLY SMITH, a Grand Forks native and 1979 UND graduate, has been at the center of a national controversy over her performance as the CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant chain with nearly 1,800 locations. Smith became the Minneapolis-based company’s CEO in 1994 and is credited with making the chain an industry leader. For the last two years, the company has plateaued and become the target of an activist hedge fund investor. Smith announced her retirement last Friday.

BLAME MILLENNIALS Prior to her retirement, Smith told shareholders Buffalo Wild Wings faced a uniquely challenging market. She blamed millennials who “are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants."

U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE DANIEL HOVLAND called Henrikson “one of the most arrogant, abrasive and obnoxious defendants he'd ever encountered.” James Henrikson was convicted for arranging two contract killings and is ND’s most notorious criminal of this decade. His conviction, in part, was obtained with the cooperation of his former wife, Sarah Creveling. In exchange, Creveling will get only three years of supervised probation for her part in Henrikson’s many fraudulent Oil Patch activities. She will also make significant asset forfeitures.

RYDER is a pipsqueak town of 85 people about 40 miles southwest of Minot. The first thing you notice in Ryder is that its water tower has been redone to resemble that of Harley-Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee. Hmmm! And why has the little town temporarily changed its name to Riders? All of this and more is the result of a scheme by Harley-Davidson to make Ryder the first fully motorcycle licensed town in America by offering all residents with a drivers license a chance to ride and become licensed.

74 YEARS LATER Obituaries in the GF Herald this week included a picture of Warren Nelson, a serious-looking young man from Lakota. Notice the date of death: November 20, 1943. Nelson was a 20-year-old Marine when he was killed in a landing in the Gilbert Islands during WWII. His remains have been returned after nearly 74 years and a funeral will be held in Lakota tomorrow.

MAJOR UNSOLVED CASE A book shelf in the Minot Police Department holds a picture of 18-year-old Anita Knutson, a Minot State student from Butte, ND. She was stabbed to death in her off-campus apartment 10 years ago and the picture is a reminder her murder is unsolved. Despite an abundance of clues and dozens of suspects, the MPD is not close to solving the case.

CONNECTING DOTS This year, immigrants (mostly Somali) are making risky border crossings from ND and MN to seek asylum in Canada. What’s driving the exodus? The U.S. has stepped up the deportation of Somali who have failed to qualify for asylum or have criminal convictions. Approximately a third of the 260 Somali deported thus far in 2017 were from the St. Paul Immigration District, which includes ND.

THIEF RIVER FALLS is located about 50 miles northeast of Grand Forks and has been best known for snowmobiles (Arctic Cat) and hockey. But recent attention has shifted to Digi-Key, a privately held global electronics distributor, the largest employer in the city of about 8,500. Digi-Key just announced a million square foot expansion, which it says will ultimately create 1,000 jobs. Minnesota and TRF heaped a pile of benefits on Digi-Key in the form of sales and property tax exemptions, grants and a forgivable loan. The new plant will represent an investment in the $200 to $300 million range.

DAKTOIDS Sears will close in Minot . . . ND oil production in March was maintained at over 1 million barrels a day . . . U.S District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo was nominated to a federal appeals court.

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