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Monday, June 05, 2017


RECESSION? Has ND been in recession? Well, yes and no. If you are in those regions dependent on ag and energy -- it’s definitely yes. If you are in one of the more diversified Red River Valley population centers -- it’s more likely no. Moody’s Analytics, a consultancy, says that reflects the “two stories” of ND’s recent economy. But as rig counts rise and wheat prices become firmer things are starting to look brighter. ND avoided a worse situation because of “migrating labor” in the oil industry -- workers moving in and out of the state as job prospects change.

FARGO “It's difficult to recall a time when there has been so much excitement and energy about our downtowns.” -- Forum editorial about the ongoing renaissance of downtown Fargo. Projects in progress include a new City Hall, construction of the Block 9 highrise tower and Roberts Commons. A convention center is on the horizon and it’s location (downtown or next to the Fargodome?) is being debated. Moorhead also has big plans -- but they are not out of the starting gate.

LOOK SOUTH Fargo residents are pleased and surprised by the economic diversity and continued growth of their city’s metro area. It should be noted that something very similar has occurred in Sioux Falls, which the Minneapolis Federal Reserve calls the nerve center of SD. The metro area has a quarter of a million residents and an economy led by financial and health services. Sioux Falls‘ metro population and economy are larger than Fargo, but in the past several years, Fargo has grown more rapidly than Sioux Falls.

TOUGH YEARS All five states (MN, MT, ND, SD and WI) in the Minneapolis Fed showed a plunge in farm income from 2013 to 2015 (the latest year for which state data is available). The drop was most severe in ND where farm profits dropped 91 percent during the period to almost nothing. The GDP of ND is slightly greater than neighbors MT and SD. Industrial states MN and WI each have economies roughly six times larger than their three smaller neighbors in the Minneapolis Fed.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR “The county is searching for a new sheriff.” -- Chair of the Wells County (central ND) Commission. Yes, the search is quite necessary, since the old sheriff was jailed and charged with two felonies and three misdemeanors. Small ND counties, some as small as 1,000 residents, struggle with a bad combination -- a sheriff who is both elected and low paid. The result: marginal candidates become sheriffs and are often under investigation.

BEGGAR-THY-NEIGHBOR “Whereas we do feel subsidies at certain airports may have a place, we know those free federal dollars – which help keep ticket prices low in little-used airports – may be hurting mid-sized facilities down the road that aren’t similarly subsidized.”-- GF Herald editorial. The Herald said “We don’t wish ill to the small airports . . . but we must consider our own airport’s destiny.” Passenger boardings at the GF Airport are down sharply -- the small towns the Herald is pointing to may be Devils Lake and Thief River Falls, MN, both receive large airport subsidies.

BISMARCK FILMMAKER MATT FERN is wrapping up three years documenting the history of the UND Fighting Sioux logo and nickname. The “Unauthorized: The Story of the Fighting Sioux” will be shown to private audiences in Grand Forks, Fargo and Minot before heading for international film festivals.

NEWSPAPER GREATS Another documentary features eight notable ND print journalists and premieres today at the Fargo Theater. “Inside Stories” focuses on key people in the history of the state’s newspapers. Four are associated with Forum Communications and remain active: Chairman Bill Marcil, former Herald publisher and current columnist Mike Jacobs, and columnists Marilyn Hagerty and Bob Lind. John Andrist is also featured -- he is the retired publisher of The Journal in Crosby and still an active columnist.

THE SINGING NORWEGIAN The late Dr. Joseph Hegstad (80) has done it all. The Chairman of the Division of Music at Minot State performed at musical events all his life, starting as a baritone soloist with the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants. He sang at Carnegie Hall and the White House. Few major musical events in ND lacked his involvement. Proud of his Norwegian roots, he was a founder and participant in the Scandinavian Hostfest.

A BIZARRE TRAIN WRECK In May 1931, all of the passenger coaches of the Empire Builder were blown off the tracks near Moorhead by tornado winds estimated at 135 to 165 mph. One coach was lifted in the air and dropped 80 feet away. Half of the train’s 117 passengers were injured. Only the heavy engine and coal-tender remained on the tracks.

RISKY The Red River Valley just south of the Canadian border encompasses parts of ND and MN. The corridor is used by African immigrants traveling north, often on foot, seeking to reach Canada to apply for asylum. A week ago, authorities found a woman’s body on the Minnesota side a half a mile from the border. The woman is believed to be a 57-year-old citizen of Ghana. So far this year, Manitoba authorities have intercepted nearly 500 people crossing the border with ND and MN -- they are believed to represent only a portion of actual crossings.

DAKTOIDS ND is off to a fast start in 2017 traffic fatalities -- 49 versus 29 last year at this time. Only nine of the victims wore seat belts. Best explanation for the rise -- increased activity in the Oil Patch has increased traffic throughout the state . . . The Grand Forks jail contracts to hold immigration detainees awaiting trial in the Twin Cities. The GF Herald says this is a “financial boon” for the jail which last year received 81 percent of its revenues from federal inmates . . . You didn’t ask, but the most popular name for ND boy babies in 2016 was Oliver; Harper and Olivia tied for girl babies.

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