The GF Herald made a fascinating study of growth in ND sales tax collections during the last decade. State collections increased 178 percent for the decade -- very impressive. But here’s the zinger -- taxes in the eastern half of the state increased 29 percent, while those in the west increased 249 percent. An almost 9:1 ratio. The Williams County (Williston) increase was absurd -- 1,800 percent, while GF County at the eastern end of Highway 2 was 25 percent. It doesn’t take too much thought to recognize the pecking order is changing. David Flynn, chair of the UND Economics Dept., took the optimistic view that the rising tide lifts all boats and GF will see more opportunities. He said, “Grand Forks needs to . . . decide how to adapt.”
A U. of Nebraska study found ND to be the number two state in the development of entrepreneurship. The disciplined study evaluated each state on five criteria. It was easy to see why ND ranked so high -- it led the nation in business formation and growth -- mostly attributable to the economic explosion in the oil patch.
UND President Robert Kelley played a subtle, but effective role in killing the “Fighting Sioux” name and logo. He should be sleeping well -- those popular and beloved symbols have a fading campus presence. But like a glacier, the name has a large unseen presence. In a GF Herald column titled “Tough to find another name,” Virg Foss said, “I’d go on indefinitely without a nickname, if they put me in charge of that decision at UND. UND would stand alone in the college world as the school without a nickname while silently acknowledging the rich history and deep impact the Fighting Sioux name forged in its time.”
"President Obama directed me to make sure that the past wrongs of history were righted” -- Presidential politics was in the forefront as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the approval of the Three Affiliated Tribes refinery project near Makoti at a news conference in New Town. A senior assistant to Salazar said one of the highlights of staying on with the Obama-Salazar team “is to re-empower Indian nations.” The refinery will be called Thunder Butte Petroleum Services and is estimated to cost $350 to $400 million and will provide 80 full-time jobs when operational. In the 2008 presidential election, nearly all ND counties carried by Obama had large Indian populations.
The refinery project has been in the works for a decade. One of the mysteries was how financing could be arranged, considering the dubious financial history of the Three Affiliated Tribes. There is now an answer -- Tribal Economic Development bonds called TEDs are tax-exempt borrowings created by the Stimulus Act. Tex Hall, chairman of TAT, said a law firm will sell the bonds to investors. So, the tribe will have the benefit of tax-exempt bonds, additionally, profits from the refinery will largely escape taxation. The tribe will also receive preferences in selling refinery products to the federal government -- all in all, a tough competitive environment for privately-owned refineries.
Makoti is near Minot and the refinery will be another feather in Minot’s cap. A Minot Daily News editorial summed it up, “Think about it: The first new oil refinery to be build in decades in the United States will be built near Makoti, N.D. That in itself is an accomplishment to be celebrated.”
Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sen. John Hoeven and Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman huddled in the cold and wind. As the Minot Daily News reported, "A ribbon cutting ceremony on the highway was brief due to high winds." As good Nodaks, everyone took it in stride. The occasion was the dedication of a seven-mile stretch of the Minot Northeast Bypass, which will route heavy oil patch traffic around the city.
You needn’t ask Bismarck Tribune columnist Clay Jenkinson what he thinks -- he does so voluntarily. He describes ND as “a traditionally isolated, backwater, and cash-poor state that is just emerging from four decades of rural decline and outmigration.” The quote deserves a broader context: Jenkinson said the state is now “awash in surplus cash” and “we can invest in a glorious future.” Jenkinson was pursuing his favorite theme, to wit: Now, before it’s too late, is the time for the state to set aside land in the Badlands for a “Prairie Legacy Wilderness.” He said “if we have the will and the leadership” the resources are there. Tom Dennis closely echoed those thoughts in the GF Herald.
ND University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was in his pulpit asking for support for reforms in higher education. He said, “The truth is, our colleges and universities in North Dakota are accomplishing far less than they could and should be. We have been too focused on filling classroom seats and residence halls rather than addressing issues of quality.” That is the truth, and also a concern expressed in this space for many years. Send the NDSU football team back to the Twin Cities and let ND get on with the job of reforming its 11 colleges and universities.
New Minnewaukan is about a mile away and 30 feet higher than Old Minnewaukan. So far, 11 families have decided to move to avoid the waters of Devils Lake. New Minne is not coming cheap -- there’s $6 million for relocation, $11 million for a new school, and we could keep going. The combined locations have less than 200 residents. Politicians of all stripes cheer the federal expenditures, but, just like the billion dollars that’s been spent on other Devils Lake flood mediation, rarely is a voice ever raised asking whether the spending makes sense.
Be truthful, you don’t know where Hague is. It’s a little (pop. 90) town in Lawrence Welk Country, almost perched on the South Dakota line. Brian Henning, an expert in church restoration, said this of St. Mary’s of Hague: “It really is amazing to have this church in the middle of nowhere.” Lauren Donovan of the Tribune wrote with unusual enthusiasm about the church's statuary, murals, stained glass and architecture -- she calls it one of ND’s “most lovely churches.”
Sumaya Hassan (23) was annoyed by a group of people she was arguing with in the parking lot of a Fargo church. So she drove over them with her car. Judge Wade Webb gave Hassan two years in prison. Hassan claimed she was too drunk to remember the incident; her attorney had a different explanation -- he said that Hassan is emotionally unstable after fleeing her native country of Somalia during a civil war.
Muskrats 1 -- Railroad 0. Grain valued at $6.5 million is on the ground at the Woodworth elevator. Muskrats undermined tracks of the Red River Valley and Western Railroad which serves Woodworth and rail cars tipped into a slough. The delay in service came during a time of intense harvesting. The town of 80 is about 30 miles northwest of Jamestown. Muskrats are a primary enemy of roads in the Prairie Pothole area of the state.
DAKTOIDS: Seattle’s Costco had 610 stores, but none in ND. That’s over, Costco opened a warehouse store in W. Fargo . . . Bucyrus wasn’t much, now it’s nothing. Fire and 60 mph winds totally destroyed the town of 30 residents just northwest of Hettinger.