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Wednesday, October 04, 2017


THE LAST HURRAH In 1960, a 10,000-square-foot ranch style governor’s residence was built on the ND Capitol grounds. Today, there is a new residence, but the state could not get any offers to buy or relocate the old residence. It will be demolished in November. Gov. Burgum invited seven families that once lived there to gather and recall their time in the residence. Four living former governors; Al Olson, Ed Schafer, John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple; and members of the families of William Guy and George Sinner were able to attend.

ONE OF ND’S LARGEST FARMS became one of the state’s largest bankruptcies. Ron McMartin Jr., who farmed as McM Inc., had 50,000 acres of high-value crops in 2015 and operating centers in St. Thomas, Grand Forks and Fargo. Creditor BMO Harris Bank in Minneapolis is owed $42 million. McMartin is charged with fraud by the bank and has also filed personal bankruptcy.

HANGOVER Oil Patch communities are still shaking off the oil industry slowdown. Watford City went from a population of 1,600 to 8,000. It now has infrastructure debt of $150 million which it hopes to pay off in 30 years. So far, so good, the city is making its payments, even with oil prices around $50 a barrel.

TEAMWORK between two Scandinavian technology companies and a Grand Forks drone operator is an example of developments in the ND drone industry. Robot Aviation is a Norwegian hardware manufacturer and eSmart is a Scandinavian software company -- they are teaming with SkySkopes, a GF drone-piloting company, to provide inspection services to utilities and oil companies.

MARK HAGEROTT, Chancellor of the ND University System, is in a swirl of controversy. He received an evaluation from his staff alleging a militaristic manner and gender bias. He fired a woman vice chancellor and hired a former military associate. The chancellorship is historically a “hot position,” so it remains to be seen if this is just a periodic flareup.

IMPULSIVE Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Carson Wentz, ND’s latest contribution to the NFL, told teammates that he would give his game paycheck to the kicker if he made a game winning field goal. The kicker made the successful 61-yard field goal. Wentz’s base paycheck for the game was $32,000. He says he has settled the matter with the kicker.

BIG SPENDERS Since 2015, Kilbourne, a company founded by ND Gov. Doug Burgum, has started or completed more than $50 million of construction in downtown Fargo. The amount does not include the initial cost of those and other buildings. Kilbourne and its partners also plan to spend $117 million building the Block 9 downtown high rise, a project still in the pre-construction phase.
GWINNER IS A WINNER Why is Montana-Dakota Utilities building a $14 million natural gas pipeline to little Gwinner ND (pop. 700)? Gwinner is home to the Bobcat manufacturing plant (compact construction equipment). The Bobcat plant had been handicapped by high energy costs in a state with an abundance of inexpensive natural gas. Bobcat signed a 15-year agreement to use the pipeline.

FALL FROM GRACE “Archambault may have made himself the darling of left-wing activists around the country, but his fellow tribal members have said they’d rather have someone else lead them.” -- Forum columnist Rob Port. David Archambault, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, became a national figure at the height of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The aftermath was not pretty. The reservation was financially damaged and relations with the state and other counties reached a low point. Archambault lost his reelection race to Mike Faith 1,082 to 628.
PIPELINE PROTESTS The state of ND borrowed $43 from its bank to cover law enforcement costs associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The state has recovered $10 million of that amount from the U.S. Dept. of Justice. This week the developer of the pipeline voluntarily donated an additional $15 million. That leaves $18 million -- state leaders still hope the federal government steps in.
THE TRIALS OF TRICIA Tricia Taylor can be difficult. Three years ago, the respective Fargo fathers of her two daughters were awarded custody. Her response was to kidnap the girls and take them to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She was convicted of parental kidnapping and sent to jail. She was released on probation last week and ordered to return the girls in 72 hours, instead she cut off her GPS ankle bracelet and again fled to the reservation. The girls, 4-1/2 and 9, are in the temporary tribal custody of Taylor’s half-sister. A tribal court will reconsider the matter again today, but the fathers are not optimistic -- previously, there have been 11 such hearings. A warrant is pending for Taylor’s arrest.

EPIDEMIC "In some locations, Native American women are murdered at more than ten times the national average, and one in three experiences sexual violence." -- Chairman of the United Tribes of North Dakota. Inspired by the killing of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind in Fargo, leaders of the United Tribes sent a letter to ND’s congressional delegation “demanding that they take action to address what they call an ‘epidemic’ of missing and murdered Native American women.”

DAKTOIDS: Dept. of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the oil industry has invested a "stunning" $125 billion in ND from 2007 through the middle of 2017 . . . July ND oil production remained over one million barrels a day . . . Gov. Burgum challenged the ND Petroleum Council to double the state’s oil production. Not by drilling more wells, rather by using new technology to improve yields on existing wells . . . ND’s fiscal slide may be over -- taxable sales in the second quarter were up 7 percent over the same quarter last year . . . The ND Legislature has 18 percent women; MN has 32 percent.

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