For years, Jamestown has been fishing for a major tenant for the Spiritwood Energy Park and they have hooked a whale. The $1.2 billion Spiritwood Nitrogen Project will be the largest in the history of Cenex Harvest States, the nation's biggest cooperative. The plant will convert Bakken natural gas to nitrogen fertilizer. Why Spiritwood? "Water, gas, electricity, rail and road" according to CHS's CEO. Also, closeness to fertilizer markets. The facility should be complete in 2016 and will have from 100 to 150 employees.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that the historically similar economies of North and South Dakota may diverge because of the oil boom in ND. A short-term factor has also entered the equation. This year is proving to be unique in crop production -- ND is having a good year, while SD is devastated by drought. An executive of the Wheat Quality Council said the difference in the two states this year was obvious, “Not so much in the wheat, but everything else is better in North Dakota than it was in South Dakota. The corn and soybeans were much better up north.”
“OK, you guys are Beverly Hillbillies, you found a bunch of oil under the shack.” -- Doug Burgum, the godfather of Great Plains Software, referring to skepticism about ND outside the state. Burgum believes ND’s thriving economy and absence of social problems makes it an ideal place for tech companies to grow.
“We can’t do anything until money is available.” -- Robert Shepherd, chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe, explaining why he can’t improve law enforcement. This is the most common explanation given by tribal leaders regarding reservation crime and, for that matter, almost any other problem. Merle St. Clair, chairman of the Turtle Mt. Reservation, said the tribal court system on his reservation is in “chaos” and he wants the federal Justice Department to take over the court. The comments arose at a Bismarck meeting between federal prosecutors and tribal leaders in the Dakotas.
Spirit Lake also has a breakdown in its courts, as well as its social services program. Sen. John Hoeven says the tribe must act fast and openly. He said, “It has to be an open and transparent process. It is incumbent on the tribe to get that done, and you have to get it done now,” or federal agencies will have to step in. Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton displayed the numbness which comes from years of federal dependency. “This issue is only part of our larger social dilemma,” Yankton said, referring to a critical shortage of good housing, the financial and emotional strain of a 15-year fight with the rising waters of Devils Lake and other challenges.
The federal government is paying tribes $1 billion to settle a lawsuit regarding trust accounts of which the Standing Rock Sioux will receive nearly $50 million. A faction of Standing Rock members says “government on the reservation is broken” and “the money would be better off in the hands of tribal members.” The group, which is mostly enrolled members of the tribe who live off the reservation, demonstrated in Bismarck for federal intervention.
“Effective immediately, commenting will no longer be available on the majority of the stories and articles posted on our website.” -- Brian Kroshus, publisher of the Bismarck Tribune. Previously, the Tribune had a somewhat rough and ready comment policy -- many comments were noisy, rude and repetitious. However, the new policy swings to another extreme. The Tribune says the policy “isn’t about stifling public opinion,” rather, protecting “those who might otherwise come under attack.” Oh, yes, and please, no comments on the new policy.
The new Tribune policy is especially interesting because a year ago its respected editor, John Irby, quit, in part, because of critical rants from readers. In his retirement announcement he said, “I am tired of being the whipping boy, by one and all.”
The “Super Corsair” is a rare WWII carrier based fighter plane. Only three remained in existence, one of which was owned and flown by Bob Odegaard (66) of Kindred, a man his associates say was world renowned for aircraft restoration. He was killed last week in the plane at a practice run for an air show in Valley City. Wikipedia said production of the plane was curtailed in 1945 because of “deficiencies in lateral control.” Odegaard’s plane-building partner, Gerald Beck of Wahpeton, was killed in Oshkosh, Wis., in 2007 in a collision of two P-51s, one flown by Odegaard’s son. A modified P-51 caused many deaths at the Reno Air Show in 2011. A dangerous business!
Saturday night, the NDSU Bison defeated Colorado State 22-7. That was enough for NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. Referring to 13 players charged with election fraud, he said, “They were vilified many times over and to come up and perform like they did . . . these kids don’t deserve suspension.” In other words, it’s all about winning football games. GF Herald editor Mike Jacobs described the attitude of the NDSU officials as “shocking indifference.” Editorials at the Minot Daily News and Minneapolis StarTribune agreed.
“Voter fraud is serious” -- Forum columnist Jane Ahlin expressing disagreement with NDSU officials. Ahlin mentioned another aspect of NDSU athletes and crime. “In truth, football at big-name colleges and large universities could be called a quasi-college sport. The young men on those teams aren’t college or university students playing football; rather, they are football players who need a school to play for.”
Homelessness grows amidst prosperity. Fargo is seeing unprecedented growth in homeless residents. The director of the F-M homeless coalition estimates 40 percent of homeless men have recently come into the state looking for work. Also, the housing crisis in western ND is forcing some people to move east.
In ND’s three largest cities the bigest employers are hospitals and schools -- the state has few large private employers. This fact was noted in a GF Herald article about the dilemma of low wages in eastern ND. The article said the problem was worse in GF because the UND student population is so large in relation to the size of the area. Competition for jobs drags down wages.
A company believed to one of ND’s largest for-profit employers is principally owned by a Minneapolis group which includes a Lutheran life insurer (Thrivent). The company is MBI Energy Services of Belfield which has 1,500 employees and “is on track to do about $600 million in revenue this year.” MBI and other Bakken investment opportunities are discussed by Lee Schafer in a StarTribune article.
We don’t want to be Grand Forks. Noting that it took GF a decade to recover from its 1997 flood, the Forum says Fargo needs to prepare for extremes of flood and drought.
DAKTOIDS: Lest we forget, little Trinity Bible College in Ellendale has 225 students from 37 states. The school has football and basketball programs and recently dedicated the $1 million Liechty Fitness Center . . . The Minot city council approved a $168 million budget and 30 new employees -- property taxes will rise a minimum of 10 percent . . . The Bismarck City Commission approved a $177 million budget -- property taxes will be flat.