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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

SCHMID: LOOKING BACK FROM THE LEFT COAST - SEPTEMBER 24, 2018

SALES TAX COLLECTIONS in ND’s second quarter rose 10 percent from the prior year.  The gains were concentrated in Oil Patch cities, while ND’s other large cities were flat, with the exception of Grand Forks which tumbled 12 percent. Total state Q2 sales tax collections were $5 billion compared to a $7 billion record in 2014.

WHEN WILL THE BAKKEN RETURN?  The answer — it has.  A Minot Daily News editorial said the Bakken is back at record levels, but the economic impact is subdued.  MDN explained that much of the infrastructure required by the initial boom is built, so this time there isn’t such a spike in economic activity.  Also, current oil prices are roughly half the previous high.

NEED TO DIVERSIFY  “North Dakota remains far too dependent on its natural resource wealth — the twin economic pillars of ‘oil and soil,’ or energy and agriculture.” — A Forum editorial got behind the presidents of NDSU and UND and their request for $100 million of state research money.  The money would be divided equally between the two schools over a four-year period and would be directed at projects which diversify the state’s economy.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?  The state’s infrastructure for processing and transporting natural gas can’t keep pace with production.  The result is increased flaring.  The ND Industrial Commission made a $140,000 grant to UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center to study the feasibility of injecting unprocessed gas into subsurface geological formations to be retrieved years later.  The EERC report is due near the end of the year.

FUTURE OF GFAFB  "North Dakota has a tremendous advantage and if you look on any map, looking at current air traffic, the advantage is airspace, and in many ways, uncrowded airspace to be able to test things.” — Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson explained to WDAY why Grand Forks AFB has a crucial future role.  The GFAFB is just one of 2 bases in the country to house the Global Hawk (a large military drone) and is a center of drone technology testing.  Is the Secretary playing the local crowd?  GF will find out for certain during the next round of AF base realignments.

AMTRAK long distance service as represented by the Empire Builder in ND is inefficient, inconvenient and costly to provide.  A Minnesota group has a proposal which makes a lot more sense.  That is, a passenger service which originates at Fargo in the morning providing service to the Twin Cities and Chicago.  Give up the Empire Builder — it’s a romantic part of history.

FARGO’S BLOCK 9 HIGH-RISE will be ND’s tallest private building, and possibly its most attractive.  The 18-story, $117 million high-rise will have setbacks at the fifth floor to better blend with neighbors on Broadway.  Construction is underway and Fargo’s high winds and clay soil require 280 pilings, each 110 feet down, to keep the building on its feet.  Block 9 is owned by Gov. Doug Burgum’s Kilbourne Group and R.D. Offutt Co., which will have its home offices there.  A hotel, offices and residential condos complete the space.

J.R. SIMPLOT, a big potato processor with 430 employees, is the largest private employer in Grand Forks.  Simplot wants to make a $57 million expansion to its plant.  But they have a condition: a 10-year, 80 percent property tax break.  The GF Herald wrote, “We expect derisive howls from the ‘corporate welfare’ wolves,” but we see Simplot as a cornerstone of the local economy and as much deserving of property tax incentives as new businesses.  The Herald said 20 percent of something for 10 years is better than 100 percent of nothing — “To us, the math is easy.”

ONLY IN ND  After a high speed chase by Jamestown police, Levi Guthmiller (25), wanted on outstanding warrants, made the logical escape — he ran into a cornfield.  Police were up to the task — they obtained the permission of the landowner to drive crop sprayers through the cornfield using the machines as elevated platforms.  They are still looking for Guthmiller, but not for lack of trying. 

“YA GOT TROUBLE, RIGHT HERE IN NORTH DAKOTA”  — A phrase adapted from the “Music Man” was used repetitively by columnist Mike McFeely to mock voters who oppose Measure 3 legalizing recreational marijuana.  He said, “That's trouble that starts with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pot. And that's what ya got coming, right here in North Dakota.”  He listed horrors that might arise from Measure 3 — each paragraph was followed by the mocking phrase.

EDINA is one of Minnesota’s most affluent communities — median household income in the city of 50,000 is about $92,000.  The Minneapolis suburb is perceived to be unfriendly to racial minorities.  In an effort to undo that reputation, Edina has adopted a widespread plan to “treat people of color more equitably” by, among other things, changing its affordable housing policy to create more diversity and deliberately reduce the 85 percent proportion of white people.  Police officers will be instructed about attitudes such as “implicit bias” and “microaggressions.”  Critics consider the new policies political correctness taken to an extreme.

DAKTOIDS:  With average daily production of 1.27 million barrels of oil a day in July, ND reached an all-time production high . . . Minot residents have been alarmed by rising property taxes, but a Minot Daily News analysis indicates total property taxes as a percent of property values are lower than most other larger ND cities . . . It wasn’t supposed to happen — after UND football’s pounding the previous week by the U. of Washington, UND upset FCS #5 Sam Houston State . . .  Enrollments this fall at both NDSU and UND dropped four percent from last year.  The schools have similar enrollments each about 13,800.

    

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