North Dakota, which has weathered the economic storm better than most, is not resting on its laurels, but rather setting new goals to ensure continued and future success. Many of Governor John Hoeven's economic development efforts have paid off - and his work has not gone unnoticed. He's made the rounds on the media circuit, with an article in Forbes, an interview with CNBC, and a story in the Financial Times Deutschland all pointing to his state's successes, especially in these turbulent economic times. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation - 4.2 percent in October 2009 - according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It even boasts a budget surplus this year, while many states have grappled with huge budget gaps.
The governor's "six pillars of growth" - education, agriculture, technology, economic development, energy development, and quality of life - appear to be a good foundation. A work force summit held in the fall of 2009 addressed building a future workforce for the state. "Our efforts to grow and diversify our economy have resulted in a corresponding period of growth for our work force, which is a widely recognized asset for our state," said Hoeven. "When we started, our challenge was creating jobs. Now that we've done that, our challenge is recruiting and retaining the young men and women our state needs to fill those jobs."
Earlier this year, the governor signed Senate Bill 2018 - a $185 million bill for economic development investment. Some appropriations include $2.5 million for innovation and entrepreneurship; $20 million for Center of Excellence awards; $17 million for agriculture research infrastructure; renewed funding for Workforce Enhancement grants; and extended Property Tax Reduction and Sales and Use Tax Exemption for wind power.
While the Peace Garden State has many successes to tout, it has not been immune to business closures. One such loss is Bobcat's plant in Bismarck, scheduled to close by the end of 2009. About 390 of its 475 jobs will be transferring to Gwinner in the southeastern part of the state. Bobcat leased space at Wahpeton and will move 60 jobs there. A five-year lease was signed for a 130,000-square-foot facility that should see the first production of Bobcat parts in January 2010, according to the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
Positive developments include a $7.5 million pea and lentil processing plant that opened in Williston, according to the governor's office. United Pulse Trading Inc., the largest lentil exporter in the world, completed its first phase of a multi-phase investment here in the state. Additionally, Halliburton broke ground on a new $15 million, 30-plus acre site in Williston, according to the town's economic development office. And in Minot, Bio-Extraction Inc. announced plans to build a $150 million canola processing plant that is expected to begin production in 2011.