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Economic un-development

North Dakota State Roundup

November 1, 2009


Economic un-development

Comparatively speaking, lots of things are going right for North Dakota, particularly in its capital city. But the recent announcement of Bobcat closing its Bismarck manufacturing facility has laid bare an economic development effort that has stumbled.

Bobcat was the lone firm at the Northern Plains Commerce Centre, a 243-acre industrial park built by the city for $15 million, mostly from an economic development fund supported by sales tax revenue, according to local reports. The hope was that the project would create a hub where freight is loaded from railcar to truck or vice versa.

The facility is also close to the airport. Bobcat had been manufacturing heavy construction equipment in Bismarck since the 1970s, but was the NPCC’s first tenant when it moved there in 2006. Shovel-ready construction sites are available with direct and indirect rail access.

In April, plans for a $20 million sunflower crushing plant at the NPCC were also announced. But financial issues cropped up, and those plans were put on hold in late August. Had the plant been built, it would have qualified for a five-year full income tax exemption.
photo of Ronald A. Wirtz
Ronald A. Wirtz
Editor, fedgazette

Ron Wirtz is a regional outreach director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Ron’s primary responsibilities involve tracking current business conditions, with a focus on employment and wages, along with sector-tracking in construction, real estate, consumer spending and tourism. In this role, Ron networks with local businesses in a six-state region, both in person and via various communication channels, and gathers other traditional and nontraditional sources of information to assess current business activity. Ron also gives customized speeches on regional economic activity, and handles advance planning for regular outreach trips to Ninth District communities by Bank President Neel Kashkari. Prior to this role, Ron was the long-time editor of the fedgazette, the Bank’s regional business and economics publication, where he conducted research on such topics as employment trends, health care pricing and consolidation, housing, entrepreneurship, public pensions, income mobility, the Bakken oil boom and other topics.