John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.
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North Dakota Gov.-elect Doug Burgum announced several impending Cabinet departures Monday, including the head of the state's largest agency, Department of Human Services Executive Director Maggie Anderson. But 11 of the 17 members of outgoing Gov. Jack Dalrymple's Cabinet will remain through the transition to the Burgum administration.
An appeals court affirmed a decision in favor of the clothing retailer Gap in its years-long lease dispute with Grand Forks' Columbia Mall last week. The Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court's judgement in favor of Gap, which argued it was not obligated to pay for heating, ventilation and air conditioning expenses, as well as common-area maintenance costs under its lease with Illinois-based GK Development.
A miniature version of Grand Forks attracted a steady stream of visitors Saturday to HB Sound and Light. Various Grand Forks landmarks constructed out of Lego plastic bricks were on display at the downtown business during an open house. While many were geographically out of place—Widman's Candy Shop sat next to the famous polka dot house—the buildings were instantly recognizable to the town's real-life residents. The Red Pepper, wind turbines from LM Wind Power, Norby's Work Perks and the UND aerospace program were among those represented at the event.
Representatives of the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently visited the Grand Forks International Airport as part of a study into infrastructure needs at airports that have a university presence.
A Grand Forks hairstylist is taking her services to those who can't come to her. Tammy Erickson, who rents space at Superior Styles on North Washington Street, uses a state-issued homebound license to reach seniors at their homes or nursing facilities. She said she took a leap of faith by starting her own business last year, and then people began asking her to come their homes. Seniors are on a fixed income and often have trouble finding rides to get a haircut, Erickson said.
Another downtown Grand Forks business is closing. Adley Anne's Baby and Maternity Boutique, located across the street from Grand Forks City Hall on North Fourth Street, announced late last month it would close its doors after more than eight years in business. The store has been advertising sales to move its merchandise before its final day of business, which owner Holly Schneider predicted will be between the middle and end of this month.
A week after Grand Forks leaders broke ground on a new water treatment plant, the city received a bit of good news in North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget address. The governor included $30 million for the plant's construction in his 2017-19 budget, which he released Wednesday and presented to state lawmakers. While lawmakers previously passed legislation stating their intent to fund half of the project's cost, with $30 million in both the 2015-17 biennium and the 2017-19 biennium, declining revenues have pinched the state's budget.
A Grand Forks company announced Wednesday it plans to build a $10 million data center at the Grand Sky drone business park. Grand Sky has signed a letter of intent with EdgeData to establish a 16,000-square-foot colocation data center at the park, which is on Grand Forks Air Force Base. Construction is tentatively planned to start in the spring, "pending the completion of necessary anchor tenant commitments, design and permitting approval processes," according to a news release. The facility is expected to be operational within a year after construction starts.
Some Grand Forks residents apparently were caught unprepared by the snowstorm that hit Tuesday. "Everybody who's leaving (the store) has a shovel," said Scott Pearson, CEO of Home of Economy. "We've had a couple of years without a really significant winter, so a lot of people have been here for a while, but maybe their boots wore out." Home of Economy was one Grand Forks firm that saw storm-related business Tuesday. Snow removal firms such as Quality Lawn Care and Snow Removal and Lawn King were busy digging out residences and parking lots around town.
Seeking to address perpetual workforce shortages, Grand Forks business and civic leaders want to create a website to distribute information about the community to people looking to move here. To that end, they went before the Grand Forks Growth Fund Committee Monday seeking $10,000 for the effort. The committee approved the funding, following the example of the Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, UND and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.