John Hageman covers local business and North Dakota politics. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Bemidji Pioneer.
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Almost 30 years ago, the first president of the local economic development organization said Grand Forks' biggest challenge may be that few national companies know about it. Today, the leaders of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. recognize that perception and lack of awareness remain hurdles for this northerly area. But they say the local economy has made major strides in recent years.
A new survey shows three-fourths of Canadian travelers visit the Grand Forks area less often because of an unfavorable exchange rate. The survey results, which were released by the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau Wednesday, help underline the Grand Forks business community's worries over fewer Canadians in local hotels, restaurants and shops. Seventy-six percent of respondents to the annual survey said the exchange rate means they visit Greater Grand Forks less often, compared with 63 percent who said the same thing last year.
A manufacturer of oil field products is comfortable with its investment in a second Grand Forks facility despite a slowdown in the industry brought on by low energy prices. Dickinson-based Steffes Corp. announced in June 2014 that it had purchased the American Defense Industries building on U.S. Highway 2. That came two years after it had first added a Grand Forks plant during the Bakken oil boom.
Heather Nelson is well-versed in the arguments over electronic cigarettes. Armed with a stack of printed news clippings behind the glass counter at her Grand Forks shop, SnG Vapor, she's adamant that the products her business sells helps smokers quit traditional cigarettes. But Nelson worries that a proposed tax in North Dakota will harm her business and present an obstacle for those looking to stop smoking. "I don't think it's fair to boost the tax on something that's actually helping them," she said.
The demolition of a former Perkins restaurant in northwest Grand Forks is making way for a new Hardee's. The old Perkins building at 1213 N. 47th St., which was near the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Interstate 29, was torn down in preparation for construction of a new Hardee's. Sam Munger, director of business development for Eau Claire, Wis-based Northland Restaurant Group, which also owns the South Columbia Road Hardee's, hopes the restaurant can open at the end of July or in August. Munger said Grand Forks has a "blue collar" community that fits their target market.
The Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority formed a new committee Thursday to focus on FedEx's planned departure from the Grand Forks International Airport. The committee will work "on items relative to the financial, legal, tenant-recruitment and planning efforts for this transition," Airport Authority Executive Director Ryan Riesinger said during a board meeting Thursday morning. The Airport Authority members agreed to appoint commissioners Steve Kuhlman and Tim Mutchler to the transition committee and Chairman Karl Bollingberg as an ex-officio member.
The Democratic candidates for the top jobs in North Dakota government criticized Republican leadership and argued for more balanced representation Wednesday during a Grand Forks campaign stop. The event marked the launch of state Sen. Joan Heckaman's bid for lieutenant governor, which comes a week after Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, announced he would run for governor.
The city doesn’t own stock in any other company, and Richards is not aware of any profit it has realized from the Aatrix stock, she said. She added that she's not sure what form the "restructuring" may take until the company submits a specific proposal.
North Dakota Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, will announce her run for lieutenant governor Wednesday in Grand Forks. The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party sent an advisory this afternoon stating Heckaman would hold a news conference at the Grand Forks Public Library to "make an announcement regarding her intentions for the 2016 election cycle." The party's executive director, Robert Haider, confirmed to the Herald that Heckaman would run for lieutenant governor.
The Grand Forks Growth Fund Committee agreed Monday to help finance projects for two local businesses. Countrywide Sanitation, a refuse and recycling business, is planning to build a 12,000-square-foot building at 2500 N. 69th St., which will be used mainly for sorting and baling recycled material, according to meeting documents. JR Investments, the real estate holding company for Countrywide, came to the committee Monday requesting a $52,173 Flex Pace loan to buy down the interest on a $510,000 Choice Financial loan.