A new book about the Bank of North Dakota, written by Mike Jacobs, former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald, outlines the 100-year history of the nation's only state-owned bank.

The large-format, coffee table-style book, "The Bank of North Dakota: From Surviving to Thriving" was released in early December.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The publication of the 130-page book was celebrated at an event for the bank's staff last month in Bismarck, Jacobs said.

In September 2016, the bank's president, Eric Hardmeyer, approached him about writing "a readable summary of the bank's history" that he could share with bank employees, North Dakota citizens, and people from elsewhere who are interested in the bank, Jacobs said.

"I'm interested in history because I'm curious about how things came to be," he said.

The founding of the Bank of North Dakota "is especially interesting because it was a considered response to economic conditions in North Dakota. It was extremely controversial at the time."

The bank "is reflective of North Dakota's system of government," he said. "There's more direct democracy in North Dakota than there is in most states, which was an important element in the establishment of the bank and it was an important element in the fight against the bank in its early days."

The bank "is both a reflection of the state's economic and political culture and system, and an important issue to political figures for many many years."

It has had "significant influence in a whole lot of North Dakotans' lives," Jacobs said. "In the 1930s, the bank extended agricultural loans when there was no money, literally," and supported the state's schools so they could meet payroll.

The bank also has a long history of providing student loans for "tens of thousands of North Dakotans" and others to attend colleges in North Dakota, he said.

It has provided loans for community development and beginning farmers, and was an important source of funding for flood recovery efforts after the Flood of 1997 in Grand Forks.

Jacobs, who estimated that he worked on the book for about a year and a half, was assisted in the project by numerous others, including Marsha Gunderson of Grand Forks, a longtime Grand Forks Herald employee an "enthusiastic student of history," and UND Chester Fritz Library Special Collections' staff members.

In the past six to 10 years, interest in the bank has grown among legislative leaders and others from outside the state, including Vermont and New Jersey, Jacobs said.

The book is available through the Bank of North Dakota website and will be available March 3 when Jacobs speaks at the Entertaining History series in the Grand Forks County Historical Society building.