Ethical questions were raised last week after SiteLogIQ -- the consultant hired by Grand Forks Public Schools to plan an upcoming referendum -- invited the public to an informational meeting about building a "Vote Yes" campaign for the same referendum. Herald correspondent Sam Easter reports that school district officials said they had no idea the meeting was happening, and worry it could negatively impact the district and the public's perception of the referendum.

Grand Forks-based Airtonomy faces growth and challenges, while tech hub prepares to move forward

The city is poised to begin taking big strides in turning the Grand Forks Herald building into an accelerator for tech start-ups. Already located in the building is Airtonomy, which is facing changes and challenges of its own. The Herald's Adam Kurtz reports that the software company is growing and looking to hire new employees -- computer scientists and engineers -- while at the same time looking to expand its footprint on the building’s second floor.

National UND survey shows Americans, when taking a deeper look, may be more accepting of drones

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While Americans are concerned about privacy and safety when they think of drones, a recent UND survey found that Americans may be more accepting of them when they take a deeper look. The Herald's Sydney Mook reports that the survey, which the university says is the first of its kind to poll attitudes about drones across the nation, was conducted by UND’s Institute of Policy and Business Analytics last year.

Motor Coach Industries' plans draw concern from employee at Pembina, N.D., factory

Earlier this year, Pembina-based Motor Coach Industries announced plans to modify one of the New Flyer completion lines in Crookston, Minn., so the company can build buses and coaches at the Crookston location, increasing flexibility. The Herald's Ann Bailey reports that eventually that will result in layoffs of 50 employees in Pembina, causing some employees to worry that the company plans to eventually close the plant.

Oxford Brewing Company gets its first beer in the bottle and out the door

The Oxford Brewing Company is perhaps Grand Forks’ smallest brewery, since it is located in the former Sof-Teez Soft Ice Cream Shop on North 20th Street. It’s now up and running and supplying local restaurants and residents with what the owners are calling an “easy to drink beer.” The Herald's Adam Kurtz reports that in March, the owners started making their flagship beer, called Ox Golden Ale. It’s available in six-packs at the location, and sales have been swift.

Northwest Minnesota Arts Council announces funding opportunity for public art projects

The Northwest Minnesota Arts Council has announced that funding is available for a new category of arts activity, public art projects in this region. The Herald's Pamela Knudson reports that the council has created this special category this year for Arts Legacy Grants and Arts Project Grants, and the deadline to apply is May 1. Individual artists, arts organizations and communities may apply.

COVID-19 vaccination rate for Black North Dakotans well below other groups

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines are not finding their way to much of the area’s African-American community. Misinformation and distrust are widespread. Some believe the shots are not safe, or they point to government-backed programs that hurt Black Americans in the past. Forum correspondent Michelle Griffith reports that with these factors in the mix, the rate of Black North Dakotans receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is significantly lower than other groups. State figures show that 23.4% of Black residents had gotten one dose of the vaccine as of Friday, April 16, while 49.2% of white people, 40.7% of Native Americans, 37% of Asian Americans and 28.5% of Hispanic or Latino residents across the state had done so.

Sen. Kevin Cramer-backed bill would require banks to do business with all kinds of industries — regardless of how the banks feel about it

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., is backing a new bill that would require banks to do business with all kinds of legal industries, such as guns and fossil fuels — regardless of how the banks feel about it. To Cramer, the issue is about discrimination. He argues that banks should only be making financial decisions about who to work with — not political ones. Herald correspondent Sam Easter reports that with multiple mass shootings taking place in America in the weeks since the bill's introduction, it looks unlikely that the bill is going anywhere in a Democratic Congress.

Efforts to curb high costs of prescription drugs fall short in North Dakota

A suite of North Dakota proposals targeting the high costs of prescription drugs were either tossed out or substantially watered down this legislative session, but advocates of the programs say new conversations on the topic laid groundwork for future state action. Forum correspondent Adam Willis reports that three bills introduced by Republican Sen. Howard Anderson, of Turtle Lake, each looked north to Canada for possible solutions to runaway costs for prescription drugs. Prices on many medications have skyrocketed in the United States since the 1990s, and the trend has lately become an issue of bipartisan consensus in other states and on Capitol Hill.

Ranchers trying to fend off wildfires as extreme drought hits much of North Dakota

North Dakota is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record with nearly 76% of the state facing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A combination of little rainfall last summer and only a few inches of snow during the winter has caused the last eight months to be the driest on record since 1895. Forum correspondent Michelle Griffith reports that the persistent drought brings with it a plethora of consequences, including disruptions to the state’s agriculture industry and optimal conditions for wildfires like the one that recently struck the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and another that threatened the town of Medora.