The University of North Dakota is asking Grand Forks’ city government for money to help build a new home for the school’s business college.
A trio of university leaders asked members of the city’s Jobs Development Authority to pay $1.33 million over 10 years for a spot in the school’s new $70 million Nistler College of Business and Public Administration building. That money, they said, would be a “capstone investment” because it would get the school to its $50 million fundraising goal for the project.
“We’d be able to claim, and to say proudly, that it was the partnership between the city and the campus of UND that actually made this project happen,” Andrew Armacost, the university’s president, told authority members on Monday.
The North Dakota Legislature apportioned $20 million for the project after Werner and Colleen Nistler pledged the same. The Nistlers own several businesses, including a medical records processing company and a series of senior living communities in the United States and Canada. UND leaders are using the state’s match of the Nistlers' money to attract more potential funders, including the city, which would receive a $2 million “Workforce Development Center” in the new building in exchange for its $1.3 million.
The city would be one of a host of other donors who would exchange cash for a future physical presence in the Nistler building. A St. Cloud, Minn.-based company led by UND graduates, for instance, bought a “sales lab” there for a $1 million donation.
Amy Henley, the business college’s dean, said about five to eight other rooms there have been sold at a similar price-point, and that the city’s space there could link it and the school in students’ minds, perhaps enticing them to stay in town after they graduate.
“They get a physical presence, but I think they also get a conscious presence,” Henley said when asked by the Herald what the city would get for its money.
University officials and a few city leaders also touted the side benefits of the hoped-for building, including tens of millions that would presumably be spent in Grand Forks County to build it, plus the economic benefits that could come from students who work in Grand Forks after graduation day.
Development authority members all seemed on-board with the plan. The authority is made up of Grand Forks City Council members and Mayor Brandon Bochenski, who won that seat last month after campaigning to tighten the city’s purse strings.
“You have to have a balance between making smart budget decisions, but also investments in the future economy and economic stimulus,” Bochenski said. “I think this is a great chance to bridge that.”
Kyle Kvamme, a City Council member who repeatedly said he is in favor of the new college building, was the closest to a skeptic. He said his constituents in the city’s fifth ward have consistently said that taxes are high and that they urged Kvamme to be responsible with city money.
“And that’s the voice that I’m just trying to say right now,” Kvamme said. “Is there the opportunity to still have this project without the 1.3 (million), or is it off the table? ... And, as we think about our $1.3 million, what’s the plan for that had this not been here?”
The development authority is expected to vote on the university’s proposal at a meeting later this month.