Gov. Doug Burgum's signature on tech education funding is 'exciting news' in Grand Forks

House Bill 1199 will allocate $68 million to tech centers throughout the state, including $10 million toward a Grand Forks center called the Career Impact Academy.

A photo of the North Dakota Capitol.
Herald file photo

GRAND FORKS — The first bill to be signed during the current session of the North Dakota Legislature ensures funding for 13 career technical education centers throughout the state.

The distinction pleases a project leader in the Grand Forks School District.

Eric Ripley, executive director of career technical education and technology in Grand Forks Public Schools, on Friday afternoon sent an email to a number of local stakeholders, starting it by saying “exciting news to share today.”

House Bill 1199 will allocate $68 million to tech centers throughout the state, including $10 million toward a Grand Forks center called the Career Impact Academy. Designed to focus on easing a labor shortage in the city, state and region, more than 70 businesses and individuals contributed during a fund drive that only took a couple of months to complete.

All told, the local efforts netted $11 million, enough to qualify for the $10 million in matching dollars from the state. But funding delays in Washington, D.C. — the money originated at the federal level — in turn caused delays at the state level, meaning the local projects could not receive those matching dollars. Meanwhile, inflation is driving up the price.


As reported by the Bismarck Tribune and shared through Forum News Service , HB 1199 provides a $68 million line of credit through the state-owned Bank of North Dakota to help finance the construction of 13 planned career academies across the state.

In a statement, Burgum said “establishing career academies across North Dakota is a critical piece of our comprehensive efforts to address the state’s workforce shortage.”

It is still hoped the money will arrive from the federal level. In the meantime, this allows the projects to get started, and possibly even this year.

HB 1199 is not to be confused with HB 1019, a separate bill that would provide funding to cover the inflationary increases that have added up during funding delays. That bill is still making its way through the process.

Notably, Ripley noted in his email to boosters, Burgum signed HB 1199 during national Career Technical Education Month.

“It is symbolic that this was the very first bill signed into law this session,” he wrote.

Ripley told the Grand Forks Herald this week that the governor’s signature “allows us to proceed to the design and development phase.”

"Additionally, because this law carries an emergency clause, it goes into effect immediately upon Governor Burgum's signing, rather than the traditional date of July 1," Ripley said.


The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation has backed the Career Impact Center from its inception and took the leadership role in the fundraising campaign. Receiving the funds is important if the project hopes to get started before further inflationary increases force cutbacks, said EDC President Keith Lund.

"The situation we now find ourselves in is because of the delay of almost a year in releasing these funds, projects have increased in estimated costs by anywhere from 30 to 50% because of the escalation in building and labor costs. There isn't a single community in the state that can build what they have proposed with today's costs,” he said. “From my standpoint, and from a community development standpoint, state support for inflation is extremely important, so that we can build the most impactful career impact academy possible."

The Herald's Joe Banish contributed to this report.

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

Over time, he has been a board member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103.
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