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Gov. Doug Burgum, Fufeng Group leaders visit Grand Forks as city finalizes deal

A spokesman for Burgum confirmed the visit included a dinner “to meet the Fufeng Group officials and hear more about the project,” but did not describe the governor’s interest further.

Burgum mug.jpg
Gov. Doug Burgum

Gov. Doug Burgum visited Grand Forks Monday evening to welcome Fufeng Group leaders to the city, launching a week of tours and negotiations between city leaders and the China-based company that is closely eyeing a major manufacturing investment in the city.

Local leaders revealed the governor’s visit hours before his arrival on Monday. Keith Lund, the president of the local economic development corporation, said Fufeng Group officials are in the community throughout the week to look at housing options, office space, meet with agricultural partners and to learn more about the task of actually building the plant, which will require significant public investment to link it to the local infrastructure grid.

“It’s an opportunity for the company to be introduced to the community at a deeper level — forging strong partnerships is extremely important,” Lund said. “And even though we’ve announced the project, we have a lot of work to do. So coming to an understanding of the timeline and the process to fulfill the infrastructure requirements is going to be key this week.”

A spokesman for Burgum confirmed the visit included a dinner “to meet the Fufeng Group officials and hear more about the project,” but did not describe the governor’s interest further.

The company’s arrival is the result of a year of behind-the-scenes discussions that have already sketched out the broadest contours of its arrival, which includes a 20-year discount on property taxes. Meetings this week are expected to help leaders with the company and local government finalize that agreement, with a special focus on the plant’s supporting infrastructure.

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Mayor Brandon Bochenski said that agreement could be released as soon as early December.

“If we get a lot done this week, it might speed that up,” he said.

The deal is critical because a significant amount of investment could be necessary to make the plant work. While the size of Fufeng Group’s potential investment is still unknown, the local, City Hall-controlled infrastructure necessary to service it — from roads to water supplies to wastewater access — will likely cost tens of millions of dollars over the next several years. That’s not counting infrastructure expansion that would likely fall to the state, like natural gas supplies and rail access.

RELATED: Company chooses Grand Forks as site for ‘historic’ agribusiness project

City leaders have said they see it as an investment in Grand Forks’ future, one that will yield jobs and economic growth and water use revenue and more. But the road to that future still runs through the document they’ll discuss with company officials this week.

Right now, the company and city leaders hope to see the plant begin construction in spring 2022, with operations beginning as soon as late 2024.

Lund said on Monday that he did not expect any meetings or events to be open to the press. He described the week as an opportunity to reassure Fufeng Group’s top leader that their investment is well-placed.

“Now, we’ve had a few hours with him … and I’m confident in saying that he is comfortable that they’re making a decision and placing their investment in the right place,” he said.

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