Gov. Doug Burgum sees soybean plant's decision as 'market signal' for North Dakota

“It’s not illegal to have low taxes and a low regulatory environment," the governor said.

Doug Burgum
Gov. Doug Burgum is pictured in this Forum file photo

GRAND FORKS — Gov. Doug Burgum said a recent decision by a soybean processing company to come to North Dakota shows a promising “market signal” for business in the state.

Burgum, speaking to the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial board on Thursday, was asked to respond to a statement made earlier in the week by Mark Johnson, a state Senator from Minnesota who said Burgum "once again stepped up to snatch another promising business from Minnesota.” Johnson, a Republican from East Grand Forks, made the comment after soybean processor Epitome Energy opted to move its planned project from Crookston, Minnesota, and set up in nearby Grand Forks instead.

The company made the decision public at the Monday meeting of the Grand Forks City Council. It caught some Minnesota officials off-guard, and it irked to at least a few Minnesota politicians.

Johnson, who represents legislative District 1 in Minnesota, was joined by District 1 Rep. Deb Kiel in a joint statement distributed to the media on Tuesday that blamed Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s administration for reacting slowly to Epitome’s efforts to clear regulatory hurdles.

Johnson believes that delays by the governor’s administration and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency “(pushed) away growth and progress for our communities.”


Said Kiel: "I am deeply disappointed that the governor's administration is dragging their feet on this project, which has now cost Minnesotans both jobs and agricultural resources."

But back to Johnson’s comment about Burgum snatching “another promising business from Minnesota.”

“Private capital gets to choose where they want to deploy their capital, and all states are competing right now for capital and talent. We’re competing for capital for projects like this and we’re competing for workforce,” Burgum said when asked about Johnson’s comment. “It’s not illegal to have low taxes and a low regulatory environment. It’s actually just a smart strategy and it’s why we have a backload of people wanting to come here.”

The Herald asked Burgum if he felt pride that North Dakota might be winning state vs. state efforts to attract businesses.

“I am never comfortable with the word ‘pride,’ but I do believe in market signals. And it’s a good thing when people are choosing to send their capital to North Dakota and build their projects here. It means we are on the right track,” he said. “We’re going to grow and prosper if we attract capital and talent. And if we push away people and don’t attract workforce and push away capital, we’re going to decline. That’s the 21st century economy.”

He deflected credit and instead directed it toward local city and development leaders.

“How about the city of Grand Forks, being ready to acknowledge and understand there was an opportunity there and understand that there was a customer who was maybe frustrated and then go after it?” he said. “I give all the credit locally.”

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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