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Bank of ND could serve as oversight for presidents' research proposal

The Bank of North Dakota could serve as an oversight committee for a potential $100 million investment in the state's two research universities, UND President Mark Kennedy said Thursday.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani, left, and UND President Mark Kennedy share a laugh Thursday in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
NDSU president Dean Bresciani, left, and UND president Mark Kennedy share a laugh during Thursday's EDC event in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The Bank of North Dakota could serve as an oversight committee for a potential $100 million investment in the state's two research universities, UND President Mark Kennedy said Thursday.

Kennedy, along with North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani, have been promoting a proposal to invest $100 million in research at the two universities over two years. Each school would get $25 million a year under the proposal.

In order to make the most out of the money they could receive, Kennedy said there needs to be some sort of monitoring system that would ensure that the money is indeed going to research and not to things like building improvements.

That monitoring could come in the form of the Bank of North Dakota, Kennedy told the Herald Thursday.

"This is akin to a loan or an investment where you're expecting a payback, but it comes over time and you want to have somebody monitoring to see which (areas) are doing well and you need to double down on, and which are maybe hitting some snags that you hadn't considered and you need to pull back on," he said.

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Bresciani told the Herald that they have tried to structure the proposal in a way that could keep it from being heavily politicized. Kennedy said that is why an outside entity, like the Bank of North Dakota, could oversee what was being done with the money.

The monitoring would also ensure that the research dollars are being invested into ventures that are beneficial to the state, Kennedy said.

The universities would present their activity to BND every six months, Kennedy said. BND would then report to the state whether or not research was actually being done, if that research was beneficial to the state and if the schools were collaborating enough.

At the end of the two years, BND could do an analysis that would determine whether or not the universities are actually delivering on their plan.

Kennedy said BND expressed interest in working on the project a few weeks ago when UND officials were meeting with the bank on a different topic.

Eric Hardmeyer, president and CEO of BND, said he has had discussions with Kennedy about BND's potential involvement in the proposal.

"I think that there's a potential role there for us," he said.

Hardmeyer said he likes the idea that after the research has been completed there would be some sort of analysis that would look at outcomes of that research.

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As bankers, BND is constantly looking at different projects. However, the presidents' plan would be a little bit different when it comes to analyzing the projects, Hardmeyer said. He said the project would be within BND's capabilities though.

Hardmeyer noted that the idea is still in its "conceptual" phase, however.

Hardmeyer attended the presidents' presentation in Bismarck last week and said he is supportive of the presidents' proposal. Hardmeyer described the proposal as early "economic development," something he added he was "happy" to see the university system engage in.

"I think that (the proposal) has some merit, I think it has considerable merit," he said. "I think it's a necessary component for the state to go forward, so I'm excited and enthusiastically supportive of it."

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