Many Grand Forks lawmakers say they support Bank of North Dakota loan to move career centers forward – Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks — When a fundraising team went to the community to raise $10 million to partially fund a proposed technical education center in Grand Forks, its members quickly raised the money in just 72 days. procured.

That was over a year ago and the project still hasn’t started because the promised matching dollars have yet to come from the state. Meanwhile, inflation costs and supply chain issues have pushed prices up, say local proponents of the project, and the project, originally expected to be priced in the low $20 million range, is now ticking at $28 million. increase.

Further delays could push prices even higher, proponents say.

“The speed of the fundraising campaign shows that it’s a community need,” Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Keith Rand told the Herald last week. “We were collectively impressed with how the community came together.”

At least $10 million in local funding was required to qualify for state funding. After her first $10 million was raised, he raised another $1 million. More than 60 companies and individuals made donations.

Lund said seeing the buy-in from the community has been a highlight of his time at EDC.

Lund, who joined EDC in 2006, said:

According to Gov. Doug Burgum, technically, state funding delays are a federal issue. Funding was expected to flow into the states from the U.S. Treasury Department, but there will be problems convincing federal agencies that planned career centers in Grand Forks and elsewhere in the state will meet Treasury eligibility. is occurring.

Some, including Burgum, believe the state should step in and finance the project so it can start as soon as possible.

“We don’t want to miss another construction season,” Burgum told the Grand Forks Herald in early December. “We have already agreed on that. We have already diverted the money. Let’s hurry.”

Burgum believes the center will help ease the growing labor crisis in the state, so on the “first day” of the next legislative session, he immediately borrowed money from the Bank of North Dakota to fund pending projects. I suggest distributing checks so they can get them. to go. Once federal dollars become available, the state will be able to repay the Bank of North Dakota loan, Burgham said.

Congress will convene on January 3rd.

When asked about the proposed funding in a survey sent by the Grand Forks Herald, many Grand Forks legislators responded indicating they tended to support Burgum’s proposal.

Below is a summary of Grandforks’ responses.

● Republican Rep. Landon Bahl said Congress must focus on building and running the center. He said he supported his Burgum idea.

● Democrat Rep. Corey Mock said, “We are quick to credit local leaders (both public and private) for making financial commitments to invest in much-needed workforce training centers. I can’t give you a better compliment than a grand opening.”

● Republican Rep. Steve Vetter said he believed the project could move forward because Grand Forks has five members working on the appropriations budget. He also said, “If given the chance, I would vote in favor of supporting Career Impact Academy.”

● Republican Rep. Claire Corey said the project was “important to Grand Forks and we will work to ensure that it is adequately funded regardless of the federal government and inflationary conditions we face.” said.

● Democrat Rep. Zachary Ista called the funding delays “frustrating and frankly unacceptable,” and added that state governments would not allow these projects “to keep the increased costs of federal delays harmless.” said it was open to the idea of ​​allocating funds for

● Republican Senator Jonathan Schickler said: …congress supports both bridge funding to allow construction to begin before federal funds are released, and additional funding to reflect a period of unusual inflation since the initial budget allocations were made need to do it. “

● Republican Rep. Mark Sanford said: Due to the delay, the group is under budget for the second wave of allocations. “

● Republican Senator Scott Meyer said: I have always supported Career Impact Academy and technical education in general. We need to educate our future workforce to fill a large number of vacancies, and this is a great option for the state’s future.

Republican Senator Kurt Kroon It called the local project a “critical workforce development tool.” Before the pandemic hit, we had the kind of funding that was accessible and existing buildings suitable for conversion that were no longer available. “

He said it was wise to start the project before the pandemic when more opportunities existed.

“This project is being taken care of by local bodies. If these agencies need additional funding to get the project started, they can ask the state to share the burden in half,” he said. Told.

● Republican Rep. Emily O’Brien said she expected it would be an “ongoing dialogue” and that lawmakers were “working on creative strategies to address this issue.”

● Republican Senator Jeff Barta said he believes Congress can develop a solution to keep the Grand Forks Project (and similar projects statewide) moving forward.

“Personally, I believe this is an important factor in our employee development strategy,” he said.

● Republican Rep. Eric Murphy said, “There may be ways to fund projects and pay off short-term loans with federal money when approved, but they’re not without risks.” I was.

He believes that the increase in costs is “not entirely due to inflation and delays, but due to plans for larger buildings than the funds support. , which may include state funding for some or all of the anticipated shortfall.”

The Herald has asked Eric Ripley, Director of Career and Technical Education and Technology at Grand Forks Public Schools, to clarify the increased costs and whether some of them are due to changes in plans. .

Ripley said the price hike was due to inflation and supply chain problems. However, he admitted that the original plans did not fully cover the expected scope and size of the building. said.

But the plan has since been scaled back to better fit the proposed cost structure, he said.

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