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Official: Task of economic development changing

The task of economic development is changing in North Dakota, according to John Richman, president of North Dakota State College of Science.

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“For 100 years economic development was about finding the next business to move to your town,” he said. “Now it’s about finding the next workforce.”

His comments were made during a business roundtable hosted by the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Tuesday.

“We have a statewide issue of not enough people,” Richman said. “We need all the good people we can attract.”

In Jamestown, the problem will intensify, said Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC.

“What the businesses don’t realize is this is going to get worse,” she said. “There are 400 full-time jobs out there. They will steal workers from you wherever they can. If I were an employer, I’d be scared.”

Ova said the jobs would be created by Dakota Spirit AgEnergy which is now under construction and will hire about 40 people when it begins operations in 2015. Other industrial employers include the planned CHS nitrogen fertilizer plant that has listed 150 jobs with an average wage of $85,000 per year on its application for tax incentives. Other possible new employers are still in the planning stages.

Richman said the people have to be trained as well as recruited for most manufacturing positions. He is attempting to raise private funding for a manufacturing training center. If private funding can be raised, NDSCS would approach the 2015 North Dakota Legislature for additional funds to complete the project. The program has an estimated budget of about $500,000 per year for operations.

“This is not a brick and mortar center,” he said. “The concept is for training where and for the skills that are needed. It is up to the industry to determine what they need.”

NDSCS already has a curriculum in place for mechanical manufacturing. It hopes to add process manufacturing as an offering in the future.

Mechanical manufacturing is the assembly of parts into a product such as the hay grinders built by DuraTech Industries. Process manufacturing is the processing of raw materials into products. Cargill Malt, for example, processes barley into malt for beer.

Richman said these types of manufacturing training programs can help manufacturers fill the need for workers from a multitude of sources.

“The number one source is the current workforce,” he said. “We have low unemployment but we have a higher percentage of under employment. With additional training they can move up.”

Other sources include working with the high school students and their parents to educate them about viable careers in manufacturing in North Dakota. A third source of workers would be those recruited from outside the area.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at