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Legacy Fund committee may hear Bison World request

The North Dakota Legacy and Budget Stabilization Advisory Board plans to hear testimony from potential projects next week.

Backers of the Bison World project in Jamestown will have a chance to make a presentation to the Legacy and Budget Stabilization Advisory Board next week, according to Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, chairman of the committee.

The committee met Thursday to discuss the status of the Legacy Fund and to discuss guidelines for the in-state investment mandated by House Bill 1425 passed by the North Dakota Legislature and signed by the governor during the last session.

Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., said the organization would provide at least written testimony regarding Bison World and what procedures could be put in place to facilitate reviewing its request for financing.

"From the outset, the JSDC has been a strong advocate of (House Bill) 1425," she said. "We need a process to get these diversification projects financed."

The bill directed that 20% of the Legacy Fund be invested in North Dakota. The Legacy Fund receives a portion of the oil tax collections in North Dakota and had a balance of $8.9 billion as of June 30, according to reports made to the committee Thursday.

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Part of the money set aside for North Dakota Investments is managed by 50 South Capital through its North Dakota Growth Fund. The Legacy Fund has committed $100 million of a $250 million allocation to 50 South Capital. Investments through the North Dakota Growth Fund are limited to no more than $25 million to investment funds and $10 million to individual companies.

Additional investments in North Dakota are being handled by the Bank of North Dakota.

Kempenich said that leaves about 7% of the money specified for investment in North Dakota by House Bill 1425 uncommitted. That amounts to about $625 million.

"We will have the entities (requesting investments) come before the board next week," he said.

Kempenich said the meeting will not consider authorizing investment in any projects but research what the entities are looking for.

"Now we establish the process," he said. "There is a lot of expectations out there."

The anticipation is that most requests for investments will come from banks that would then finance businesses or projects, Kempenich said.

"There will be different combinations but most will be through some kind of third-party management," he said.

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Once a process of considering investment opportunities, things could move quickly.

"We'll have a meeting around the time of the special session," Kempenich said, referring to the Nov. 8 special session of the North Dakota Legislature. "... that's when things start to happen."

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