The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. announced Wednesday that the planned Bison World project will operate as a non-profit organization if approved.
The announcement came in the form of a press release from Connie Ova, CEO of the JSDC.
“The Bison World Fund will be formed as a non-profit corporation to exclusively benefit the people of North Dakota and tourists traveling through the state,” Ova said. “It will be a cultural theme park built upon an educational foundation.”
The Bison World Fund is applying to the Internal Revenue Service for 501 (c) 3 status.
The concept of Bison World grew out of an effort to improve the Frontier Village attraction in Jamestown. Project plans now call for a $72.5 million cultural theme park built on land owned by the state of North Dakota currently leased to the National Buffalo Museum and utilized as pasture land.
Included in the project are display areas presenting the history of the bison, an amphitheater, a shopping area, aerial rides over the buffalo pasture and other attractions.
Ova said it is important to develop the project to benefit the state and community rather than private investors.
“None of the current donors and supporters want to benefit personally from this project. They only want Bison World to succeed for North Dakota. That says a lot about our community,” she said.
Seeking funding for the project from the Legacy Fund is one of the next steps for the project. Earlier comments from organizers said that could come as early as October.
"The Bison World project plans to use an Impact Investing Model to structure an investment from North Dakota's sovereign wealth fund (the Legacy Fund)," Ova said. "This model enables a government entity, like a State Investment Board, to invest in a non-profit corporation through contracts or written agreements."
The Legacy Fund receives a portion of taxes on oil production and currently has about an $8 billion balance. The 2021 North Dakota Legislature passed House Bill 1425 which requires a portion of the Legacy Fund to be invested in North Dakota projects.
"Sovereign wealth funds, like North Dakota's legacy fund, which have no pension fund obligations, are regularly used to diversify a state or nation's economy," Ova said. "Our new state law, HB 1425, finally gets us on the right path to investing in our own state."
Work on the design and engineering portion of the project is being led by Apogee Attractions. Financial projections and work on establishing non-profit status are being handled by Eide Bailly.