In 2013, the Greater North Dakota Chamber put a billboard in Minnesota saying, “North Dakota. Open for Business.”
Fast forward seven years and the state’s business climate has chilled – almost headed for an arctic freeze. A billboard entering North Dakota from every point should now read, “Take Your Development and Jobs Elsewhere.”
That message is resoundingly clear, especially with our state’s energy industry. For years, North Dakota was the comprehensive energy development and production state. It’s bad enough out-of-state forces are attacking much-needed pipelines. Now it feels like our own elected officials are doing everything they can to chase away wind, solar and natural gas projects.
Who is hurt by these job-killing actions? North Dakota workers and families. Our state unemployment rate has hit early 1980s levels and we need new energy investment to restart our economy.
McLean and Mercer counties made it abundantly clear they want to block any project they mistakenly believe will compete directly with coal plants -- decisions that could cost hundreds of local jobs. Some state legislative candidates seem intent on making matters worse by pursuing a similar statewide agenda.
Large generation and transmission cooperatives and investor-owned utilities are shifting business models based on changing technology and market demands. I work with construction laborers who have seen these changes coming for years. It’s inconceivable why elected officials are killing off job-creating projects instead of focusing on helping communities and workforce to adapt.
All energy sectors should convene to discuss collaborative efforts, to keep all energy production viable in our state. Agricultural leaders also need to be involved to protect landowners’ rights to allow energy production on their land, whether it comes in the form of oil or wind.
Get a dialogue going to keep energy jobs from fleeing our state.
Cory Bryson, Bismarck
Laborers International Union of North America Local 563