ND leaders prepare for trip to the oil patchBISMARCK — State officials will begin a 14-city tour of the oil patch next week to provide updates on the state’s efforts to address oil impacts and to gather information on what more should be done to help.
By: By Teri Finneman , The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — State officials will begin a 14-city tour of the Oil Patch next week to provide updates on the state’s efforts to address oil impacts and to gather information on what more should be done to help.
The tour is tentatively slated to begin with meetings in Williston, Stanley and Tioga next Wednesday, followed by Crosby, Bowbells, Mohall, Bottineau and Minot later in the week.
The meetings are an opportunity to hear about the challenges at the local level, said Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson.
“We can’t assume that we know all of the issues and what’s going on with our growth challenges out west,” he said. “The easiest way for us to meet the needs of the local leadership is to get out there and get in on some of the conversations with them.”
Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced the tour last month while highlighting the $1.2 billion that North Dakota has committed to addressing the effect of oil and gas development in the western part of the state.
Anderson, who is less than a year into his position running the state’s lead economic development agency, said the city visits will give him an opportunity to develop relationships with local leaders.
“The other part is just to understand what they’re going through, what things are working, what things aren’t working and get some ideas on what we can do about it,” he said.
Officials from the Land Department, Department of Transportation, Housing Finance Agency, State Water Commission and Highway Patrol are among those also planning to attend.
The meetings will be open to the public and are tentatively scheduled at early morning, noon and late afternoon times, with a final schedule coming out early next week.
Officials are trying to get to as many cities as possible in a short amount of time, with multiple tops planned each day, Anderson said. Officials want to gather as much information as quickly as they can and move forward to address the challenges, he said.
“We’d like to get out in front of it and do as much as we can for the planning portion of it,” he said. “Instead of just being reactive, we’d like to try to develop some plans to be a bit more proactive.”
Energy Impact Office Director Lance Gaebe said members of the public are encouraged to attend the meetings even if it’s just for 20 minutes to ask a question or voice a specific concern.
“This is really an effort to talk to business owners on Main Street and people who are living in and amongst the activity beyond the local elected officials,” he said.
He expected the meetings to be “interactive listening sessions” as opposed to formal presentations from the state.
Dalrymple has already begun his separate tour of the oil cities, stopping in Williston, Tioga and Stanley on Tuesday to meet with local officials.
State officials are also planning visits to Bowman, Dickinson, Killdeer, New England, New Town and Watford City this month and additional cities could get added, Anderson said.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.