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Other Views: Hess drills; finds gusher of talent

For a government-run institution that critics say is on its last legs, about to implode, failing at its core mission and facing all manner of other ills, the North Dakota University System sure draws a lot of capitalist support.

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Case in point: Thursday’s announcement of the Hess Corp. giving $5 million to the University of North Dakota College of Engineering and Mines.

Hess has distinguished itself precisely because it’s a sharp judge of opportunity. The company has made a habit of smart spending — and it chooses its projects well, as shown by its spectacular success in exploring and producing crude oil and natural gas.

Furthermore, here are some of the comments of Greg Hill, president and chief operating officer of Hess Corp., regarding the company’s gift. In combination with state and other funds, the money will help pay for a new Collaborative Energy Complex, a $15.5 million building that will house UND’s Department of Petroleum Engineering and the Institute for Energy Studies:

“We are proud to partner with UND to support the College of Engineering and Mines, which is on track to become a premier engineering school,” Hill said.

“Providing this educational venue will not only help the state by training individuals to be ready for careers in the oil and gas industry, but will enhance the ability of Hess and the industry to hire local talent.”

That sounds like a COO who believes entirely in the wisdom of his company’s investment.

Clearly, Hess’ leadership team expects UND to keep doing what it has been doing: graduating degree-holders who are ready to jump into their first technical, engineering or managerial job after college and hit the ground running.

Hess profits from these skilled workers, so much so that it’s willing to donate millions of hard-earned dollars to support the university that trains them. Then, the rest of North Dakota profits from Hess’ wealth-creating drive. The company employs more than 5,000 people in North Dakota; and in 2011 alone, Hess made $144 million in royalty payments to the state.

Many thanks to COO Hill and other Hess leaders for their generous support of UND, support that will materially help generations of students to come. Higher education in the United States isn’t perfect, and good minds are working hard at solving the system’s problems.

But American colleges and universities remain the best in the world — and it’s great to see a Fortune 100 company such as Hess affirm its support of the system that benefits us all.

The Grand Forks Herald’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.