Grand Forks Air Force Base to refrain from 'official engagements' with city officials during CFIUS review
The announcement came via a statement issued Thursday by the base that was sent to "civic leaders," according to a base spokeswoman.
GRAND FORKS – Grand Forks Air Force Base will refrain from “official engagements” with city officials as a federal review is underway on a controversial corn plant proposed for Grand Forks’ northern edge.
The announcement came via a statement issued Thursday by the base that was sent to "civic leaders," according to a base spokeswoman. Upon request, the base gave the Grand Forks Herald a copy of the statement.
“Due to recent developments related to economic projects in the local area, Grand Forks Air Force Base leaders will refrain from official engagements with city administration in order to avoid conflicts of interest and ensure the independence and integrity of the CFIUS review process,” the statement reads.
The federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is in the midst of looking into the Grand Forks corn mill proposed by Fufeng USA, a subsidiary of a China-based company. The review could take weeks, or perhaps even months, to complete.
The controversy surrounding Fufeng has resonated throughout 2022. First brought to the public’s attention with an announcement last November, it has become the focus of intense scrutiny in the months since. A number of residents have voiced opinions against it, saying it poses threats to the environment and also to national defense, considering its ties to China and its proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base.
At present, the city is in the midst of a pause on “Fufeng USA specific items” until the CFIUS review is complete.
The base’s statement on Thursday said its decision to “refrain from official engagements with city administration” will include any conversations related to Base Retention and Investment Committee efforts. It also will affect a planned trip by Col. Tim Curry to an Air Combat Command civic leader event and will postpone the annual “State of the Base” event, according to the release.
However, according to the release, “Grand Forks Air Force Base will absolutely maintain our close community ties we have enjoyed for decades and continue to attend and host Military Affairs Committee meetings, volunteer events and leadership development programs.”
Lea Greene, public affairs chief for the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, said the base wants to maintain separation during the CFIUS review.
“It’s just to maintain separation and impartiality during the review to allow faith for it to happen,” Greene told the Herald. “The hope is to not affect the relationship at all. We want to maintain that good community relationship, but part of it is we have to remain neutral as this process plays out.”
City Administrator Todd Feland said the city’s priority is still to maintain its relationship with the base as the city goes through the “formal regulatory process with CFIUS.”
“There’s so many great things going on at Grand Forks Air Force Base and the associated business park with Grand Sky,” Feland said. “That will continue regardless of how CFIUS falls on their decision on this matter.”
Last week Mayor Brandon Bochenski told WDAY News the CIFUS review could be in by mid November. However, Feland thinks the end of this year or even early next year is more realistic.
The project, which was first built up to be a huge economic driver for the city, has turned into a challenging past year for city leaders, with the added element of national security and politics causing a strain. But Feland thinks the city can overcome these challenges whether or not FuFeng comes.
"We are stronger than this one project and we will continue to move forward and grow in a positive way," he said.