North Dakota State of the State Address 2003

Following is the full text of Gov. John Hoeven's State of the State Address, delivered Jan. 7, 2003:

Lt. Governor Dalrymple, Justices of the Supreme Court, distinguished legislators, elected officials, former Governor Link, tribal leaders, First Lady Mikey, honored guests and citizens of the Great State of North Dakota, thank you and good afternoon.

Two hundred years ago this year, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark set out with a small expeditionary force to explore a new land -- a territory that included what is now our great state of North Dakota, purchased from Emperor Napoleon of France by the 3rd president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Lewis and Clark set out on that journey with courageous hearts, not knowing what lay ahead, who they would meet, what they would encounter, or even what hardships they would need to endure.

Sakakawea, a wise and brave native woman, walked beside them to meet each challenge along the trail. She was a guide, teacher, caregiver, and friend. Their exploration came to be known as the Corps of Discovery.

As we meet the challenges that confront us today, it is important to keep the spirit of that journey alive. One person doing just that is Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa, who is nationally recognized for presenting the character of Sakakawea, so that today we can appreciate Sakakawea's remarkable contribution to American history. Amy, would you please stand and be recognized.

The Corps of Discovery set out with hope, determination, and a spirit of adventure to expand not only the boundaries, but also the dreams, of a young nation.

Now, 200 years later, we must have that same adventurous spirit - that same optimism and determination -- to create a better future for ourselves and for our children.

Just as Lewis & Clark faced great challenges 200 years ago - daunting challenges - so too do we face challenges today. And like Lewis and Clark and Sakakawea, we will find our way. We will overcome the obstacles that lie before us. To do so, we must have a clear vision for the future, and we must work together - we must all work together - to get there. In this state of the state address, I want to share that vision and the roadmap to achieve it.

That is why I am asking you today to take action. That is why I am asking you to make a major investment in North Dakota's future -- an investment of more than $100 million - an investment in an initiative we call Smart Growth. It includes new funding for both traditional economic development programs, and a new approach - marshalling all of our resources in new ways to build our future.

We are able to do it because we have exercised sound fiscal management in the past. The national recession has raised havoc with the budgets of every state in the union. Here in North Dakota we have fared far better than most, thanks to our economic development efforts and good fiscal management. I want to commend all of you in the legislature for your vital role in that effort.

In my budget address last month I told you that our neighbor to the east, Minnesota, faced a $3 billion deficit. That has now grown to $4.6 billion. Our neighbor to the west, Montana, faces a deficit of more than $230 million. South Dakota's deficit now exceeds $50 million, and recently Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska, a good friend of mine, called and told me that Nebraska faces a deficit of more than $600 million.

While these and other states will be forced to make massive cuts in services and raise taxes - our Administration has put forward a plan to expand services and invest in our future - without a general tax increase.

In our budget address last month, we introduced Smart Growth, a new approach to economic development. We started some of the initiatives that comprise Smart Growth last session, but we must do more to "Build our Future in North Dakota." Smart Growth is a comprehensive plan that combines education, career development, and technology with entrepreneurial business activity to create a more dynamic economy for North Dakota.

Before we talk about that plan, let's step back for a moment, and look at our economic development efforts over the past decade.

In the late 1980s, GNDA, the Greater North Dakota Association, started a statewide process called Vision 2000. It brought together leaders from across the state - in business, agriculture, education, and government - to plan for the future. During the decade of the 1980s, our state lost almost 14,000 people in population, our ag base was declining, and we were creating few new jobs in other sectors of our economy. The leadership of Vision 2000 recognized that we needed to chart a new direction for our state.

The Vision 2000 planning process resulted in Growing North Dakota - a program passed by the Legislature that included initiatives - like PACE, the Development Fund, the Beginning Farmer Program, and formation of ED&F, the state's Economic Development and Finance Agency.

Those programs, combined with a strong national economy in the 1990s, helped North Dakota recruit and develop more jobs, which slowed our out-migration. In fact, communities like Bismarck and Fargo have seen significant growth of 12 to 22 percent, while other larger communities, and some smaller communities, have held their own, and even grown some as well.

But much of rural North Dakota has continued to struggle, and today we need a new focus that begins a second chapter in our quest for prosperity and quality of life.

Today, our challenge is not unemployment -- it's underemployment. North Dakota has one of the lowest unemployment rates of any state in the country. Our unemployment rate is about 3.2 percent, versus a national average of about 6 percent. Our challenge is to create more higher-paying jobs, more career tracks, that will keep our young people here, and bring others back to North Dakota.

To do that, we must do things differently. We must have vision and leadership. We must leverage all our resources in new ways. We must use traditional and non-traditional resources in tandem to build our state, and we must work together - a true team effort - to grow our population and create a higher standard of living for all North Dakotans.

The programs in the Growing North Dakota Initiative totaled $21 million. It was a major commitment to build our future. But today, I am asking you to commit five times that investment - more than $100 million -- to Smart Growth, a unified vision of teamwork and initiatives that will "Build Our Future in North Dakota."

Let me give you some examples of the kinds of investments and commitments I am asking you to make in Smart Growth:
  • Increase teacher compensation. We must keep our best and brightest teachers here, to keep our students the best and brightest.
  • Better link our teachers to career development, to keep more of our young people in North Dakota.
  • Fully implement the Higher Education Roundtable strategy, including resources for Centers of Excellence, designed to maximize the synergy between education and entrepreneurial activity.
  • Develop ConnectND, a cutting edge information management system for the entire state - to provide schools and businesses with the tools they need to compete nationally.
  • Launch new venture capital funds - to jumpstart business activity.
  • Implement business internship programs - to help students launch careers in North Dakota.
  • Enhance career counseling and job placement - to make sure students find the right career and find the best opportunities in North Dakota.
  • Decouple state corporate income tax - to send a clear message to the world that North Dakota has a competitive tax structure, and that we are ready to do business.
  • Partner with the New Economy Initiative - to keep this vision before us at all times.
  • Offer a low-interest home buying program to attract and retain skilled workers in areas of shortages.
  • And create tax incentives to stimulate energy development and value-added agriculture, such as new initiatives for ethanol, and enhanced development of oil and gas.

    These investments of more than $100 million will truly link education and new technology with our economic development efforts to create good-paying jobs and careers right here in North Dakota.

    Smart Growth also represents a true team approach, with economic developers working together at the state, regional, and local levels, and also working in tandem with the private sector and our schools and universities throughout the state.

    As part of Smart Growth, we will engage our young people more than ever before. For example, the NDSU student government has launched a project called TIME - which stands for To Inspire More Entrepreneurs. These young people, as well as others, will help develop our statewide internship program. Members of the NDSU student government are with us today. Student Body President James Burgum, Vice-President Aaron Schwengler, Representatives Justin Dever, and Matt Murray, please stand and be recognized.

    Some of the principles that comprise Smart Growth are already being used in communities across North Dakota. Let's start in the northwest corner of our state, in rural Divide County.

    When many said the town of Crosby was a dying community, local entrepreneurs, developers, public officials, educators and the citizens of Crosby went to work building their community.

    Crosby and Divide County looked around and saw a solid work ethic, strong schools, innovative thinkers, and a sense of community. They harnessed those strengths, and combined them with education and economic development. Today, Crosby is building a growing rural community. Consider:
  • In less than a year, Crosby has created 80 new jobs in a town of about 1,200 people.
  • Bushel 42, the city's new pasta plant, is marketing products to California and other regions of the country.
  • Superior Grains, a specialty grain handling plant, has grown from a small family business to 20 employees, and is now breaking into foreign markets, like Cuba.
  • Dakota Free Products, makers of natural skin care products, began as a family enterprise by Christine and Gerald Gillund. Today, its products are marketed at 67 retail locations in 10 states. This month, it will expand into a new building to meet the growth in sales.

    What has this progress meant for Crosby and Divide County?
  • Crosby is planning to build the High Country Community Technical Center to prepare a new generation for careers in a new economy.
  • More jobs have brought Crosby's schools 17 additional students - a five percent increase.
  • The city is looking at community improvements, like a new athletic and recreational complex.
  • And most telling of all, Crosby is planning to expand its housing base -- because more jobs mean more people in need of good, affordable housing.

    In other words, Crosby is building its future in North Dakota.

    A similar story is unfolding in the city of Rugby, right in the heart of our state.
  • Rugby Manufacturing is expanding.
  • The owners of Samsara Cues, Jim and Lori Stadum, returned to their roots in late 2001, relocating their business from Nashua, New Hampshire to Rugby.
  • The city park commission is pushing forward with a multiple use recreational trail for leisure and exercise.
  • The city recently launched a technology center to assist farmers and business people.
  • And the computer lab at Heart of America Medical Center trains not only student nurses, but also members of the public.

    There are other success stories like Crosby and Rugby in our state. In southeast North Dakota, the city of Forman is moving forward, too.

    After retiring from the Navy, where he served for 30 years and earned Gold Wings as a Naval Flight Officer and veteran of three wars, Bob Cookson returned to his roots in Forman. Five years ago, he became mayor. He -- along with economic development specialists, educators, students, and civic leaders - have partnered to help the people of Forman build their future in North Dakota.

    The Forman Community Vision statement exemplifies the kind of spirit we will need as a state to move North Dakota forward. Here's what is says:

    "The citizens of Forman share a vision. We see a community brimming with life, with meaningful jobs, well-rounded education for our youth, with healthcare that provides peace of mind and dignity to our elderly... security, warmth and sound values that beckon the return of our youth and their children, and visitors from around the nation."

    Let me tell you a little about how Forman's vision is helping them to make progress:
  • The city has worked with local and state developers to create a new industrial site to lay the groundwork for new businesses.
  • In October, Wurth Service Supply, was the first company to locate at the site. It created eight new jobs, and will supply Bobcat plants in Gwinner and Bismarck.
  • Ray-Mac, across the street, has expanded to employ 65 people.
  • Private investors last year got together and built a new 21-room motel.
  • In 2002, Forman expanded its museum, adding new buildings, to preserve the county's history and heritage.
  • To meet the need for growth, the Forman Development Corporation has helped to build a new apartment complex and housing development.
  • Last March, the city opened a new activities center, constructed with private donations and fundraising efforts.
  • It is renovating its nursing home.
  • Forman's young people are an important part of the effort, as well. Sargent Central High School's Envirothon team recently represented our state at the Youth Watershed Summit in Edgewater, Maryland.

    In west central North Dakota, the city of Beulah -- building on its solid base of energy development and technology -- is making strides with good marketing.

    By the end of this month, Direct Response Technologies -- a Pittsburgh-based information technology company -- will be up and running. The company will start with 10 to 12 employees, and plans to set up a co-op with the local school to provide students with employment and work experience.

    The Department of Commerce's Ambassadors Program helped to recruit this new business. Commerce Department Ambassadors are North Dakotans in key positions around the country who spread the word that North Dakota is a great place to live, to work, and to do business.

    These communities - Crosby, Rugby, Beulah, and Forman -- are innovative, energetic, and committed to using all their talent to build their future. They have worked in a unified effort -- combining education, economic development, entrepreneurial energy and a positive attitude -- to build their communities. Our task as a state is to reproduce the success of Crosby, Rugby, Beulah and Forman all across North Dakota.

    We have representatives from some of these communities with us today. I'm going to ask them to stand and be recognized. Please hold your applause until they're all standing.

    With us today from Crosby are:
  • Dave Olson, Director of the Divide County Jobs Development Authority.
  • Keith Olson, CEO of Bushel 42.
  • Les Knudson, President of Superior Grains.
  • Gerald Gillund, co-owner of Dakota Free Products.
  • From Beulah, we have John Phillips, Development Director for the Beulah Job Development Authority.
  • And with us today on behalf of Forman is Mayor Bob Cookson, and the Envirothon Team from Sargent Central High School. Would you all please stand and be recognized.

    Larger communities are also making important progress. Bismarck and Fargo ranked 18th and 21st respectively in the latest Forbes-Milkin ranking of the "Best Places To Do Business." Bismarck and Fargo also ranked among just a dozen "Pockets of Prosperity" across the country in a recent Business Week Magazine analysis of their ability to create jobs -- despite the national recession.

    Building our state's economic future is our number one priority. We are absolutely committed to doing it. We can do it, and we will do it. Perhaps the best example I can give you here is Grand Forks. After flood and fire, and the loss of their Air Force missile wing in 1997, the city was projected to decline and lose population. Instead, just the opposite has happened. The citizens of Grand Forks rolled up their sleeves and went to work. Grand Forks leaped 11 notches in the Forbes-Milkin ranking of the "Best Places To Do Business," and today, their economy and population are growing.

    As we work to build our economy and work, to create more opportunities, still, our state and nation face other challenges as well. Since September 11, 2001, much in our country has changed. We are a nation at war with terrorism, and we may soon be at war with Iraq.

    This war is different from the wars we have fought in recent decades. This time, not only our military, but also our law enforcement officials, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders - even our citizens themselves - must provide for homeland security as our military battles terrorism abroad.

    On behalf of the people of North Dakota, I want to thank these brave men and women for meeting the challenge. To all of them, and their families, and to all of our veterans - because of your willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe - we say thank you and God Bless you.

    Here in North Dakota, we are fighting another battle - drought. Last summer, drought scorched productive farmland and wildfires ravaged large areas of the southwest part of our state. A host of brave firefighters - federal, tribal, and local - as well as our National Guard -- fought for weeks to protect lives and property. And to them, too, we say thank you.

    For our farmers and ranchers in the southwest, and for those who are battling flooding in the northeast, we are pushing Congress and the Bush Administration for a disaster aid package. We can't change the weather, but we can make ourselves heard in Washington. As Congress reconvenes this week, we have made it a priority to press for relief from both drought and flooding for our producers. Our farmers and ranchers deserve no less.

    North Dakota, for the sixth consecutive year, has been ranked the safest state in America. At the same time, we face the growing scourge of alcohol and substance abuse, and especially methamphetamine.

    To meet this challenge, we must take a comprehensive approach - and we are. Together, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and I set up a Statewide Task Force to battle drug and alcohol abuse. I would like to take just a moment here to applaud Attorney General Stenehjem for his leadership, and all law enforcement personnel for their dedication to fighting this battle.

    Our executive budget recommends spending almost $4 million in support of our comprehensive education, treatment, and law enforcement strategy to address the challenge of substance abuse in North Dakota.

    We are taking up the fight on a number of fronts. We are increasing resources for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's meth and narcotics enforcement efforts. We are also increasing resources for Drug Court, which can reclaim lives. To fight substance abuse on the elementary and high school levels, we are devoting substantial funding under the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools program.

    And, to deal with the growing prison population because of meth, we are establishing a new women's prison on the campus of the state hospital in Jamestown. This facility will result in making prison beds available in our penitentiary system for both men and women offenders - and save taxpayers $22 million.

    Drug Courts, more prison space, better treatment options - all play a role in our comprehensive plan. We must educate. We must treat and rehabilitate. We must take the makers and dealers off the street, and we must provide law enforcement the resources to get the job done.

    While we are working to fight meth and other drugs, we will make North Dakota even safer for our most precious citizens - our children.

    Back in August, I signed an executive order to design and implement an Amber Alert system for North Dakota. Amber Alert is a partnership between law enforcement and broadcasters to get every citizen in the state searching when a child is missing or abducted. On February 6, the program will be tested and implemented on a statewide basis. In the event of a child abduction, our state is prepared to do everything possible to safely recover the child and bring the perpetrator to justice.

    We are working hard to keep our state the safest in the nation.

    We are also working hard to provide for those who need assistance - our young, our elderly and our disabled. In North Dakota, as is true throughout most of the country, we have a growing elderly population. These are the people who built our state and built our nation.

    They endured the Great Depression, defended our freedoms in the Second World War, and comprise what South Dakota native, Tom Brokaw, has referred to as America's "Greatest Generation."

    I recently had the privilege to honor two of them with the state's highest tribute, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award-- Tom Clifford and Chet Reiten. The award recognizes present or former North Dakotans who have achieved national recognition in their fields of endeavor. Both of these individuals grew up in North Dakota, fought in World War II, and then returned home to our state to accomplish incredible things. Both of these recipients show that you can live and work in North Dakota and still achieve national acclaim. Tom Clifford could not be with us today, but Chet Reiten is here. Chet, would you please stand and be recognized.

    For all of our seniors, we must be committed to them, just as they have been committed to us. We provide high quality medical care, and the support we provide for our nursing homes is the highest in our region of the country.

    We will continue that support, but we can do more. We can empower our seniors to live at home longer, and we can help those with limited income to afford the prescriptions drugs they need. To do that, I have proposed -- and I ask you to support -- funding for Healthy SeniorsRx, our new prescription drug program, as well as increased funding for more home-based services for our seniors and disabled.

    The approach I am proposing is cost effective -- but most importantly, our seniors have earned it. They deserve no less.

    We also need to remember that we have formidable strengths. Too often, we overlook where we are making progress.
  • Today, in North Dakota we have balanced our budget.
  • We have communities that are growing.
  • Over the past two years, we have increased wages and income.
  • Enrollment at our universities is up - a sign of confidence in our academic and business community.
  • We are one of the most technologically prepared states in the country, with a statewide, broadband, voice, data, and video network.
  • North Dakotans enjoy good health. The United Health Foundation recently ranked North Dakota the 12th healthiest state in America.
  • We remain one of the nation's most dynamic agricultural states, leading in the production of 11 major crops.
  • We are pushing ahead aggressively on value-added agriculture, with new startups in dairy, pasta, alfalfa, pulse crops, and organic foods.
  • We are opening new markets abroad, such as in Cuba.
  • And we are the sixth largest energy producing state in the country.

    Whether it's strong support for seniors, keeping North Dakota safe, or creating better-paying jobs for our citizens, we must be committed to a positive, unified vision for the future of our state. We must also recognize that it will take a strong, team effort over time. Like Lewis and Clark, and Sakakawea, we are on a journey. We won't reach our destination overnight. It will take a sustained effort, commitment, and teamwork.

    The vision of Smart Growth for our state is attainable. It will require initiative and teamwork at every level. It will require that we build on our strengths and values - strengths and values we've always had - like faith, family, concern for our fellow citizens, a love of our state, and an incredible work ethic. To those strengths we must add firm commitments:
  • We must commit to excellence in education - and making education -- K-12, Vocational Education, and Higher Education - an integral part of our economic development efforts - so that our educators become active partners in keeping our young people in North Dakota.
  • We must commit to change, using new technologies to build employment in new areas of today's global, information-based economy.
  • We must commit to building targeted industries where we have natural advantages - advanced manufacturing, value-added agriculture, technology based business services, tourism, and energy.
  • We must commit to marketing our state aggressively, and we must have a positive attitude to succeed.
  • And we must commit to working together -- to enlist all of our resources - in education, in business and in government -- to work in a focused, unified way for the common purpose of building our state.

    Through these commitments - through a unified vision called Smart Growth - we will build a dynamic new future for North Dakota. Working together, we can achieve this bright future and a quality of life second to none -- for ourselves and for our children.

    Thank you. May God bless America, and may God bless North Dakota.
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