A relaunched effort to attract workers and families to settle in North Dakota aims to rely on local “community champions” to act as connectors between newcomers and local employment. Gov. Doug Burgum’s proposed funding of $25 million for the Find the Good Life campaign – revamped this past June – would focus on marketing North Dakota’s quality of life and initiatives such as bringing potential residents to communities across the state or helping businesses to entice them.
Signs of trouble should have been obvious long before Robert Bracken shot his son Justin, his older brother Richard, his employer Doug Dulmage, and finally, himself, with a .357 revolver on Aug. 29, 2022. With an unthinkable scene of four dead bodies in a blue-skied North Dakota grain field, it appeared an act fueled by towering instability had taken place. A formal investigation into the incident continues, leaving the ultimate motive and circumstances unclear. It was one of two tragedies late this summer that illuminate the critical need to address mental health and substance abuse problems across the state.
Peers across the state are increasingly filling gaps in a healthcare system struggling to keep up, especially in underserved rural areas, where staffing and facility shortages are most intensely felt.
Canceled, suspended and disrupted school bus routes have become the norm in some corners of the state, and with costs of training a new driver now ranging from $5,000 to $8,000, only larger bus, truck and logistics companies can pay the price.
Recent worker shortages and the increased workload of processing large packages have complicated the work of mail carriers who have long deftly overcome the obstacles of snow, rain, heat and the gloom of night to get mail to its destination on time. Until now. Gone are the days when you could almost set your watch by the arrival of the mail carrier and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Here in North Dakota, the outer edges of cities like Minot, Bismarck, Williston and other areas have experienced severe delays in mail deliveries recently, with citizens not seeing anything arriving in their mailboxes for days, and even weeks, at a time.
With the unemployment rate at 2.3 percent in the state and labor shortages nearly everywhere, employers are increasingly contemplating hiring those with criminal records that may not have gotten a second look in previous years, and that appears likely to continue for some time.
Rural communities across the state are desperate to attract and retain workers at small businesses like shops, restaurants, health centers, gas stations and other essential services to keep their communities alive and vibrant. From Bowman to Bottineau, Crosby to Harvey, they’re also in competition with each other for those workers, not by choice or desire, but out of necessity. Besides attracting labor, communities are becoming more concerned about losing crucial businesses as Baby Boomers retire without adequately establishing a succession plan that keeps business viable. Current workarounds often mean workers pulling double-shifts, restaurants going variable and cutting operating hours, bosses pushing the boundaries of burnout, or for others, shuttering completely.
For communities like Hazen to remain viable, future energy mixes must include coal, many in Coal Country say. If no other energy sources can provide reliable baseload power, it’s likely coal will have a role for some time to come. However, a future for coal will require innovation to capture carbon dioxide before it leaves the power plants’ exhaust stacks. The current technology for carbon capture and storage [CCS) is developed but it is also extremely expensive. North Dakota’s potential solution is Project Tundra, an estimated $1.4 billion project that aims to capture and store up to 90 percent of the carbon emissions at the Milton R. Young Station, a 700-megawatt powerhouse near Center.
Election officials across North Dakota have been inundated with hundreds of requests for records over the past several months from activists alleging unproven vote count manipulation related to the 2020 presidential election. The trouble is, most requests ask for information that does not exist, and the flood of requests is tying up and frustrating state and county officials as they prepare for upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 8, 2022.