News Feed Archive
You are cordially invited to EB-5 in the Midwest
- Saturday, January 18th, 2014
- 1:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.
- McNamara Alumni Center
Maroon & Gold Room
200 Oak St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
This event is free. Limited spots available please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-738-2438 by Monday, January 13th, 2014.
Helen Yang Panelist at the Global Innovation: Doing Business in China Seminar
On November 12th, 2013, Helen Yang, North Dakota/Minnesota EB-5 Regional Center International Officer, served as panelist at the Global Innovation: Doing Business in China seminar. The event was hosted by Minnesota State University Moorhead’s School of Business. The two keynote speakers included: Ambassador Ramu Damodaran, United Nations, New York; and Vivek Pathak, World Bank, Washington D.C.
UND Center for Innovation Foundation Accepts National Award for North Dakota/Minnesota EB-5 Regional Center
Green products company near production start in Devils Lake
DEVILS LAKE — Mack Traynor gathered a stack of 14-inch biodegradable take-and-bake pizza pans from a system of conveyors.
“You can put this in the oven, bake your pizza and then recycle the pan,” said the chief executive officer of Ultra Green, a manufacturer of environmentally friendly products, from pizza pans and individual condiment containers to tableware and toilet paper.
“Ninety days in a commercial composter and it’s back to dirt,” he said, examining a pizza pan in his hand. “These are our best-selling items, and they’re going to be one of the first things we’re going to make out here.”
Ultra Green, based in Plymouth, Minn., expects to start full production in Devils Lake, its first facility in the United States, later this year.
The company will have an estimated 100 employees by year’s end. Employment is expected to increase to between 300 and 350 within three to five years, according to Traynor, who grew up in Fargo and has family in Devils Lake.
Ultra Green, which started in 2007, has been making the products from sugar cane fiber in China, shipping them back to the U.S. for distribution to companies all over the country, including Whole Foods, Safeway and Sam’s Club.
However, it announced last year it was moving all production back to the U.S., with its initial plant in Devils Lake. It also is switching the raw product from sugar cane to wheat straw, the stubble left in wheat fields after farmers harvest their crop.
“We can make them cheaper than they can in China,” he said. “The cost of raw materials is cheaper in North Dakota and we’re making the product here, so we don’t have to ship it overseas.”
The company bought the former Pasta by Leonardo’s plant, which closed in the spring of 2012.
Ultra Green chose Devils Lake as its first U.S. production plant not because of Traynor’s local connections.
Rather, it conducted a national search. Of the 243 cities that responded, the two that rose to the top were Devils Lake and Amarillo, Texas.
Devils Lake won, he said, because the city and Forward Devils Lake, the city’s economic development group, offered an attractive financial incentive package, and because of the availability of the former pasta plant, he said.
Essentially, the package amounts to Devils Lake paying Ultra Green $1,000 per job created — above the initial 100 jobs — annually for 10 years, according to Mayor Dick Johnson.
An early estimate put the city’s contribution at $3.5 million, plus $500,000 from the state, but the total amount could change depending on job numbers.
“It’s a wise investment for the community,” the mayor said.
Traynor says it’s environmentally friendly to the community, too.
Paper mills, for example, normally use a chemical process to create pulp, which produces odors that can permeate throughout entire communities.
Because Ultra Green uses a nonchemical mechanical process of converting wheat straw fiber into pulp, odors should not be a problem.
“Here, there will be no stink,” he said.
Made in Devils Lake
Ultra Green recently received a $75,000 grant from the North Dakota Agricultural Product Utilization Commission, which Traynor said will be used to create new labels for the company’s products, changing “Made in China” to “Made in Devils Lake, N.D., U.S.A.”
“Whole Foods wants our pizza pans in all of their 400 stores,” Traynor said. Currently the products can be found in about half of the natural food chain’s stores.
While Ultra Green officials initially expected to be in full production in Devils Lake by this past spring, the process has been delayed as they wait for new equipment to be manufactured and delivered, according to Traynor.
A new mechanical pulping machine, for example, recently arrived from a manufacturer in France. It uses pressure to convert wheat straw and water into wet pulp that will be molded into containers.
These days, only about a dozen employees, mostly engineers, are working in the cavernous plant, testing different formulas.
One day recently, Fernando Marin, pulping operations director, used a convection oven to bake chocolate chip cookies in individual containers, freezing and thawing them, then freezing and thawing them again.
“Will the freeze-thaw cycle have any influence on the product? We want it to be leak-proof,” Traynor said.
The factory also is beginning to produce 2-ounce condiment cups, with lids made from recycled plastic. The company has a deadline to be in production on the cups and lids by October.
“We’ll turn 19 bales of straw into 3.6 million of these cups,” Traynor said.
As Ultra Green’s Devils Lake plant gears up toward maximum production, it will process six to nine large rectangle bales of wheat straw an hour, going through 25,000 to 40,000 bales annually.
Ramsey County and the neighboring counties of Nelson and Benson each grow roughly 100,000 acres of wheat. The company also can draw from Towner and Cavalier counties.
“We won’t have any problem finding the raw materials,” Traynor said. The company harvests the stubble left over after farmers harvest the wheat.
“They’re harvesting the north end of the wheat plant and we’re doing the same thing with the south end of the plant,” he said.
Down the road
Once Ultra Green reaches full capacity in Devils Lake, officials expect to create a duplicate processing plant somewhere else in the United States, Traynor said.
While no announcements are expected to be made anytime soon, he said Texas likely would be the first place to consider, given Amarillo’s level of interest.
“We expect to grow,” Traynor said. “The demand already is there. We’re a green company, and there are no environmental impacts for communities.”
Published August 24, 2013, 06:00 AM
Great News for Ultra Green
How Walmart Plans to Bring Back ‘Made in America’
Walmart doesn’t make anything. But the giant retailer could play a part in the manufacturing rebound that is taking place in the U.S. with its promise to buy $50 billion more U.S. made goods over the next decade for its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. It’s a bit ironic, given Walmart’s vast global sourcing organization. But the same forces that are making the U.S. a more hospitable place for manufacturing —higher shipping costs and wage rates overseas among them—have prompted the company to reevaluate its sourcing on a variety of products. “This is a commitment around manufacturing and more economic renewal. We see it as a critical issue for us in the American economy,” says Duncan Mac Naughton chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart U.S.
What Walmart sees is a way to lower costs while smoothing its supply cycle by looking more broadly at its distribution system. Although the company may be able to buy an item cheaper from China, the price it pays per piece doesn’t always reflect what it spends to get the product to the shelves. “When we buy from overseas, we may buy more than we need to fill the container,” says Mac Naughton. “We’re looking at carrying costs through the system in addition to landed costs.” (Walmart has recently been criticized for being out of stock on items, due to a lack of store employees, but the company says its in-stock position is at record levels and that it hasn’t cut employee hours.)
(COVER STORY: Made in the USA)
Walmart is also hitting some unexpected supply snags as local demand increases in the developing countries where it buys goods. Recently, it found itself short of memory foam for mattress toppers and had to add a U.S. supplier, Sleep Studio, to augment its foreign source. That need to increase capacity can only increase as the middle class grows in India, China and elsewhere. The company will still likely rely on foreign suppliers for those products, such as cut-and-sew garments, that have a very high labor input. But given the more robust regulatory environment in the U.S., domestic suppliers are far less likely to run shoddy plants that endanger workers, as some of Walmart’s overseas subcontracters have been accused of doing.
Which suppliers stand to benefit from Walmart’s strategy? The company says that products with a “high cube” (supply-chain speak for big and/or bulky, such as furniture) are candidates. So are products that have more highly-automated production, meaning lower direct labor, or products that have a less predictable sales curves and might have to be produced quickly to meet a sharp rise in demand. The company says items such as sporting goods, storage products, games and paper products are likely categories.
One of the first companies to benefit is 1888 Mills in Griffin, Georgia, which makes better-quality towels. Walmart’s version will be labeled “Made Here.” 1888 Mills had some spare manufacturing capacity, but since the size of Walmart’s orders can distort any vendor’s production, 1888 Mills needed a longer-term deal to be able to make the investment required to produce the needed quantities. “We made a commitment that was longer term than we would normally do. There’s transparency on the part of both parties: we worked with collaboratively with them,” says Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart’s senior vice president of home.
Camping and outdoor goods company Coleman is another participant. The firm, owned by Jarden Corp. is manufacturing its hard-sided coolers and personal flotation devices in the U.S., adding 160 jobs according to Walmart. Jarden, whose brands range from Quickie mops to K2 skis, has been ahead of Walmart on domestic manufacturing. Jarden has been on a reshoring kick for about two years.
Some of Walmart’s vendors will get a chuckle out of the idea that Walmart is willing to become more transparent. Walmart has a reputation for getting vendors into its buying rooms and beating the hell out of them on price, essentially leaving them with little margin. But Mac Naughton says that Walmart has to start thinking longer term, rather than season-to-season and that this kind of collaboration will reduce costs for both parties over time, paving the way for lower prices for consumers. For instance, a U.S. manufacturer can bypass Walmart’s distribution centers and deliver directly to stores, so-called “no touch” distribution.
Although $50 billion is a lot of goods, it’s about 10% of what Walmart will sell this year at retail. The company says the $50 billion is just a starting point, and that if other retailers joined the party the figure could be much, much higher, perhaps $500 billion. Walmart’s U.S. president, Bill Simon, suggested in a speech to fellow retailers that the power of their order books can help reshore U.S. production in textiles, furniture, pet supplies, some outdoor categories, and higher end appliances.
This isn’t Walmart’s first crack at a Made in America program. An earlier one fizzled, amid some bad publicity, because Walmart couldn’t get enough low-priced merchandise to sell. Americans may love their country, but they will buy Chinese if the price differential is too high. This time Walmart says consumers won’t have to pay up to buy domestic. “I hope the American consumer values this and we’ll make it easy for them,” says Mac Naughton. If not, consumers won’t make it easy for Walmart.
Top States with a Pro-Business Climate
On July 17, 2013, Luke Geiver reported for The Bakken Magazine that North Dakota is one of the nation’s top pro-business states. According to numerous recently released reports, the state is in the top five of all states regarding business climate or competitiveness.
In its annual report, “America’s Top States For Business,” CNBC LLC ranked N.D. third among all states. The broadcasting network issued the following statement to explain its rankings:
“We scored all 50 states on 51 measures of competitiveness developed with input from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness. States received points based on their rankings in each metric. Then, we separated those metrics into ten broad categories, weighting the categories based on how frequently they are cited in state economic development marketing materials. That way, our study ranks the states based on the criteria they use to sell themselves.”
North Dakota ranked third overall behind South Dakota and Texas.
The American Economic Development Institute and Pollina Corp. Real Estate Inc. has also issued a report recently, ranking North Dakota the fourth best state to do business in. The top 10 states exhibit leadership that truly understands the importance of producing the best business environment, Pollina Corp. said. “All 10 top-ranked states should be held up as models for the other 40 states and the federal government,” Pollina Corp. also said regarding the list.
According to the North Dakota Governor’s Office, the Pollina report is considered the most comprehensive and unbiased report by the economic development industry. The report used 32 factors related to state efforts ranging from taxes to energy costs.
North Dakota and Minnesota in the Top 5 Fastest Growing Economies in the Nation
North Dakota’s economy posted a 13.4% growth rate in 2012, according to a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s nearly three times as fast as the number two state, Texas, and trounces the national average of 2.5%.
This is the third year in a row that North Dakota took the top spot in BEA’s state-by-state report on gross domestic product (GDP). The muscle behind the boom is a surge in oil production from the Bakken Shale, an underground rock formation in the northwestern part of the state.
Thanks to high oil prices and new drilling technology oil production in North Dakota is now six times higher than it was in 2007. In 2012, North Dakota surpassed Alaska and California to become the second largest oil-producing state in the nation behind Texas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The boom has attracted workers from all over the country and rippled out to incorporate not only the oil and gas drilling sectors but also other industries that supply them, including wholesale goods and transportation.
“There’s nothing like an oil boom to get things rolling,” North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple told CNNMoney.
Unlike some other states, North Dakota has a tax specifically targeting oil and gas production. That tax has allowed the state government to cover 80% of the cost of public schools, greatly reducing property taxes on the local level, Dalrymple said. It also allowed for a reduction in state income taxes, and covered the cost of building roads and other infrastructure to accommodate the influx of workers.
There are still downsides to the rapid growth. Housing prices in parts of the state are as high as Manhattan, and some areas are having problems obtaining enough water. But the state’s unemployment rate is below 3%, and North Dakota is “hanging on to our college graduates like we never have before,” Dalrymple said.
Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota rounded out the five fastest-growing states. Oregon’s growth was dominated by computers and electronics, while tech and manufacturing fueled Washington’s growth. Minnesota’s growth was led by manufacturing and finance.
Study: State Ranked North Dakota #1 in Economic Performance; Minnesota 15th
North Dakota took the top ranking in a recently released study of economic performance.
By: Robb Jeffries, Grand Forks Herald
North Dakota took the top ranking in a recently released study of economic performance, showing strength in technology fields in the east as well as energy jobs in the west.
The Enterprising States report, prepared yearly since 2010 by North Dakota-based Praxis Strategy group, breaks down each state’s economic performance into five categories: exports, business climate, talent pipeline, infrastructure and innovation and entrepreneurship. Each category is further divided into subsections.
“The study looks at job creation policy on a state-by-state basis and 10-year growth in each state in a number of different areas,” said Mark Schill, vice president of research for Praxis. “North Dakota typically places near the top.”
The state had top rankings in long-term and short-term job growth, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) job growth, per capita income growth and gross state product growth. Much of this growth is taking place outside of the oil boom, in larger cities like Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck.
“The metropolitan areas have actually been doing well the last 10 years or so,” Schill said. “STEM job growth in the Red River Valley is well ahead of the nation.” He identified key factors like a strong university presence, agricultural growth and proximity to Canada as drivers of the North Dakota urban economy.
Higher education was also marked as a strong point for North Dakota, which placed second in college affordability and third in educational attainment, which measures those between ages 25 and 44 with some sort of college degree.
The state did receive lower marks in other education sections. North Dakota finished 48th in high school Advanced Placement test scores and 34th in higher education efficiency. Schill said this measure meant students at North Dakota colleges take longer to get their degrees.
“I’m not sure if AP testing isn’t prevalent in North Dakota or if rural schools have a hard time supporting it,” he said. “I would say if you look at measures that track the number of students that go to college in North Dakota, it’s fairly high. Also, North Dakota is in the top 15 of net college importers. There are a lot of college students in the state, so we end up with a high share of college educated people in the state.”
The different categories in the study help illustrate the diversity of state economies, Schill said.
“Each state has its own DNA, its own demographics and key industries,” he said. “Of course, there is oil in western North Dakota, but eastern North Dakota is very diverse.”
Minnesota’s strengths lay in the talent pipeline and infrastructure categories. The state took sixth in both categories. The report cited the state government’s focus on developing infrastructure as a key driver of the economy.
“Minnesota is tough because the Twin Cities area colors the numbers so much,” Schill said. “But in northwest Minnesota, there are some real world-class manufacturing companies that drive the economies, and Minnesota has always been known for its education workforce. They prepare kids well for college.”
International Student Appreciation Night
The North Dakota/ Minnesota EB-5 Regional Center is committed to regional development through international partners, while providing eligible foreign investors an opportunity to become permanent U.S. residents. We are excited to celebrate international students on University of North Dakota campus, while giving them the opportunity to learn more about the EB-5 program. This event is free and open to the public.
Date: May 01, 2013
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: University of North Dakota Center for Innovation, Idea Lab
4200 James Ray Drive
Grand Forks, ND 58201
The Bakken Shale Oil Boom Floods Rural Banks With Cash
In his office on the second floor of a glass-encased building on North Main Street in Watford City, N.D., Stephen Stenehjem rolls out a map of a proposed multimillion-dollar residential development and shakes his head in disbelief. “My dad would have been very pleased,” says Stenehjem, a third-generation banker and the chief executive officer of First International Bank & Trust. “For 25 years, our focus as a community bank was to help keep our small town alive. So it has been really fun to see this oil come back.”
Once a depressed town of 1,700 in what was America’s least-visited state, Watford City and its neighbors are at the center of North Dakota’s oil and gas boom. While about 470 banks across the U.S. have folded in the past five years, those serving America’s new fracking economy have seen explosive growth. Oilfield workers carrying paychecks, investors looking to build, and farmers enjoying mineral-rights payments are pouring money into banks. First International, with $1.3 billion in assets and 21 branches in North Dakota, Arizona, and Minnesota, hired 65 employees over the past year, including lenders, trust officers, and insurance agents, and plans to add 30 more this year. “It’s fun to be a banker in North Dakota,” Stenehjem says. “Even six or seven years ago, if there was a new pole barn going up in the county, I knew about it. Now I can’t keep track of everything.”
U.S. oil production grew at the fastest pace in at least six decades last year as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, unlocked crude oil trapped in formations such as North Dakota’s Bakken shale. The oil boom has pushed down the area’s unemployment rate to 3.2 percent—the lowest in the nation—even as its population mushroomed 4 percent between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2012.
Deposits in banks with branches in the Bakken shale region, which stretches from central North Dakota to the northeastern corner of Montana, soared 15 percent last year, to $3.9 billion, after rising 27 percent in 2011, according to preliminary data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. “By any standard, deposits are exploding,” says Ron Feldman, senior vice president for supervision, regulation, and credit at the Minneapolis Fed.
The surge has attracted investors and developers eager to meet the rising demand for housing, retail, entertainment, and other services. Since 2009 the number of new businesses has grown by almost 50 percent in the Bakken area, according to Federal Reserve data, compared with 5 percent growth for the rest of North Dakota and 3 percent nationally.