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Dorgan to Tackle New Initiative

August 6, 2008

By Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press, N.D.

Aug. 6–During a town hall meeting in Dickinson Monday night, Senator Byron Dorgan announced $1.9 million he secured to create the North Dakota Energy Workforce Training Initiative and spoke out about the needs of businesses to compete with salaries offered to those who work in the oil industry.

“The average salary in the oil patch is $80-86,000 a year, and if you have half a chance and have some small skill and someone else will train you, you’re gone in search of better money,” Dorgan said. “Businesses have to compete with that. How do we match resources with skills on the labor market?”

A collaborative effort between Dickinson State University, Williston State College, Bismarck State College and Minot State University, the initiative will help “address the growing need for skilled energy workers due to rapid expansion of oil drilling and production in the Williston Basin,” according to a press release.

As part of the initiative, DSU and Minot State will each host two symposiums to study and evaluate energy issues, concerns, possibilities and solutions, including short- and long-term strategic planning in North Dakota.

During the meeting, Dorgan also discussed the potential use of oil revenues.

“I was calculating what we make in oil revenues the other day, and we make five or six million dollars of revenue coming into the state,” Dorgan said. “It’s a wonderful thing to have money, but it’s also a challenge to decide what kinds of investments are needed for the state.”

Dorgan also said he would like to see North Dakota set its sights higher when it comes to spending oil revenues.

“I think that because of who we are and where we come from, we don’t aim high enough,” Dorgan said. “I’ve watched the legislature and I’m not very happy with a group that does nothing. I think our state should aspire to accomplish goals and build something bigger and better. That’s what this oil revenue will give us the opportunity to do.”

During the meeting, Dorgan gave citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions on matters.

Water was a topic of concern, as one citizen noted the concern of a shortage of water due to the vast amounts needed to fracture potential Bakken wells.

Dorgan said he plans on ensuring good water for the people of North Dakota.

“When I became chairman of the funding committee for Water and Energy issues, I tripled the funding for North Dakota,” Dorgan said. “That’s what the federal government promised us when they built that dam. I’m a position to force the federal government to keep their promises. The people of North Dakota deserve good quality water across the state.”

Dorgan also discussed the recent $500,000 he put into doing a feasibility study in regards to new refinery, and the farm bill.

“All of these things represent opportunity for us,” Dorgan said.

Dickinson was the third town meeting for Dorgan on Monday. He stopped in Hettinger and Bowman earlier in the day.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Dickinson Press, N.D.

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