Minot poised for development

Jill Schramm/MDN Colby Tanner with BNSF addresses the MADC annual meeting in the Sleep Inn & Suites Thursday.

Minot is well situated to grab the attention of companies scouting for new locations, according to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe official who keynoted Minot Area Development Corp.’s annual meeting Thursday.

“I would say you are poised really good right now,” said Colby Tanner, assistant vice president of economic development for BNSF. “Now the key is getting the word out. That’s where we are really working hard.”

BNSF will be marketing the MADC’s industrial park as one of its site-certified locations, giving it the kind of attention that can boost local efforts to attract business.

Tanner spoke about the site certification awarded to the 386-acre industrial park just over two months ago. BNSF promotes economic development through its logistics parks and centers but also partners with third parties, such as MADC, on sites that meet its qualifications. BNSF certified that Minot’s industrial park on the east edge of the city has completed all the studies, reviews and preparation work to become build-ready for companies.

Tanner explained companies are in a time crunch when they come to look at a community so preparedness is important.

Jill Schramm/MDN Attendees at MADC’s annual meeting Thursday heard about BNSF’s site-certified program and how it will help Minot’s economic development.

“Not being prepared is the first way to get eliminated out of the mix. Consultants are looking for ways to trim the list down,” he said. “Minot is very prepared. You guys have come through a lot to get that park ready to go.”

He cautioned against over-building infrastructure because it might not be the right infrastructure or in the right place, depending on the company that shows interest. So in that respect, Minot doesn’t need to do more, he said.

In terms of what BNSF can do for communities such as Minot, Tanner noted the railroad attracted $7.7 billion of customer investment in 2017.

“It was a record for BNSF,” he said, adding the investment paid off in 3,484 jobs. “What really gives me satisfaction in my job is that number – that we were able to help 3,500 families. That’s what we are here to do is create that opportunity for jobs.”

Last year was a good year for BNSF operations, too.

“The railroad is in the best shape it has ever been,” Tanner said. After a dip in business volume in 2016, volume grew by about 5.5 percent in 2017.

“We are poised now for 2018, and what we are seeing from the economy is a very strong beginning to 2018,” he said. “I am not sure we will see the growth that we saw throughout 2017 but we are definitely off to a good start.”

BNSF is projecting to invest $3.3 million in its network this year, which would be equivalent to 2017 spending. It represents a return to historical investment levels after peak spending of $5.5 million and $5.8 million in 2014 and 2015 – much of it in North Dakota.