Funds sought for military advocacy
Minot seeks to prepare for construction surge
North Dakota’s military communities are asking the Legislature for $1.9 million for local efforts to support the state’s Air Force bases and National Guard.
Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo each are proposed to receive $500,000 in Senate Bill 2240. Minot would receive an additional $400,000 to prepare for the influx of workforce with the coming installation of the new Sentinel missile system.
“This project, when they come in the late part of this decade, is going to bring 2,500 to 3,000 workers,” Sen. Randy Burckhard, R-Minot, told the Senate Appropriations Committee during the bill’s hearing on Monday. “They might just decide to stay. They might decide to be part of our workforce solution, and that’s going to be a $3.2 billion impact.”
Burckhard explained that Minot wants to closely follow what happens as missile systems are replaced at bases in Wyoming and Montana so Minot can better understand the impact that is coming and how to prepare.
“We want to be so ready for this. We want to plan so well for this that we don’t have to worry about ‘man camps'” he said. We want our developers to be ready. We want the city folks to be ready.”
Brekka Kramer, president and CEO of the Minot Area Chamber EDC, noted that in addition to the workers coming, a local hiring increase is expected. She added the construction is unlike typical Air Force construction in that much of it will be occurring off the base, not only at the missile sites but with new communication towers, miles of new and existing utility corridors, multiple staging areas and other construction facets that could be in place for at least three to five years.
“It’ll be our priority to solidify strategic relationships at all levels and get boots on the ground to prepare North Dakota for the largest Department of Defense modernization project ever undertaken. Minot Air Force Base plays a critical role in national defense in our state economy, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that our community has the resources that it needs to support the advancement of the modernization projects,” Kramer said
“We want to make sure that we’re at the forefront of that so that we can plan what’s beneficial for the state, not only to serve this project, but longer term, so that we can have the right infrastructure built out that not only benefits the project, but tomorrow, once it’s all said and done, we have something that the state benefits from as well,” she added.
The Legislature has a history of providing funding assistance for base retention and other military advocacy. Appropriations have ranged from $600,000 to $3.3 million a biennium between 2011 and 2019. No funds were appropriated in the 2019 or 2021 sessions. The impact in the state of the two Air Force bases and National Guard has been calculated at more than $1.2 billion a year.
Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general for the North Dakota National Guard, spoke about the importance of ensuring the Air Force bases are in the best possible position and that the National Guard maintains its member strength.
He highlighted the National Guard’s security mission at Minot Air Force Base, which is authorized for 140 guardsman. There are 60 to 70 active Guard and Reserve service members working on a daily basis with the Air Force Security Forces, and the remainder are traditional guardsmen who can step in if a surge of additional security support is needed, Dohrmann said. He said the National Guard has had up to 120 guardsmen at a time working in Minot.
“Global Strike Command loves us.They would not want to see that mission go away. But (it’s) another case where we need to partner with Minot and state government and everyone else to do what we can to get more young people into the National Guard, because the best-case scenario would be to have the mission full up there,” he said.
The funding in SB 2240 would be administered through the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Amendments to a separate Commerce Department funding bill are anticipated to be introduced to provide that implementation should SB 2240 receive support through the legislative process.
The Senate Appropriations Committee gave the bill a “do pass” recommendation.