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Rep. Nancy Johnson, Published October 17 2009

Centers of Excellence program benefits state

As a legislator serving on the Interim Workforce Development and Higher Education committees and a resident of Dickinson, I am writing with regard to the importance of the state’s Centers of Excellence program.

I have seen firsthand how Dickinson State University and other campuses across our state are working in tandem with businesses to generate jobs and new economic activity across our state.

Dickinson State University’s Strom Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is dedicated to helping develop the rural economies of western North Dakota by focusing on technology and leadership to help businesses start or grow.

Launched in 2006 with a $1.1 million Centers of Excellence grant, the project quickly leveraged more than $4.2 million in matching funds from companies like American Bank Center, Fisher Industries, Solar Bee, Steffes Corp., TMI Systems Design Corp. and a host of others committed to promoting the economic vitality of western North Dakota.

A good example of the kind of success we’re seeing at the Strom Center is Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, the center’s keystone project. KMM, working with the center and the city, has subsequently expanded its high-tech aerospace operations with a new facility in Dickinson, creating nearly 160 new jobs.

That is just one community and one project among the many that are now hosting Centers of Excellence, from Grand Forks to Williston and Fargo to Dickinson.

The larger point for North Dakota, however, is that programs like Centers of Excellence are essential to the ongoing economic vitality of our state. Owing to the new growth and diversification in our economy that Gov. John Hoeven and the Legislature have worked so hard to achieve, North Dakota is no longer an island, but a full participant in the global economy.

That means our people and our business communities must have the educated work force, leadership and technical know-how to compete with anyone anywhere in the world.

Johnson, a Republican, serves as representative for North Dakota’s District 37.