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Jonathan Knutson, Forum Communications, Published June 21 2012

NDSU tackles commodity trading

FARGO – A one-of-its-kind commodity trading room on the campus of North Dakota State University is still expected to open this fall, despite a delay in its renovation, said the NDSU professor spearheading the project.

The trading room will allow NDSU to do a better job of teaching, increase enrollment among students who want to pursue careers in commodity trading and increase the sophistication of training for current students, said William Wilson, professor in the NDSU agribusiness and applied economics department.

“Who could argue with that?” he asked.

While most business schools across the country have trading rooms, the NDSU facility will be the only one in the country that focuses on agriculture and biofuels, he said.

The trading room may not be ready for use immediately when the fall semester begins, but is expected to be operational within a week or so of the start of fall classes, Wilson said.

Renovation of the trading room didn’t begin as quickly this spring as hoped because students were still using the site – on the first floor of NDSU’s Barry Hall in downtown Fargo – for other purposes, he said.

Wilson said computers and other equipment will be moved into the room in coming weeks.

NDSU originally had planned to open the trading room in fall 2011 in the basement of Barry Hall, but funding problems set back the timetable. NDSU officials also wanted to give the trading room a more prominent location and expand its focus. The facility, first intended to focus only on agriculture, also will work with energy, biofuels and financial markets. Other commodities could be added in time.

“We have to learn to walk before we can run,” Wilson said.

The energy training component will be conducted through an affiliate with the Tulane (University) Energy Center in New Orleans.

The trading room has enough funding to operate for six to eight years and the NDSU Development Foundation is seeking an endowment to provide permanent support for the project, Wilson said.

The project has strong financial support from businesses, individuals and commodity groups, he said.

He declined to say how much the project will cost.

NDSU agricultural business and business students will use the trading room. It also will provide seminars and short courses for individual companies and industry organizations.

The room will have 32 seats, each with a PC station, dual monitors and access to information and software.

Think of the trading room as a laboratory for teaching, Wilson said.

“There are laboratories for chemistry and biology. This will be a laboratory for analyzing financial and commodity markets,” he said.

Knutson writes for Agweek

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