Bloomberg News

North Dakota’s Oil Boom Challenges Treasurer: Five Questions

December 19, 2013

Kelly Schmidt, a 51-year-old Republican, is in her third term as treasurer of North Dakota, whose oil-fueled economy has outpaced every state since the recession ended in 2009.

With North Dakota featuring the fastest growth in personal income, tax revenue, jobs and home prices, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, Standard & Poor’s raised its rating to AAA, the highest, on Dec. 13. While it ranked second to Texas in crude production in September, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the state’s municipal bonds have trailed the $3.7 trillion local-government bond market by 0.9 percentage point through Dec. 17, Barclays Plc data show.

The following is condensed from a recent interview:

Q: Why invest in North Dakota?

A: Our gross domestic product over the past five years has grown by $17 billion for an increase of 61.2 percent, so we’re seeing an annual growth rate of 10 percent. Our population has grown 7 percent in the last five years. Our economic development and tax incentive programs have really made it a place that is quite attractive for businesses to come to North Dakota.

Q: What make North Dakota’s treasurer special?

A: We do have a unique situation in North Dakota in the fact that we have a state owned bank so as it relates to investing the general fund and the cash management side of it, we have a partner with that bank and we work collaboratively with the bank. We also distribute 36 tax distributions to counties, cities and school districts varying in complexity and frequency. That’s a big portion of what we do.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for the state and what is its biggest asset?

A: The biggest challenge right now is the challenge of having the oil development and everything going on in our state. Things take time, talent and treasure. We’ve got the resources and revenue to do what we need. The infrastructure and the job market, they take time to mitigate. You can’t build a road overnight. And it takes talent to do that. We’re really trying to make sure that we’re trying to be proactive to the challenges. But with as fast and furious as some of this has happened, we’re finding ourselves being reactive. And things take time. No one would have ever thought that we would be up to 1 million of barrels of oil a day by the end of this year. And that’s what where we’re headed.

Q: How are infrastructure needs financed?

A: Cash flow from the state through transportation and oil distributions. Counties and cities are also contributing to address the needs. I am not aware of debt being issued.

Q: What do you do for recreation in the winter?

A: We cross-country ski. Hockey, skating. Curling is something people enjoy. Winter doesn’t stop us. You have to put on a cap and protect yourself from the elements, but it doesn’t slow us down.

Please click here to suggest a public official you would like to see in Five Questions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Romy Varghese in Philadelphia at rvarghese8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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