Tomorrow, primary voters will cast a ballot that will influence the trajectory of North Dakota. Throughout my career, I have been involved in hiring hundreds of senior executives. The hiring decision is always contingent on understanding both the role and the context of the operating environment. If times are flush, caretakers will suffice. In challenging times, different skills are required. This election requires an understanding of the role of Governor, our current fiscal situation, and the underlying drivers of 21st century economy.
Our economy is changing on two dimensions. On the first dimension, a large portion of our economy is dependent on global commodity prices beyond our control. And as we are experiencing, our state government revenues are also highly dependent on the price of oil. State general fund revenues are $1.1 billion short and still falling. In the first four months of 2016, General Fund revenues were down more than 35% from the comparable period in the last biennium.
So as a first priority, we must reign in spending on the state level. We need to equip our decision makers with better forecasting and budgeting systems. And, like every local grain elevator in North Dakota already does, we need to adopt modern risk management practices to protect our state revenues and cash flows from commodity price swings.
The situation also requires us to diversify our economy. We must add more value to our energy and agriculture products before they leave the state and foster growth in the emerging UAV industry and the tech sector, as well as in tourism and services.
The second dimension of change is the digital economy. Every job, every company, every industry, and every person in our state are being affected by this wave of change. If we harness this power and create a 21st century economy, we will prosper like never before. If we don’t, and simply “wait for prices to come back,” we risk being left behind instead of creating our own incredible future.
I believe in our future because I have seen first-hand what North Dakotans can do. At Great Plains, with kids hailing from more than 220 towns across our state, we created thousands of great jobs, world-class products, and a company that made the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work in America list four times.
First and foremost, we succeeded because we believed in the people of North Dakota. We have some of best, smartest, hardest-working people in America right here. We have been blessed as a state with enormous natural resources in our soil, water, and rich deposits of minerals. But far and away, our greatest asset is our people.
During this campaign, I have traveled 16,000 miles across North Dakota, visited every county, held hundreds of events, and met with thousands of citizens. It has reaffirmed for me that those closest to the issues often have the best solutions. To build a great state, we need to have great communities. And to build great communities, we need to develop and empower local leadership and local decision making.
All politicians like to talk about diversifying the economy, creating great, high-paying jobs, and building great communities. I have spent the last 33 years doing just that.
Growing up in Arthur, I learned many valuable lessons, including hard work, perseverance, and building trust in every transaction.
Creating the future takes vision, passion, courageous curiosity, and teamwork. These are values that guide my leadership. Working together, we can create the nation’s best culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. We can create the nation’s best healthcare system. And we can create the nation’s best education system, to support a lifetime of learning for all citizens.
Beginning with Governor Ed Schafer, our state has prospered when we have elected business leaders directly into the governor’s office. I am honored to have received Ed’s full endorsement in this race.
North Dakota primary voters have an important decision to make tomorrow. Will we vote for a career politician, whose campaign has been a defense of the status quo and orchestrated by the good ol’ boy network? Or will we vote for a conservative business leader with a proven track record of job creation, economic diversification and fiscal management skills and with the vision, energy and ideas needed to lead us into the future?
I hope that, like Ed Schafer, you will choose the latter. Tomorrow, I would be honored to have your vote and your support. Together, we can take North Dakota from good to exceptional!