MINOT, N.D. — The Fufeng project, a controversial corn milling plant planned for the Grand Forks by the China-based company, is officially defunct now this week. City officials pulled the plug after the Department of the Air Force announced that the plant was a security threat to the nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base.
I’ve long expressed sympathy for Grand Forks city officials who got caught in the crossfire between the economic interests of their region — it’s undeniable that a plant like the one Fufeng planned would be beneficial — and concerns over national security that were far beyond their purview to analyze.
But when I put it that way to Sen. Kevin Cramer who, along with Sen. John Hoeven, was responsible for getting an answer on the national security question from the Air Force, he disagreed with me.
He used an analogy about Santa Claus to illustrate his point. “When you’re 5 years old, you believe in Santa because you think he’s real. When you’re 10 years old, you believe because you want to,” he said on this episode of Plain Talk.
“They kept hoping for someone to tell them this was OK,” he continued, arguing that city officials should have gotten out of the project earlier.
Cramer did acknowledge that the federal government “let down” local officials by taking so long to answer questions about the national security implications of the plant, but he said the case against it was obvious long before the Air Force finally weighed in.
Asked if he was worried about local officials taking it upon themselves to make decisions about national security threats, Cramer said what he fears more “is a federal government making local decisions.”
Still, he sees the process Grand Forks went through, tortured as it was, as a positive. Cramer says his comments shouldn’t be seen as a “massive dumping on Grand saying they really blew it.” He argues that Grand Forks is an example of the steps other communities need to take when considering projects coming from countries like China.
“No one else has sounded the alarm like Grand Forks did,” he said.
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