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|Articles - March 2011|
|Wednesday, March 02, 2011|
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There is only one state bank in the nation, the Bank of North Dakota. It was established in 1919 to give farmers more control and greater access to capital. Ninety-two years later it has evolved into a 170-employee institution with $4.2 billion in assets and an impressive record of performance. “We’ve had record profits for seven years in a row,” says bank president Eric Hardmeyer.
Hardmeyer has run the bank for the past 10 years. As an indication of the importance of his role, his predecessor John Hoeven left to become first governor and later U.S. Senator.
Hardmeyer explains that the Bank of North Dakota is funded through captive deposits. All taxes and fees collected by state government funnel through the treasury into the state bank, rather than going out to bid with private banks. The state bank uses that money to fund state services and manage a $2.8 billion loan portfolio, partnering with community banks in the private sector to boost agriculture and small business.
If that sounds like socialism, well, it kind of is. And it has worked. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Property values did not fall there during the housing crash. The bank transferred $340 million back to the state in dividends over the past dozen years, but has not contributed any money for the current biennium because, amazingly, it is not needed. While Oregon and other states are struggling with billions of dollars in shortfalls, North Dakota enjoys a budget surplus.
Hardmeyer is quick to clarify that he doesn’t recommend that other states try to replicate his bank’s model. Asked what advice he has to offer to states considering it, he says: “You’d better staff it with bankers, not economic development folks. Or else you will have a very expensive, short-lived experiment… The other issue is to make sure you aren’t competing with the private sector.”
Linda Navarro, CEO of the Oregon Bankers Association, says the Bank of North Dakota resulted from a “quirk of history” that has little to do with modern realities. “For most community banks, the crux of their business is commercial lending,” she says. “They are looking for good business loans to make… They just need to make sure the loans can be repaid.”
Bill Humphreys, CEO of Corvallis-based Citizens Bank, says he has studied the North Dakota model and concluded that a state bank would be against the interests of the state and taxpayers. “I don’t see how a state-owned bank could enter the marketplace and all of a sudden start making loans that aren’t being made now,” he says. “Unless they decide they’re going to take on greater levels of risk.”
Humphreys and other bankers point out that one driving reason behind the financial meltdown was loose, easy credit without proper collateral. A state-run bank committed to lending to businesses would “share the consequences of higher risk with the taxpayers,” Humphreys says. “This is not a good time to do this. If you look at the state as a business, they are in such a deficit position that they have no business investing in anything.”
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University
Thursday, July 09, 2015
The sweltering weather didn't keep the crowds away. Although the numbers were down slightly from last year, the Oregon Food Bank raised $850,636 to fight hunger. About 80,000 people attended despite temperatures in the upper 90s.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CAMILLE GRIGSBY-ROCCA
Can the brave new world of neurotechnology help an OHSU surgeon find a cure for obesity?
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER
Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.
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When Garmin AT needed to consolidate operations for its 550 employees, it scanned its entire corporate map for possible sites.
The technology industry is always in flux. And this rapid rate of change poses challenges to companies ranging from nimble startups aiming to make their mark to established organizations fighting to remain relevant. This is particularly true in the competitive digital display market, where an Oregon company has been at the forefront of nearly every major breakthrough in the last three decades.
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Robert S. Wiggins has joined Lane Powell as a Shareholder in the Corporate/M&A Practice Group. Wiggins is a well-known lawyer, entrepreneur, and investor with more than 30 years of experience leading and advising established and emerging companies in the Pacific Northwest. Wiggins will focus his practice on offering outside general counsel services, including general corporate and board representation, business transactions and capital events.
DEDICATION PARTY: Help the Port of The Dalles celebrate its newest shovel-ready industrial land Friday, July 31, from 1:30 to 4 p.m.