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ND governor's address, estimated to cost $25K, was 'not a small undertaking'

Gov. Doug Burgum stands behind a teleprompter and in front of a video screen during his State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Minot. Media production accounted for a good share of the cost of putting on the event. Kim Fundingsland / Minot Daily News

MINOT, N.D. — The cost of bringing Gov. Doug Burgum's State of the State address to Minot last week is expected to come in around $25,000, according to the Greater North Dakota Chamber, which sponsored the event.

Burgum's staff approached GNDC about sponsorship after the governor determined he wanted to deliver the address in Minot, said GNDC spokesman Jason Matthews. Burgum's decision to give an off-year speech on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and do so outside of Bismarck was outside the norm. North Dakota governors typically only give State of the State addresses to the Legislature, which meets every other year.

"An event like this is not a small undertaking," Matthews said.

GNDC agreed to take it on because part of its mission is to promote policy discussions, he said. Each year, GNDC hosts an event in August to bring together education, government and businesses. It also has held roundtables for business, government and community leaders.

"We have a track record of being able to hold these discussions in a very thoughtful manner," Matthews said.

Mike Nowatzki, spokesman for the governor's office, said GNDC has approached the governor's office previously indicating it was interested in holding a forum at which the governor could share his vision. So when Burgum decided to do a State of the State address, having the chamber sponsor the event seemed a natural fit, he said.

"The governor wanted to have it off-site, wanted to be able to take the message on the road, but didn't want taxpayers to be saddled with a lot of extra expense," Nowatzki said.

Although all the costs were not yet tallied by the end of last week, GNDC estimates the expense will have been about $25,000. GNDC sought sponsorships and received support from 13 businesses, of which nine are represented on its board of directors. Sponsorships were in amounts up to $2,500.

Sponsors also were treated to a turkey sandwich luncheon at which the governor spoke. The lieutenant governor also attended. About 50 people attended the speech, according to GNDC.

On the list, although not all sponsors sent someone to the luncheon, were Starion Bank, Microsoft, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Enbridge, Eide Bailly, Hess Corp., Indigo Signworks, RAI Services Co., Xcel Energy, AE2S, Flint Group, Sanford Health and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. GNDC also worked with Minot Area Development Corp., Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and other area chamber groups.

"We did not make any money off of this event. The money that was raised was to cover the expenses. This was not a fundraiser for GNDC in any way," Matthews said. "We view this as a service to the people of North Dakota. We were able to provide an opportunity for Governor Burgum to share his vision for North Dakota outside of Bismarck and in a forum open to the public."

GNDC did not provide an itemized list of expenses but noted audio and video production, a reception, lunch and other ancillary costs were incurred. The largest share involved the audio-visual production, said Brent Bogar, who works with GNDC governmental affairs and headed up GNDC's sponsorship efforts. GNDC hired a company to provide the media production, which included the video live-streaming on the governor's website. The governor's office created the presentation slides that were part of the address production.

Minot State University hosted the event with no charge for use of Ann Nicole Nelson Hall and auditorium equipment, MSU spokesman Mike Linnell said.

"We were approached as a possible site for this event and we're happy to accommodate the governor, but we didn't seek them out. They approached us," Linnell said.

The governor engaged with MSU staff and students following the State of the State address as the first stop on a statewide tour of the University System. He will be visiting other campuses in coming months.

Matthews said the event was a success for GNDC.

"Everybody was pleased," he said. "We had a lot of positive feedback from members of the public who were there and from some of the students at Minot State."

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