‘Oil Capital’ looking to drones, other innovations

Tioga hopes to boost economy with drones

This post originally appeared on http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/energy/oil/4024459-oil-capital-looking-drones-other-innovations.

[Editor’s Note: As oil activity decreases, Tioga hopes to become the “Energy and Innovation Capital of North Dakota”.

TIOGA  – A city that has found prosperity in the ground is looking to the sky to diversify its economy.

Tioga’s Economic Development Corp. is sponsoring an educational program on drones this summer geared for North Dakota students.

Tioga, a few miles away from the state’s first producing oil well, is traditionally known as the “Oil Capital of North Dakota.”

Now amid a slowdown in oil activity, the city’s economic development corporation is working to transition Tioga to the “Energy and Innovation Capital of North Dakota.”

“It’s all part of an economic development strategy,” said Dennis Lindahl, Tioga’s economic development consultant.

The first step is a two-day drone camp for North Dakota kids offered this Aug. 6-7 in Tioga. The educational event, which will be free for up to 100 students in grades 7-12, will feature instruction on aeronautics, safety issues and vocational opportunities related to drones.

The University of North Dakota has agreed to assist with the curriculum, Lindahl said.

Tioga High School Principal Brodie Odegaard said the school’s partnership with the economic development corporation is still in early stages, but he thinks the drone camp will be a good opportunity for students.

“I hope it sparks some interest and can carry into the school year in the fall,” Odegaard said.

City commissioner John Grubb said while oil and agriculture will always be important to Tioga’s economy, the community needs to diversify its economy.

“We do have to get something else in here, maybe several something elses,” Grubb said.

One stable base of employment in the community is the Hess Corp. Tioga Gas Plant, the state’s largest natural gas processing plant.

But many of those workers commute to Tioga, largely due to a lack of housing that was available during the height of the oil boom, Lindahl said.

Now that there is more housing available and prices are beginning to come down, economic development leaders would like to attract more of those workers to move with their families to Tioga.

The economic development corporation, which is working with several corporate sponsors, also is discussing other technology investments for the high school, such as a 3D printer, Lindahl said.

“If we can help the schools give the kids a better opportunity and help them be more competitive in the 21st century, then maybe the parents will consider living in Tioga,” he said.

For more information or to register for Tioga Drone Camp, email DroneCampND@gmail.com.

Tioga is also seeing diversification of its economy in other ways this year, including the construction of northwest North Dakota’s first wind farm, which will add construction jobs as well as permanent jobs after the project is complete.

The economic development corporation also is in discussions with a non-energy company that could potentially bring another 20 to 25 jobs to Tioga, Lindahl said.


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