Interview with Dr. Bernt L. Willis
Grand Forks, N.D.
September 15, 1963
Dr. Wills has taught North Dakota geography at the University of North Dakota for over twenty years. He is the author of “North Dakota, The Northern Prairie State.”
Do you think North Dakota’s location is a liability or an asset?
North Dakota has a potentially favorable location at the center of the North American continent; its size and shape are favorable to its growth and development. Its mid-latitude, non-continental climate is marked by distinct seasonal changes. Climatically, the principal drawback is the threat of drought; but its climate is ideal for mental and physical health and for activity.
Do you think more business and industry will locate in the state?
Increased industrial activity in the state is a certainty. Consider this fact: within a radius of 100 miles of Williston are extensive deposits of lignite, potash, oil and gas, salt, sodium sulfate, sulfur and clays (alumina, bentonite, and uranic). Williston has an abundance of water and low-rent land, and its transportation and communication facilities are excellent.
In the near future it appears likely that the most rapid expansion of industry in North Dakota will be in the increased processing of its abundant agricultural products. Most of this increase will occur in the eastern part of the state. From the long-range viewpoint, the chemical industry, particularly a chemical-metallurgical complex, based upon lignite for energy and for some of its raw material, will probably lead the field. Most of this development will perhaps take place in the western half of the state.
Is there any one factor that you deem as important to the state’s future?
Energy resources are the key to the future, and the state of North Dakota has an almost unlimited supply of materials to generate mechanical energy needed by industry. Fossil coal, petroleum, natural gas, and the energy embodied in falling water all are valuable resources for power.
Any last comments for our readers?
A major task which looms before North Dakotans is the creation in the public mind of a more accurate image of the state. The average American—North Dakotans naturally excluded—probably has more accurate knowledge about any Western European Country than he has about North Dakota. To him, North Dakota means blizzards, snow, and arctic cold. If North Dakota is to prosper, progress to any great extent, it will have to correct the public image. Well-informed business executives, when brought to this state and shown what is here, have frankly admitted that their earlier image of the state was blurred and out of focus. North Dakotans who want their state to prosper and to grow must praise and defend their far-flung land; then they must actively work for its growth and improvement. The raw materials for greatness are here.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.