Bank of North Dakota celebrates 100 years of business

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The Bank of North Dakota opened 100 years ago. It's survived economic collapses, the Dust Bowl, and world wars. It’s also deposited more than $2 billion into the state’s general fund. State leaders paid tribute to the bank Monday in Bismarck.

When the Bank of North Dakota opened in 1919, Woodrow Wilson was the president of the United States. While the country has undergone numerous changes since then, the Bank of North Dakota is still standing, 100 years later.

Gov. Doug Burgum didn't shy away from high praise for the Bank of North Dakota, or the people who helped build it.

“They're not buildings or programs. At the end of the day, they're people and we've got great people working for the Bank of North Dakota,” said Burgum.

Shirley Glass was one of those people, working for 33 years in the student loan division.

"I'd often hear about how in the education area for example, without the bank of North Dakota, they wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to college,” said Glass.

The Bank was created in 1919 when farmers were losing money to out of state grain elevators. It took less than a year for a referral to try to undercut the measure. After surviving the first challenge, opponents took it to the Supreme Court. Current Bank President Eric Hardmeyer says a century later, the discussion around socialism still happens.

"While we are state owned, the true measure of our success is the partnerships that we developed with the private sector to help us deliver our program,” said Hardmeyer.

"If we were competing with the private sector, I would have concerns but the way the Bank of North Dakota has been set up and the role it plays doing work where it's acting as a syndicate and support bank has actually strengthened the private sector banking in our state,” said Burgum.

Fast forward to 1967 and the bank makes history with student loans, insuring them through the federal government. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's dad led the program and signed the first one.

"From that beginning, hundreds of millions of dollars in student loans, including my own education, were issued by my dad to students across the state of North Dakota,” said Stenehjem.

Now the Bank is helping address problems like workforce shortages and infrastructure. Hardmeyer says having a vision is key for future legislators and governors.

"I hope that they stay true to what the bank of North Dakota's mission is. If they do that, there will always be a place for the bank,” said Hardmeyer.

"It's 100 years down right now and everyone we spoke to says they expect the bank to be celebrating it's 200 anniversary in 2119.

For a detailed history of the bank’s first 100 years, go to https://thebndstory.nd.gov/