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Mining, energy town controls growth with determination, careful planning.


Beulah, N.D. is one of the smaller of the Small Cities and is located in southwestern North Dakota between Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson, all cities with populations below 50,000.

The City of Beulah has the unique aspect of being a mining/energy town located in the midst of excellent farming and ranching areas. It is not uncommon to see large cattle next to city limits and ranches with cattle in excess of 2,000 head within five miles and grain farmers that have more than 3,000 acres under cultivation, within five miles .of the city.

North Dakota didn't become a state until 1889 and Beulah didn't become a town until 1918 and yet there has been mining mixed with farming in the area since the turn of the century.

Beulah was a town of 1,200 in the mid-60's and because of the development of electrical generation plants, the nation's only commercial coal gasification plant and the opening and expanding of a number of mines the town grew to 6,000+ people during the construction years, went down to near 3,000 in the mid-nineties and now back agan to 4,500.

During the construction era, not unlike similar projects in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and Colorado, developers were making the stops along the route and many towns wound up with big special assessments.

Beulah headed that off by insisting that all improvements be paid in advance by the developer, and in that process we lost a number of housing developments to neighboring communities but, the end result was much better.

Many of the developed lots wound up going back to the county because the taxes were not paid and the city then took them over from the county and since they had no specials against them the lots were sold for $1.00 with the understanding that something would be built on the property within a year. Since that project was begun we have sold in excess of 90 lots for singlefamily dwellings as well as a number of businesses including PAMIDA, a 40,000 square foot discount store.

Because of a determined planning commission and a city council, along with help from the county commission, the City of Beulah and the Beulah School District were able to avoid something called "random sprawl" which has a definite big dollar tag on it when you furnish services and school bus order to stay in control of types of building, surrounding areas were annexed to the city and as a result had to live by the ordinances and regulations of city government.

Because of the successful marriage of the energy industry and the farming community the city is actively recruiting new industry to the city and area through a local Economic Development Commission of which the mayor and four city councilmen are members, an active Chamber of Commerce business recruitment committee and a county economic development commission on which the mayor, the city attorney, and city coordinator, economic development director are members.

A recent successful development project was a $3 million indoor fish farm. The indoor fish hatchery growout and processing facility will raise tropical fish called tilapia.

The complex includes a two-acre air suspended building with an. office and fish processing building. The facility has a "zero" heat cost as water from the adjacent electrical generation station is piped into the park and through heat exchangers in the building. This along with the 3.5 cent KW electrical rate makes it a very profitable facility.

The three million pound annual production is presently being shipped to nation wide filet and live markets. Thirtyfive jobs were also created with the fish farm project.

The success of the fish farm project development and startup further enticed the Economic DevelOpment Committee to develop a value added industry utilizing agricultural products as the raw material. Further research of the extensive industry amenities provided in the area made it possible to identify a grain based fuel ethanol project as a profitable business start-up.

The Dakota Ethanol project is currently working on its membership drive to complete the $20.5 million financial package. 3.2 million shares of equity stock are being offered at a par value of $2.50 per share. Each share will entitle the holder to sell one bushel of grain to the corporation. Each shareholder will be asked to sign a five-year grower contract to deliver the quantity of grain specified in the contract.

The 20 million gallon proposed ethanol facility will utilize 4.3 million bushels of barley as the feedstock. Also, 40,000 tons of dry distillers grain, an ethanol by-product, will be produced and marketed as a high quality livestock feed. Plant startup will create 35 new jobs. In addition, a 20,000 head livestock feedlot is being developed to utilize the "sweetwater" and distillers' grain.

Darold Benz is mayor of Beulah and second vice chair of NLC's Small Cities Council.
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Title Annotation:Small Cities; Beulah, North Dakota
Author:Benz, Darold
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 25, 1993
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