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Lawmakers question pace of hiring at North Dakota investment office tasked with Legacy Fund mandates | Govt-and-politics


State lawmakers are questioning why an agency key to implementing new in-state investment mandates of North Dakota’s oil tax savings only recently posted for new jobs the Legislature approved more than six months ago.

The Legislature last fall approved six new full-time staff positions and $1.7 million in salaries for the Retirement and Investment Office. The office’s director requested the positions in order to meet the demands of the new Legacy Fund mandates.

Members of the Legislature’s interim Legacy Fund Earnings Committee late last month asked office leaders why four of the jobs approved in November were posted in June.

Office Executive Director Jan Murtha attributed the process’s pace to the hiring of new Chief Investment Officer Scott Anderson in January and getting his input, followed by “many, many conversations” with the state government’s human resources agency to obtain pay grade exceptions for the new positions in the state’s classification system.

Murtha told the Tribune she hopes to have the positions filled by the end of the summer. 

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Anderson told the Legacy Fund’s advisory board on Thursday that “We have at least 50 qualified resumes we’re looking at right now.”

The remaining two of the six new positions include an accounting manager already hired and a programs outreach coordinator position not yet posted, Murtha said.

The $8.1 billion, voter-approved Legacy Fund has generated more than $540 million of earnings over the last year.

Staffing proposal

Anderson is crafting a proposal for the 2023 Legislature that aims to bring more of the office’s assets management in-house, increase staffing and save at least $45 million a year.

“The internal staff is a much lower cost to what it costs us to manage the funds with external managers,” he said.

The office oversees $20 billion of assets, which has grown from $4 billion in 2010.

Scott Anderson


All the assets are overseen by external managers to the office. The office selects, allocates capital to and monitors the managers, according to Anderson.

Murtha said any proposal next year would be to fund one year’s worth of salaries for new positions in the next two-year budget cycle “because realistically that’s when we think we’re going to be able to onboard someone, is at that year mark.”

The full vision might take six years to implement, she said.

Growth Fund

A year-old in-state investing program of the Legacy Fund recently made another investment. 

North Dakota Growth Fund General Partner 50 South on Wednesday announced the investment in gener8tor, a venture capital firm that will launch “a flagship equity-based startup accelerator program in Fargo, as well as two non-equity-based (free) gBETA pre-accelerator programs in both Grand Forks and Fargo,” to run annually for the next five years. 

Gener8tor also will make “select direct investments” in other North Dakota-based businesses. 

50 South did not disclose the individual investment amount, citing confidential information. 

The Growth Fund is authorized up to $250 million from the Legacy Fund but has $100 million for its initial five-year investment period. 

A spokesman said the group has committed a total of $62.5 million from the Growth Fund.

“Through our capital we’ll invest both in companies directly as well as in funds that will in turn invest in North Dakota companies,” 50 South Managing Director Trey Hart told the advisory board Thursday.

Other investments include St. Louis-based venture capital firm Lewis & Clark AgriFood, Dallas-based private equity firm LongWater Opportunities and South Dakota-based venture capital company Homegrown Capital, all of which have investments or offices in North Dakota. 

Those Growth Fund investments totaled $22.5 million as of February, according to 50 South. 

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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