December issue names region’s top 40 under 40

Some of you may have heard me joke over the past month or so that reviewing nominations for our annual 40 Under 40 list always makes me feel lazy. This is not entirely true, although after imagining the hectic days that some of our nominees must endure, I do suddenly have the urge to take a nap. (Really, multiple kids, a full-time career, a passion project on the side and a full list of volunteer work? How is this possible?)

But mostly, I emerge from the nomination review and selection process feeling newly motivated to share with our readers the stories of young professionals throughout our region who can truly inspire all of us to do more. To strive for more professionally, to contribute more to our communities and to embrace the nonstop work of advancing our region in an economic sense as well as in a social sense. 

We received more than 200 nominations this year, a new record, which I believe illustrates the power of the millennial generation as well as the deep bench of incredibly skilled professionals in our region. We are fortunate to have so many young, extremely talented members of the region’s business community and we sincerely congratulate all of this year’s honorees. Read “Promising Young Professionals” for this year’s list.

As this is our final issue of 2014, I think it’s also appropriate to reflect a bit on the year that has so quickly passed. Trending at the top of topics of interest among the region’s business communities this year have no question been workforce shortages and efforts to recruit and retain millennial workers. We’ve often covered these hot issues, sometimes not intentionally, as they tend to creep into all areas of business in the region.

This issue, for example, covers Fargo-Moorhead as the subject of our Talk of the Town article. This monthly article has often served as an avenue to provide readers with an overview of a community and its business sector in general. This month, however, the article took a different twist. Fargo has enjoyed a newfound role as a media darling of sorts this year as its economy has boomed and young entrepreneurs aggressively market the metro as a hip, quirky urban center. But the elephant in the room is that the metro’s shortage of workers rivals the Bakken region in terms of severity and without a resolution, the state’s historic economic powerhouse faces a leveling off for no other reason than there are just not enough people to meet business demands.

Other articles this month also address workforce and young workers, specifically. Contributing writer Rob Swenson follows up on the reported record number of exhibitors at university career fairs for future engineers in his article, “Mining for engineers.” He learned that while companies once recruited new hires in the spring, they are now finding that if they don’t have a student signed on by winter, they’re too late. Students also have the luxury of choosing their employer, so the race to attract new hires has become increasingly competitive.

In “Building a better project,” we highlight some of the cutting-edge technology being used to build Essentia Health’s medical facility expansion in south Fargo. As an interesting side note, hospital officials also shared that construction crews working on the project had to add additional security measures on the ground to prevent headhunters from visiting the site and luring workers away.

As we look ahead to the new year, we anticipate workforce and millennials will remain topics of interest to the community. We look forward to continuing to bring you slices of business life and encourage you to continue sharing your input with us. And despite the challenges, we are happy to toast a successful 2014 and even more fulfilling new year!

Read the entire December issue here.

 

Fergus Falls honors manufacturers with annual breakfast

City and business leaders in Fergus Falls, Minn., gathered for an early morning breakfast Oct. 30 to show their appreciation for the more than 30 manufacturers that have locations in the community. The 8th annual Manufacturers’ Appreciation Breakfast offered a chance for manufacturers to network with industry peers and get updates on community initiatives to help the industry continue to succeed. For city leaders, the breakfast was a chance to give thanks to an industry that plays an important role in Fergus Falls’ economy.

Sponsors of this year’s event included the Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission, MN DEED, West Central Initiative, the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Tri-State Manufacturers Association, American Federal Bank, Bank of the West, Bell State Bank & Trust, Bremer Bank, Metso/StoneL Otter Tail Power Co., Security State Bank and U.S. Bank.

Prairie Business was honored to attend the event to help recognize one of Fergus Falls’ manufacturers for being named to our 2014 50 Best Places to Work list. Northern Contours produces a number of composite products for use in residential spaces, retail and other applications. The company employs more than 200 people at two facilities in Fergus Falls and was nominated for the award by its employees, who noted the company’s family-like atmosphere, great benefits and willingness to listen to their input as reasons why they enjoy working there.

In his comments, Northern Contours President and COO Lary Skow shared that the culture which earned the company its place on the magazine’s best place to work list reflects a recent shift in focus. In fact, he told attendees that less than two years ago the culture at Northern Contours was nearly the complete opposite of what it is today – and the company’s profitability was being affected by it. The turn-around was difficult and required a restructuring of leadership and a renewed commitment to showing appreciation for the people who work at the company’s facilities. The hard work has paid off, and the company is once again enjoying an upward trajectory, thanks in no small part to improved morale, as confirmed by its employees’ willingness to nominate the company as a great place to work.

Hats off again to Northern Contours and all of the recipients on our first annual Best Places to Work list.

We asked, you listened

Wow. Nominations closed last Friday, Oct. 17, for Prairie Business magazine’s 7th annual 40 under 40 list and as our team begins reading through the more than 200 entries we received, we are once again blown away by the incredible talent that exists in our region’s stock of young professionals.

Every December, we publish a list of the top 40 business professionals under the age of 40 in the Dakotas and western Minnesota, based upon nominations submitted by our readers. The list of nominees and their business and community contributions never fails to disappoint and regularly leaves this editor feeling like a major slacker. Past lists have honored entrepreneurs, community leaders, scientists, engineers and architects, marketing gurus, technology experts and more. (Refresh your memory with a look at 2013 and 2012 lists.)

Having said that, this year’s whopping 249 nominations far exceeded our expectations. As we pore over each entry’s details, we have very quickly realized that our task of narrowing it down to 40 is going to be ridiculously challenging. Thank you to everyone who nominated and drew attention to the many young people in our region deserving of this recognition. We can’t wait to share the list with you in December’s issue.

Wanted: Inspiring young professionals

Prairie Business magazine is now accepting nominations for its annual 40 under 40 list, which recognizes 40 of the top business professionals under the age of 40 in the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Submissions will be accepted through the magazine’s website through Friday, Oct. 17. Results will be published in the December issue of the magazine.

To be eligible for the award, nominees must be 39 years old or younger on Dec. 31, 2014. Past winners of the award are not eligible. Nomination submissions must include a brief biography of the candidate’s accomplishments and career history.

“We look forward to the 40 Under 40 issue every year and are always impressed by the high caliber of young talent that exists in our region,” said Executive Editor Rona Johnson. “This annual list is a great way to recognize the best and brightest young business leaders in the northern Plains and a great way for companies to promote the accomplishments of their new crop of leaders.”

More than 100 nominations have already been received for this year’s list. For more information, and to submit nominations, click here.

 

October issue now available

The October issueof Prairie Business magazine dives into a topic that continues to make national headlines — cyber security. Major security breaches continue to occur with disturbing frequency, affecting national entities that we would assume have top-notch security systems in place to protect against hack attacks. Hackers and those who protect against them are in a constant game of cat-and-mouse, and the threat is real for all businesses, including financial institutions. Earlier this year, Fargo technology company Sycorr deployed a service its leaders created with the intent of learning more about its target customer, banks and credit unions, but it soon uncovered some unexpected findings with regards to industry members’ website security. At the risk of offending its potential customers, the firm released its findings in order to alert them to the potential for damage. Read “Securing the Bank” to learn about the study, the risk and how to fix it.

For those looking to finance new projects, attracting major investors to rural America can be a challenge despite the region’s strong economies and potential for returns. With that in mind, the federal government announced a $10 billion loan fund earlier this summer geared toward giving promising projects in -rural America the financial shot in the arm they need. Contributing writer Rob Swenson looks at the details of the fund and whether local investors think it will have the intended impact in his feature article, “A New Approach.”

Also this month, we turn our attention to the skies to examine some of the wind projects under way in the region. Oil and gas have dominated the energy conversation in the northern Plains for some time, and rightly so, but a growing number of wind farms are being approved and moving ahead as the region works to satisfy not only its own growing appetite for energy, but also the ever-increasing renewable energy standards in other states. Read “Realizing Potential” to learn more about a project in southeastern South Dakota that could become one of the largest wind farms ever built in the U.S., and a wind farm under construction along the North Dakota-Canada border that marks the entry of an international renewable energy developer to our area.

 

Sept. editor’s note: Culture creates award-winning workplaces

The September issue of Prairie Business magazine includes the results of our Best Places to Work contest.

We’re also sharing some of the insights we’ve learned throughout the survey process regarding what it takes to make a workplace great. From flexible workdays to in-house fitness centers and paid time off for service missions, the 50 companies you’re going to read about represent a diverse number of ways businesses can boost their employee recruitment and retention strategies. In an area with extremely low unemployment and rapid economic growth, we’re happy to share some of their stories with you and recognize them for making employee happiness and well-being a priority.

Having never conducted a contest of this type before, we weren’t sure what to expect but we were blown away by the outpouring of responses we received. Nearly 2,000 surveys were submitted and more than 100 companies received nominations. We sincerely thank every employee who took time to participate and share with us why they like their workplace. We look forward to making this contest an annual event and hope to expand it in future years to include nonprofit groups and other niche categories.

Creating a successful culture is certainly worthy of recognition. As Tonya Stende, president of Dale Carnegie Business Group of North Dakota, points out, creating and implementing a truly successful culture initiative is a lifetime commitment for management. It’s also a financial commitment on behalf of the company. But, if done right, good company culture more than pays for itself in the long-run. Studies have proven that satisfied employees are more productive and more likely to stick with their employer.

Many of the comments on surveys we received confirmed what leadership experts have been preaching for years — salary is not the most important aspect of a job. While pay increases are certainly always appreciated, higher pay rarely topped employees’ wish lists when asked what improvements could be made to make their jobs better. They were much more likely to cite issues that culture initiatives could address, such as relationships with their managers, belief in leadership and pride in their workplace. Contributing writer Rob Swenson covered the employee perspective in his article, “What Employees Really Want,” and reported on several of the issues commonly mentioned in survey responses. Some, such as workforce shortages, are regional issues and not quickly solvable by companies. Others, such as recognition for good performance and input in company decisions, can be resolved fairly easily by making those items part of the company culture.

As you read this issue, I hope that you will think about your company culture and perhaps implement a few tweaks to the initiative if you recognize a need, or pat yourself on the back if you recognize your company in the comments about what makes a workplace great. We all spend a great deal of time at our workplace. Let’s enjoy it.

 

Nominations requested for annual 40 Under 40 list

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Prairie Business magazine is now accepting nominations for its annual 40 under 40 list, which recognizes 40 of the top business professionals under the age of 40 in the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Submissions will be accepted through the magazine’s website – prairiebizmag.com – through Oct. 17. Results will be published in the December issue of the magazine.

“We know there are a large number of young professionals in our region who are making significant impacts in their chosen profession, industry and communities,” said Editor Kris Bevill. “We’re looking for the cream of the crop, whether they be entrepreneurs, industry experts, executives, or nonprofit or community leaders. Previous honorees have included business owners, patent holders, venture capitalists, corporate executives, economic developers and community trendsetters. We can’t wait to see which inspiring individuals come across our pages this year.”

To be eligible for the award, nominees must be 39 years old or younger on Dec. 31, 2014. Past winners of the award are not eligible. Nomination submissions must include a brief biography of the candidate’s accomplishments and career history.

“We look forward to the 40 Under 40 issue every year and are always impressed by the high caliber of young talent that exists in our region,” said Executive Editor Rona Johnson. “This annual list is a great way to recognize the best and brightest young business leaders in the northern Plains and a great way for companies to promote the accomplishments of their new crop of leaders.”

To submit nominations for the list, visit http://www.prairiebizmag.com/pages/40under40form. Nominations are currently being accepted and can be submitted through Oct. 17.

Prairie Business magazine announces 50 Best Places to Work

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The September issue of Prairie Business magazine will celebrate the 50 Best Places to Work in the northern Plains. Companies were nominated through an anonymous employee satisfaction survey and rated in areas including work environment, employee benefits and employee happiness. Consideration was also given to the number of nominations received per company. The top 25 small for-profit companies (99 or fewer full-time employees) and the top 25 large for-profit companies (100+ employees) will be honored in the magazine, which will be available Aug. 29 on www.prairiebizmag.com.

“We congratulate all of this year’s honorees,” said Kris Bevill, editor. “From flexible workdays to in-house fitness centers and paid time off for service missions, these employers represent a diverse number of ways businesses can boost their employee recruitment and retention strategies. In an area with extremely low unemployment and rapid economic growth, we’re happy to share their stories and highlight the companies who make employee happiness and well-being a priority.”

This was the first time Prairie Business has hosted a Best Places to Work contest and is believed to be the first time this type of contest has been held for the region. Nearly 2,000 surveys were submitted and more than 100 companies received nominations, said Rona Johnson, executive editor. “We sincerely thank everyone who participated in the contest,” she said. “We look forward to expanding the contest in coming years to include non-profit organizations and specific sectors of our region’s diverse business community.”

This year’s top 25 large employers include (listed in alphabetical order):

Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services Inc.

Applied Engineering Inc.

AVI Systems

Bartlett & West

Bilfinger Westcon Inc.

BNC National Bank

Border States Electric

Dakota Supply Group

Eide Bailly

Fisher Industries

First International Bank & Trust

Gate City Bank

Houston Engineering

Integrity Windows and Doors

Intelligent Insites Inc.

KLJ

Marco Inc.

National Information Solutions Cooperative

North Dakota Guaranty & Title Co.

Northern Contours

QBE NAU

Schuneman Equipment Co.

Vogel Law Firm

WCCO Belting Inc.

3M

This year’s top 25 small companies include (listed in alphabetical order):

Ackerman-Estvold

All-Terrain Grounds Maintenance Inc.

Bismarck Aero Center

Click Rain Inc.

Dawson Insurance Agency

DFC Consultants Inc.

Flint Communications

High Point Networks LLC

Hotel Donaldson

H2M

Integrity Viking Funds

JLG Architects

Kilbourne Group

Lawrence & Schiller

Myriad Mobile

NetWork Center Inc.

Nexus Innovations Inc.

Preference Personnel

Posi Lock Puller Inc.

RealTruck.com

Spectrum Aeromed

Steamatic of the Red River Valley

Sterling Carpet One

Stoneridge Software

Summit Group Software Inc.

About Prairie Business magazine: For more than 12 years, Prairie Business magazine has served as the only business-to-business magazine dedicated to the northern Plains region. More than 21,000 print and digital copies are distributed monthly. The magazine focuses on the success and opportunities in the northern Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota and western Minnesota and covers a variety of general business interest topics including higher education, finance, architecture and engineering, agribusiness, energy, health care, economic development, tourism, technology and construction. For more information, visit prairiebizmag.com.

August issue editor’s note: Reshaping the ‘workplace’

There is a revolution happening in the workplace today and it is redefining what it means to go to “work.” Millenials crave freedom in the workplace and want to be able to work whenever, and wherever, they choose. Technology enables this to happen, offering anyone with a smart phone and an Internet connection the ability to set up a virtual office. It has also given rise to a new type of office space-as-a-business industry, which is being embraced by entrepreneurs, tech professionals, freelancers and entrepreneurs across the country. It’s called coworking.

The concept behind coworking is to offer an alternative to remote workers, who otherwise would work from home or set up temporary daily office spaces in coffee shops or other public spaces. Remote workers make up a growing segment of the working population, partly due to the previously mentioned affinity of millenials to avoid traditional office settings and partly due to the realization by some companies that providing office space for their workers is simply no longer necessary or cost effective. Coworking facilities offer remote workers and small startups the chance to rent a space, whether it be access to a communal work area or a designated space within the facility, providing them with a professional workplace as well as the camaraderie of shared office space.

In August, Minneapolis-based CoCo will expand its coworking business to include a space in Fargo. In “Collaboration Central,” we cover the ins and outs of coworking and why CoCo chose Fargo for its first expansion project. We also check in with Meso in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has been offering coworking spaces for several years and recently came under new ownership. Owners of both facilities say the collaborative atmosphere is the most attractive aspect of coworking for many of their members. In CoCo’s case, collaborations at its workspaces have even resulted in new companies being formed. Company leaders hope to achieve the same results in Fargo, perhaps even fostering collaborations between entrepreneurs in Fargo and the Twin Cities.

If collaboration and shared space fosters new startups, then the newly launched Fargo Startup House is sure to inspire new ventures. The house, located in a north Fargo residential neighborhood, will provide free room and board — and the fastest Internet access around — to six tech startups with the hope that they will grow their business ideas into a successful venture that will improve the world in some way. Selected participants will receive an initial six-month stay, with the option to possibly extend their time in the house. The concept of the startup house is a little like 24/7 coworking with a splash of dorm life and HBO’s Silicon Valley. Houses similar to the Fargo Startup House have been in play in Kansas City, thanks to the Google Fiber project, for some time and have been well-received. Attorney Miguel Danielson, who bought the Fargo house and worked with a group of supporters including the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. to get his project off the ground, hopes to have similar success in Fargo.

Projects like coworking spaces and startup houses provide new support to the region’s entrepreneurial community, which is strong and continuing to grow. Further to this effort is UND’s new School of Entrepreneurship, which will launch this fall as part of the university’s College of Business and Public Administration. Bruce Gjovig, founder of the Center for Innovation, which will serve as the school’s practitioner, says the timing has never been better to place emphasis on entrepreneurship throughout the university’s programs. “What a better time to get more people more entrepreneurial thinking that at a time of growth,” he says.

Local entrepreneurs are expected to play a major role in providing training to students of the entrepreneurship school. For details, read “Elevating entrepreneurship.”

Finally, this issue also zeros in on the importance of pheasant hunting to many local economies in South Dakota. In many small towns, the start of pheasant hunting every fall is the make-or-break time for businesses ranging from the service industry to retail stores. It is a celebratory time for many communities, but a recent decline in pheasant numbers has state officials as well as wildlife advocacy groups concerned over the future of the hunt within the state. In “Keeping Hunting on Target,” contributing writer Rob Swenson provides perspective on the impact of the sport and upcoming efforts to sustain it.

Read the entire August issue here.

Best Place to Work contest proves immense pride among workers

Wow. Today is the final day of nominations for our inaugural Best Places to Work contest and I’m so impressed at the response we’ve received so far that I just had to share it with everyone.

As I type this, we have received 1,779 surveys! (I typically refrain from using exclamation points, but that one was deserved.)

That’s nearly 2,000 people who work at companies large and small in the Dakotas and western Minnesota who were willing to take five minutes to give a shout-out to their employer for doing something right. That’s impressive.

Many companies appear to have the support of all or nearly all of their employees, as evidenced by the more than 100 nominations we’ve received in support of several companies. What are they doing right? We look forward to sharing their tips with you when we unveil the top 25 large companies and top 25 small companies in our September issue.

For now, there are still a few hours left to have your say in why you think your business deserves to make the list. Just fill out this employee satisfaction survey and have your co-workers do the same. The more nominations received per company, the better its chances are of making the top 50.

We know people in our region take great pride in their hard work and in their place of employment. Thanks to all who have participated to this point. Let’s keep those nominations rolling in and continue to show it!