Giving Props to Women in Business

Women may still represent a minority of U.S. business leaders, but in the northern Plains, women represent a large component of the region’s workforce and many of them are serving in leadership roles.

Analysis recently released by the New York Times highlights the high employment rates of women in the upper Midwest, which it attributes at least partially to strong economies and good education opportunities for women.

But we already knew about the power of women in the workplace. Last year, we launched the region’s first Top 25 Women in Business contest to highlight the many female professionals in our area who are making significant impacts on business and their communities. We anticipated a great response, but were overwhelmed at the number of deserving candidates brought to our attention through the nomination process.

So we’re doing it again.

Our March issue will highlight this year’s Top 25 Women in Business. We need you to nominate those deserving of this recognition and let us pay tribute to the hard-working, multi-tasking, ridiculously talented businesswomen who are making a difference in their communities in the Dakotas and western Minnesota. We want to let them, and the world, know that the region appreciates and recognizes their hard work. Nominations are being accepted now through Jan. 30. Click here to tell us who you think deserves to be on this list.

 

 

Construction Corner: Meeting the need for medical personnel

In late 2013, the University of North Dakota began building a new medical school in Grand Forks, N.D., to meet the growing need for medical personnel throughout the region. At more than 325,000 square feet, the larger facility will allow the university’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences to increase its medical school enrollment by 62 students and its health sciences enrollment by 90 students. Post-graduate residency enrollment will also be expanded by a total of 51 residents. Estimated to cost nearly $124 million, the project is being funded through the state of North Dakota and should be complete in mid-2016.

The January issue of Prairie Business magazine includes details on the parties involved in taking this project vertical and what the final product will look like. Construction is expected to reach its peak this spring and by the time the building is finished more than 1,500 trade workers will have put in 450,000 hours of work into the project. Click here to read the story.

Prairie Business January issue: New year, new sections

Congratulations on making it to another New Year! As a child, I never quite embraced the significance of celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another — the 1st of January felt and looked exactly the same as the 31st of December, so what was the big deal? While I still think there’s something to be said for that, as I have grown older I have come to appreciate the reasons people commemorate the annual changing of the calendars — an awful lot can happen over the course of 12 months and the New Year is often the only time we give ourselves to look back at what we’ve achieved and endured, and look forward with an optimistic eye toward learning from the past year’s experiences.

While I’m not a rabid resolution-maker, I do see the New Year as a great opportunity to make changes, and we’ve made a few here at the magazine that I’m happy to introduce to you this month. First, we’ve opened up our column section to include contributions on all topics related to the region’s business community. By inviting businesses, researchers and community leaders to share their insight with us, we hope to better inform our readers on the many areas of interest in the northern Plains — from leadership advice to research breakthroughs, financial wisdom and industry updates.

Second, we’re going to profile an influential business person each month in a section called Business Insider. We kick off this new section with contributing writer Rob Swenson’s profile of McGowan Capital Group founder Gene McGowan — a self-made man by all accounts who turned a love of music into a 20-year career in the military before ultimately diving into the financial industry. He’s highly regarded among the Sioux Falls business community for his financial expertise and business know-how and, as you will quickly see in reading Rob’s piece, for being a really nice guy. Read more in “From music man to financial expert.”

We’re also launching a new section this month called Construction Corner which will highlight a different major construction project under way in our region each month. Construction trades and project developers are well aware of the many projects taking place throughout the northern Plains, but we realize that it’s hard for many others to keep up on the tremendous pace of development occurring throughout the area. This section aims to offer a few details on some of the most unique and largest projects being built.

I encourage readers to contact me with suggested subjects for the Business Insiders and Construction Corner sections. Also, if you are interested in submitting a column for consideration, contact me for details. We love to hear from readers and are happy to consider your suggestions.

Finally, it is with a bit of sadness that we say good-bye to our executive editor, Rona Johnson, who managed to find a place colder than North Dakota to call home. She is moving on to serve as publisher for a suite of publications in Alaska, and we wish her the best of luck. We’ll visit in the summer.

Click here to read the entire January issue.

 

Prairie Business launches 2015 Top 25 Women in Biz contest

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Prairie Business magazine is accepting nominations for its “Top 25 Women in Business” contest through Jan. 30. Nominations can be submitted online at prairiebizmag.com.

Now in its second year, the contest was created to draw attention to the many amazing and talented female professionals in the Dakotas and western Minnesota. More than 100 women were nominated for last year’s list and they were all strong candidates. See who made the final list here.

We are thrilled to bring the contest back for its second year and look forward to your nominations. The deadline to submit nominations is Jan. 30, so don’t wait! To be eligible, candidates must live and work within the Dakotas or western Minnesota and may not have received the award previously. Submission forms are available on our website. Recipients will be named in our March 2015 issue.

 

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.