South Dakota Innovation Partners, a venture capital firm with offices in Brookings and Sioux Falls, displays a fantastic quote on its website from Thomas Edison: “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
Keep that quote in mind as you peruse through this issue of the magazine and I think you’ll soon agree that these pages are filled with examples of local leaders who acted on ideas and converted them into successful careers and business ventures, setting an example along the way for those of us who may sprout an idea but lack the vision or drive to bring it to fruition.
This month’s cover feature profiles Tammy Miller, CEO of Border States Electric and one of the region’s most inspiring business women. Miller joined the company in 1991 and quickly rose through the ranks. She has served as the company’s CEO since 2006 and led the employee-owned electrical distribution company through an aggressive growth strategy that was extremely successful, more than doubling the company’s annual sales in five years. She has also taken an active role in supporting other women in her industry and was recently awarded for those efforts with the Women in Industry Trailblazer award from the National Association of Electrical Distributors. Read more in “Lighting the Way to Leadership.”
Miller is a fantastic example of the successful business women that make up a growing percentage of the region’s professional workforce, but we know that there are many women in the area worth highlighting. I’m excited to announce that our March issue will contain our inaugural list of the region’s Top 25 Women in Business. Keep your eyes open for nomination details and don’t hesitate to submit your suggestion for the most inspiring, driven and successful business women you know.
This issue also provides several takes on the region’s blossoming technology sector. I recently attended the third annual State of Technology event in Fargo, hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce and Sen. John Hoeven. The event has steadily grown since its inaugural year, this year saw about 100 more attendees than the year prior, and is expected to continue to expand as a reflection of the industry’s growth. In fact, plans are already in the works to extend next year’s event into a multi-day event in order to provide more time to highlight the metro’s fascinating tech companies and the bright minds behind these ideas.
North Dakota’s tech sector is making fantastic progress, but South Dakota holds its own as well, continually ranking among the top states for research and technology growth. We caught up with South Dakota Innovation Partners CEO Mark Luecke to learn more about the venture fund’s partner companies and its focus on providing financial support to early-stage companies seeking to improve the world through agricultural technology, engineered technology or life sciences. While the firm doesn’t focus solely on investing in South Dakota-based companies, all six of its current partner companies are located in Brookings, S.D. Luecke says the Red River Valley Research Corridor has been a model for other parts of the country and his firm is interested in helping that technology hub continue to develop and extend south along Interstate 29 to Kansas City.
Finally, this issue also provides a look at a unique method of funding those great ideas — crowdfunding. The Internet-based funding model has become increasingly popular, for artists, researchers and business owners who are willing to reach out to the “crowd” to obtain the finances needed to complete a project. Curious? Find out more in “Entrepreneurs tap into the ‘crowd.’”