Grand Forks Region EDC celebrates stellar 2013

There was much to celebrate at the Grand Forks Region EDC’s annual meeting held in Grand Forks, N.D., at the Alerus Center on April 17. Business has boomed in the community over the past year and city leaders gave much of the credit to the organization and the cooperative efforts of the city’s business community.

Hal Gershman, city council president, noted that private support now exceeds public support for the EDC. “I’ve never seen such a cooperative environment as I’m seeing in our city today,” he told attendees.

Klaus Thiessen, president and CEO of the EDC, said 2013 was the busiest year he’s experienced at the EDC since joining the group a decade ago. Multiple EDC clients were mentioned for their successful establishment and/or expansion projects over the past year, including Acme Tools, which was the first business to sign on for a recently opened 125-acre business park and is constructing a warehouse and distribution center there. Cirrus Aircraft, Philadelphia Macaroni, Reile’s Transfer and Delivery and HB Light & Sound carried out expansion projects. Industrial Contract Services Inc. relocated its corporate headquarters to the city and True North Equipment built a new resource center.

In nearby Thompson, N.D., Thompson Farmer’s Cooperative and Northern Tier Seeds are expanding their storage capacities.

In all, the EDC clients invested more than $55 million in capital projects in 2013 and created or retained more than 528 jobs, according to the group.

Big projects under development in the region also received mention, including the massive fertilizer plant project being developed by Northern Plains Nitrogen. While construction of the $1.5 billion plant has yet to begin, the EDC noted that the project’s proposal has already spurred interest from other agri-business companies.

UAS (unmanned aerial systems) was unsurprisingly a recurring topic of the meeting and was highlighted as an area of continued focus for the EDC this year. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan delivered the meeting’s keynote speech and recapped the nearly decade-long process of successfully establishing UAS as a mission for the Grand Forks Air Base and, ultimately, the city’s selection as one of six federal UAS test sites. He applauded the city’s continued efforts to make Grand Forks “the place” for UAS and expressed confidence that the air base and region will continue to serve as a hub for UAS development. Thiessen noted that the UAS-focused Grand Sky business park at the Grand Forks Air Force Base will be the “singe most strategically important development” in over a decade.

Workforce issues were another repeated topic of discussion during the event. The EDC intends to continue working with businesses and the community to attract needed workers in the coming year, according to officials.

Steve Burian, chairman of the EDC, challenged attendees to embrace their role in helping Grand Forks create “dazzle” in 2014. “If we’re going to recruit people to this community, we need to be cool, we need to have dazzle,” he said.

Thiessen said workforce shortages have been a concern for several years, but the issue is now having a noticeable impact on business. He noted that an EDC job fair held last fall attracted 55 companies and 1,200 high school sophomores, but said he expects this year’s job fair to be even larger. Young workers are expected to be a primary focus.

 

 

 

International ag research conference headed to Fargo

The warmly lit greenhouses at NDSU’s new Agricultural Experiment Station served as a fitting backdrop for last week’s announcement that Fargo has been selected as the site of the 2016 Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference. The annual event, currently in its 17th year, is considered to be one of the premier gatherings for biotech researchers and industry leaders from around the world and promotes innovation through sustainable food, feed, fiber and fuel security as the climate changes. The Fargo event will mark the first time the conference has been held in the U.S. and much of the event is expected to center around research conducted at NDSU. Hosting organizations include AdFarm, the state agriculture department, NDSU and the Red River Valley Research Corridor.

Doug Goehring, North Dakota ag commissioner, was among the group of speakers gathered to discuss the conference and its expected impact on Fargo and the entire region. He said it is fitting that North Dakota be selected to host the ABIC because of its agriculturally rich history. “Contrary to popular belief, agriculture is still No. 1 in North Dakota,” he said.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani and Ken Grafton, NDSU vice president for agriculture and university extension, said the conference will present an opportunity to highlight the public-private partnership model embraced by NDSU and the state’s agriculture industry and noted that the public-private approach fits well with the conference’s focus on developing local solutions to innternational issues related to climate change.

Roger Reierson, president and CEO of Flint Group and AdFarm, will head the conference steering committee and said the event will give the area’s agriculture businesses and researchers an opportunity to provide input on global issues. Delore Zimmerman, executive director for the Red River Valley Research Corridor, said he expects the conference will produce new connections within the international ag community for attendees.

With two years left to plan, Reierson noted that the specific theme of the Fargo conference has not yet been determined but that the theme will likely have an impact on the types of attendees attracted to the conference.The 2013 ABIC, held in September in Calgary, Alberta, was primarily focused on energy and drew about 400 attendees from 23 countries. The 2014 ABIC will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The 2015 event will be held in Melbourne, Australia.

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Conference said the ABIC is expected to provide a significant economic boost to the Fargo metro. “This is a huge win for us,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of conference we like to bring here.”

He speculated that the conference could also result in new businesses establishing in Fargo.

For more information on the ABIC, visit www.abic.ca.

 

 

 

 

Pride of Dakota enrolls 500th member company

Pride of Dakota, the flagship marketing program of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, recently passed a major milestone, when The Master’s Hand, owned and operated by Sam Coleman, Mandan, became its 500th member company.

 

For more on Pride of Dakota, visit http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/12117/group/Agriculture/