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2017 Economic Outlook Forum

February 15th, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

This year’s Economic Outlook Forum once again welcomed top national economist Dr. Jim Paulsen, who presented to nearly 600 attendees about national and global economic trends. But first, Marshall Albright of Cass County Electric, the event’s presenting sponsor, kicked off the afternoon with a brief welcome to attendees.

Jim Paulsen economic outlook forum

Then, Scott Green, market president at Starion Bank, shared the results of the recent FMWF Business Conditions Survey, in which Chamber member companies provided feedback about how the economy has affected their business. He compared this year’s results to prior years, to illustrate any changes in local economic trends.

Green noted that the trend seemed to be optimism and stability among businesses in our region.

  • The top factor positively affecting performance was domestic sales increase, followed by a strong state economy.
  • The top factor negatively affecting performance was a domestic sales shortfall, followed by higher operating costs.
  • Regionally, most of us (58%) are optimistic about 2017 compared to the previous year.
  • The #1 factor expected to adversely impact business in the next 12 months was difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified employees. Note that this result has not changed since 2013.
  • Most survey responders also felt that our infrastructure is adequate for future expansion (73% this year said yes, versus only 55% last year). Of those that said it is not adequate, expansion of affordable housing was the top improvement to be made.

“In summary, we are fortunate to live in a vibrant community, but it does present challenges. Challenges that overall we can certainly handle,” Green closed with.


Next, Paulsen took the stage and focused much of his presentation on the current global economic recovery, which he noted was in its eighth year, making it the longest one ever. That’s not to say a long recovery is a bad thing, though, as the silver lining is that speed kills recovery. He also noted that this recovery is the only one in U.S. history without confidence. “We’re overscared, but I think that’s about to change,” he said.

Another theme Paulsen recognized was that the U.S. has returned to full employment, which can change the nature of our recovery going forward. He also says that the housing sector is in really strong shape, and in the business sector, corporate debt to profit ratio is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.

Millennials play an important part in our recovery, too, and a large driver of growth. Employment among millennials is growing more than twice as fast as the national average. “You’ve got a group that is at the epicenter of incoming job creation, their confidence is up, and they’re at the point of starting to form households,” he said.

A favorite moment for many attendees was Paulsen saying that we’re not in a bear market, nor a bull market, but rather, a bunny market – “one that hops around a lot and doesn’t go very far.”

Overall, Paulsen presented optimism for our economy, and perfectly weaved humor into his points. We appreciate his willingness to come back for the second year, and we once again thank all of our sponsors for making this event possible.

Check out some of our favorite Tweets from the event!


Member Profile: Gateway Chevrolet Cadillac

February 1st, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

There’s more to Gateway Chevrolet Cadillac in Fargo than just cars – though those are certainly their specialty. You can also find complimentary coffee & cookies, exemplary customer service and an experienced service center throughout all of their three locations.

Gateway Chevrolet is located on 38th Street in Fargo, right next door to Gateway Hyundai Nissan. Across town, they also have Gateway Clearance Center and a Collision Center off of University Drive.

gateway cole and sather

Owner Brad Sather has been in the car business since 1977 and bought Gateway Chevrolet in 2000, followed by Hyundai Nissan in 2008.

Both Sather and General Sales Manager Jon Cole maintain that what sets Gateway apart is its customer service. “Where the employee meets the customer, that’s the defining moment. We’ve got great employees, and we strive for a great customer experience,” Sather said.

Cole also says Gateway is simply a fun place to work with an open-door policy for all. After all, “Without happy employees, you can’t have happy customers,” he said.

While they strive for the best, working with such a large volume of customers means there will be an inevitable flub. “Are we going to stub our toe? Absolutely,” Sather said. “But it’s what you do when you have one and how you fix the problem that defines you.”

One interesting trend Sather has observed throughout his years in the business is that nowadays, customers are more informed thanks to the Internet. He views this as a good thing, as it means customers come in already knowing details about the vehicles, have compared prices and read reviews. Because that work is largely already done, it allows his team more time to focus on providing a great experience and building a relationship.

That price component is a big deal to Gateway though, and Cole starts every day using a tool that compares their cars to others on the Internet. His goal: To have the top 5% best priced vehicles in a 250-mile radius. And often that does mean making price adjustments to the vehicles on their lot.

Something else unique to car sales is that everything is tracked, from registrations from the manufacturer to satisfaction surveys from the factory. “We’re probably the most critiqued industry in the world,” Sather said. “There’s no other business like the car business, from the standpoint of the manufacturers’ participation in the daily ongoings of the business.”

While one way Gateway drives the community forward is by literally helping customers drive away, they also invest in community causes that help people. One example is their work with BIG 98.7’s Christmas Wish, in which they provide funds to support families in need. They also do a lot of work supporting breast cancer awareness.

gateway service

Gateway by the numbers

75,000: Customers served last year
900: Average cars on the lot at a time
223: Employees across all locations
100: Average oil changes a day in the service center
50-60: Percentage of repeat and referred customers

What is the Big 98.7 Christmas Wish?

The purpose of Christmas Wish is to provide families in need in our community with goods, services or monetary gifts. For some families, this may mean paying an overdue utility bill, a set of snow, baby items or food. This program attempts to make the holiday season a bit brighter for those families who have fallen on hard times due to illness, layoffs, financial difficulties or other trying circumstances.


It May Be Cold, but My Heart is Warm

February 1st, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

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Every year around mid-January, something special happens. Our printer works overtime, boxes and piles of papers start appearing, our new Directories and Public Policy Guides arrive, and it can only mean one thing: Operation Thank You is near.

As our staff gathers the materials for our new member packets, I am able to witness a true camaraderie as we prepare for this busy – and important – event. It’s one of our busiest times for Chamber volunteers, and especially for our Ambassadors and staff, where all hands are on deck.

What makes Operation Thank You so important is not what is inside each member packet (though we are awfully proud of the work that went into making each of those items), but what we are able to do because of those packets. With over 2,100 businesses that are members of the Chamber, it is difficult to be able to get to know each company throughout the calendar year. But because of Operation Thank You, we get the chance to knock on your doors, say hello and visit for a moment.

These personal, face-to-face interactions are what we live for. It provides an opportunity to thank our members for their support, and to remind them of the benefits included with their membership. It allows us to learn about what they do and find out how we can support them even better. That’s at the heart of why we exist: to engage with and advocate for the businesses that make up our community.

So when that volunteer showed up at your door, I hope you were able to take a moment to visit with that person. If you didn’t, or if you have more to share, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of us – whether a committee member, ambassador, Chamber staff member or myself personally. We want to build relationships, because great people and great businesses like you are the reason we are here. And for that, I cannot say THANK YOU enough.

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Craig Whitney
The Chamber


What We Learned at State of the Cities 2017

January 12th, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

This year’s State of the Cities was an exciting celebration of all our metro cities’ growth, development, initiatives and collaboration. With so much great news and plans coming from each community, spirits were high and laughs were many as we discussed the issues with our mayors. Although the announcements were largely positive, there were moments to recognize recent tough times, including the loss of police officer Jason Moszer and the opioid crisis.

Thank you to Dave Sederquist from Xcel Energy, who provided opening remarks as presenting sponsor, and to KFGO’s Joel Heitkamp for serving as emcee.


Mayor Chad Olson shared new developments Dilworth saw in 2016:

  • Residential developments expanded their borders to the East to provide more single-family homes
  • A proposal to expand their borders to the North, which would include a new park plan
  • Improved infrastructure, including a remodeled community center that held events 210 out of 365 days last year, and a funding structure to maintain roads without a tax
  • Hiring 1 new police officer — the first in 11 years — and the addition of body cams for the police force that a study says decreases false reporting by 93%
  • Walmart added a training facility, which now serves as a regional training site
  • Approval on the 34th Street bridge project, a cooperation between Dilworth and Moorhead


Mayor Del Rae Williams showed a new video called “I’m from Moorhead,” and shared updates from last year.

  • Building valuations doubled from 2015
  • Public art increased
  • The diverging diamond on 8th Street was completed
  • Two schools broke ground
  • Parks were expanded and many homes came out of FEMA’s 100-year plan
  • Moorhead Business Association held the first-ever Bridge Bash

New plans for 2017 include:

  • More expansions for Moorhead businesses
  • Moorhead Economic Development Authority will gain interns to work on special projects
  • Involving the community residents in future planning and arts offerings
  • Work will be held for MB Johnson park, and Heritage Garden amphitheater will begin programming
  • No-sort recycling will begin in July
  • Two new schools will open, and Concordia will complete a science building
  • We’ll see a new jail and law enforcement center


Mayor Tim Mahoney talked about news from the city of Fargo.

  • A “Far More” slogan was introduced to the logo and marketing efforts
  • Drinking water was sold to West Fargo in an agreement, and was completed ahead of schedule
  • A sales tax extension vote was approved to fund the F-M Diversion, and several in-town flood projects were completed
  • The downtown fire station was renovated and reopened with a museum and educational center
  • Construction started on an additional downtown parking structure
  • 13th Avenue saw a major road construction project

The mayor’s long-term objectives for his staff include a focus on permanent flood protection, water and wastewater regionalization, Main Street initiatives, reliable and sustainable neighborhoods and smart growth. He also announced that single-sort recycling is coming soon, and work on a new City Hall continues.

West Fargo

Mayor Rich Mattern touched on updates from our westernmost city.

  • The new Rustad Recreation Center opened, and schools broke ground on a new hockey rink and swimming facility
  • More than 265 housing units were built last year
  • One new school was opened
  • One of two new downtown blocks began redevelopment
  • Many new businesses opened and expanded
  • Residents received new drinking water, courtesy of the city of Fargo

Polling Results

We also surveyed attendees to see their thoughts on some of the most pressing city issues. The results are as follows.

Question 1

Q1 results

Question 2

Q2 results

Question 3

Q3 results


Missed the event or want to rewatch the mayors’ videos?

Also, check out this great recap from The Forum! F-M mayors highlight collegiality in State of the Cities addresses

Catch the rebroadcast on the city’s public access channel at these times:

Friday Jan. 20 @ 10 a.m.
Saturday Jan. 21 @ 7:30 p.m.
Monday Jan. 23 @ 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday Jan. 24 @ 6 p.m.

It will also be rebroadcast various other times thereafter.

Check out these Tweets from attendees!


2016-17 Leadership Class Unveils Community Change Initiatives

January 3rd, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo community is known for many things, but two qualities that we take the most pride in are our innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, which is exactly why the LFMWF class spent their December session focusing on these topics. Graciously hosted at the FARGODOME, we started our day off flexing the innovative parts of our brains with Max Kringen, CEO of Tellwell. He guided us through interactive activities that were not only entertaining, but also allowed the participants to think creatively to solve a new problem and think about things in creative ways – skills that are imperative to being a successful leader.

Chamber Leadership group

We switched gears to entrepreneurship in the afternoon where we heard from Katie Ralston, The Chamber, on the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Next came a panel of local entrepreneurs who shared how they are thinking big. Dan Hurder, Great Plains Hospitality, Paula Klein, Smartt Interior Construction, Nathan Severson, Severson, Wogsland & Liebl PC and Andy Maier, Maier Farms, shared their entrepreneurial stories and answered questions from the class on taking the leap, building a customer base, creating a team of employees and what success really means to them.

To finish the day, we headed downtown to sample a few of Proof Artisan Distillers locally made beverages.

Special thanks to Rob Sobolik of the FARGODOME for providing the tour of the facility.

2016-17 Community Change Initiatives

One major component of the Leadership class is for groups to collaborate on Community Change Initiative projects. Check out what this year’s participants have been busy working on, and how it will help the metro below!


Home for Good

Donna Block, Enclave; Erik Stenehjem, First International Bank and Trust; Jenna Studt, Flint Group; Jordan Cook, Choice Financial; Rob Riness, Mortenson Construction

The focus of our initiative is to help those who are vulnerable to being homeless find a “home for good.” We will work on bridging the gap from social/non-profit organizations that focus on homelessness and the housing industry. We will create a presentation and panel for the Greater Red River Valley Apartment Association to educate the property management companies on the benefits of working with the FM Homeless Coalition. In the presentation, we will ask for those interested to join a network of those committed to reducing homelessness in the F-M area. Our goal is to also provide a pamphlet as a resource to those in the systems of jail or treatment centers that would provide contacts from different property management companies and give them hope of finding their home for good.


Foster Kids

Chad Brousseau, Cass County Electric Cooperative; Chelsey Agather, Discovery Benefits; Dave Bietz, Fargo Park District; Jennifer Swenson, TMI Hospitality; Sam Wheeldon, John Deere Electronic Solutions; Tim Stokka, Gate City Bank

Our project is focused on foster children and the families that care for and love them. We have been meeting with foster parents, non-profit groups, and government organizations on what the needs are for these families and what is currently provided. We are exploring a couple of avenues where a need has been identified.

The first would be to provide a duffle bag that the children can put their belongings into when they are removed from the home. This bag could also contain clothing items, socks and underwear, toys, a blanket, toiletries, etc. The second need is a refresh of the Cass County visitation room where the children visit their birth families, and provide new paint, furnishings, games and toys.

Our goal over the next two weeks is to decide where we can make the most impact and successfully help the children and families.


Team Go Green

Adam Ruud, Houston Engineering; Andy Erickson, Kinetic Leasing, Inc.; Kelly Napoli, Obermiller Nelson Engineering, Inc.; Kelsey Erbes, Eide Bailly LLP; Kevin Mehrer, Boy Scouts of America; Matt Gruchalla, Bell Bank

Team Go Green will support the city of Fargo in marketing and informing city residents of the upcoming conversion to single-sort recycling. Single-sort recycling is a system in which all paper fibers, plastics, metals and other containers are mixed in one collection truck, rather than having to be handled separately. Single-sort recycling will take place in the city of Fargo starting in July 2017. Team Go Green will collaborate with the city in their effort of educating Fargo residents of this conversion through town hall forums, billboards, social media, literature and other forms of communication.


Experience F-M

Amanda Even, Dress for Success Red River Valley; Amanda Maslowski, U.S. Bank; Caitlin Stoecker, The Village Family Service Center; Chantel Carlson, United Way of Cass-Clay; Mitch Johnson, Minnesota State University Moorhead

We learned through our research that the Fargo-Moorhead area currently retains on average 30% of graduates from the three major institutions: Concordia, MSUM and NDSU. The Regional Workforce Study projects over 30,000 job openings in the area in the next five years. There is a huge opportunity to leverage the 70% of students that leave our community post-graduation. Our goal is to increase the area workforce by retaining local higher-education students through community engagement. Our objectives include creating an enrollment-based program for students, presenting them with meaningful volunteering and community-based opportunities and providing a communication platform for the group to disseminate and receive information. We are excited to partner with local community organizations and schools to kick off this program in 2017.


The World’s Table

Allyson Peterson, NDSU Development Foundation; Cortnee Jensen, Mind Shift; Maria Steen, Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership; Nikki Berglund, Bernie’s Wine & Liquors/Luna Fargo; Sarah Arntson, Dakota Medical Foundation; Teran Germscheid, Wimmer’s Diamonds

The World’s Table project aims to unite our community through one thing we all love: food. We are inviting leaders of various New American communities as well as long-time FMWF residents, to come together in the dining room. We’ll share a meal, experience cultural foods and get comfortable with each other in a safe environment. Hosts at each table will guide and encourage conversation and help develop relationships between groups of people – neighbors who live and work in the same cities but in different worlds – whose paths may not otherwise cross. We believe these connections will bring mutual benefits to everyone at the table, as well as the community at large. We strive to build bridges, one plate at a time.


Financial Planning

Jamie Grant, Microsoft; Kurt Lysne, Moore Engineering, Inc.; Paul Jarvis, United Capital; Shane Cullen, Park Company Realtor; Thomas Loegering, Wanzek; Toby Krone, Moorhead Police Department

Our CCI project is designed to provide financial training from well-qualified professionals to citizens in our area. Recognizing that financial planning is essential but often inaccessible, our goal is to educate community members on basic finance-related topics such as budgeting, estate planning, retirement, insurance, home buying and others. We will be offering up to six different classes during this one-day event with a keynote speaker to be determined. Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, along with other professionals, will be available for one-on-one advice on a variety of topics, and best of all, it’s free and there are no strings attached. Volunteering financial planners will not sell products or services, give out business cards or follow up with participants after the event. The financial planning day event will work in partnership with the Foundation for Financial planning, a non-profit organization specializing in pro bono financial planning.  The event is set to take place in April.


Project ‘Welcome Home’

Brandon Haney, Midco; Jenna Frost, American Crystal Sugar Company; Kayla Gefroh; Mark Honzay, JLG Architects; Melissa Rystad, Rasmussen College; Vanessa Lystad, Vogel Law Firm

This exciting project is designed to help at least 10 families in 2017 transition into permanent housing. Our goal is to gather donations and prepare kits for families so they have all the necessary supplies needed for their new home. These kits will include basic needs like toilet paper, shower curtains, sheets and kitchen utensils. We are even trying to provide bigger items like a mattress or small couch. Barb Grabar, public relations administrator at Fraser, Ltd., has been a big help in defining our project and will help us place these kits in the next year. We feel very fortunate to be able to support this need in our community.


Member Profile: Healing Arts Chiropractic

January 2nd, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

healing arts chiropractic doctorsIf there’s one thing Healing Arts Chiropractic wants you to know, it’s that there is hope. If you have chronic pain, it’s not something you have to live with.

The team there has success story after success story, and the positive changes they’ve been able to make for their clients’ lives is nothing short of amazing. “That’s what chiropractic can do for you,” Melanie Paape, operations manager, said. “It’s not just a back pain kind of thing. Chiropractic keeps your body well. Sometimes we’ve even been able to fix things we didn’t know were wrong.”

One client there was a 60-year-old woman in a wheelchair who doctors said would never walk again. After visits to their office, she eventually was able to use a walker, and now she can walk with a cane.

Healing Arts truly believes in the work they do for the health of people of all ages, and their inclusive approach to care is likely why they’ve grown so popular—and won the People’s Choice Award at last year’s ChamberChoice luncheon.

President Dr. Kevin Paape first founded it in 2003 after practicing chiropractic with his father in Bismarck. Their clinic has seen a steady increase in the number of patients, growing on average by 11% over the last three years. They have also gone from 900 square feet with 1 doctor and 1 part-time employee to over 3,000 square feet, 3 doctors, 8 full-time staff and several part-time employees.

adjustmentThe team strives to give all patients a 5-star service experience. They have even been honored with the prestigious 5 star office award from Integrity Doctors.

Excellent reviews from customers show that Healing Arts Chiropractic is doing a great job. Consistent feedback mentions their above-and-beyond care, and friendly and knowledgeable staff.

One of Dr. Paape’s goals is to bring more chiropractic awareness to the community. They want 80% of the population to be reached with chiropractic care, and they work with other practitioners to help realize that goal. “We see the value of everyone that works in this area,” he said. “Everyone knows you should go to the dentist to keep your teeth healthy. Our mission is to make sure everyone understands that it is as important to maintain your spine so that you can continue to enjoy life.”

Aside from the education component of their public outreach, Healing Arts gives back to the community through organizations like Hope Inc., Firstlink, Brave Hearts for Kids, Cystic Fibrosis and more. Their employees are encouraged to volunteer, and they often allow students to come in and job shadow.

Over the next three years, they have more plans for growth, including adding more doctors, more employees, and even new locations.


An Update on the State from Drew Wrigley

January 2nd, 2017 by Amanda Hofland

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Last month, we hosted North Dakota’s now former Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley for a special presentation. Wrigley stopped by The Chamber’s Premier Partner holiday social for a private address just two days before his final day in the office. He shared an overview of the state’s accomplishments during his term and offered commentary on what he’s observed in western North Dakota where the Dakota Access Pipeline is. We had planned to address the topic at an Eggs & Issues event, which had to be rescheduled. Because Wrigley was able to find time in his schedule, we added him to the agenda for this event—one of the year’s special events reserved for our Community Builders, Business Builders and Board of Directors.

Most of the information he shared was largely positive for the state of North Dakota. A state that is the fastest-growing state in America. Average income has increased, making the state a hospitable one for new residents, not to mention seeing through the largest tax cuts in state history and investing in a diversified economy. One major investment was seen in the education sector, including a $30 million college grant program.

One challenge he did address was the need for additional health care providers across the state and the nation.

“Don’t let anyone tell you we’re facing economic dire straits,” he said at one part. “It’s simply not true.”

Switching focus to the DAPL, Wrigley said what is happening is an assault on free enterprise and commerce in this country. The pipeline is an important project not just for America, but for North Dakota as the #2 oil producing state in the nation. The 1,200-mile long pipeline is designed to move oil out of the Bakken—an estimated 5,000 barrels in the most efficient and safest way. The project removes 2,500 tanker trucks from the interstate and 800 rail cars carrying crude oil throughout our communities a day. Wrigley mentioned the accident in Casselton as a wake up call to the importance of this. The state has spent $17 million so far paying for law enforcement officers, the National Guard to be activated and checkpoint corridors.

Wrapping up, Wrigley said the pipeline will be completed and will serve the economy of the state, the safety of the state and will remind people that you can invest in this country without being stopped by politics.

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Craig Whitney
The Chamber


Eric Newell: Entrepreneur of the Year

December 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

As most any entrepreneur knows, with great risk comes great reward, and that is certainly the case for Eric Newell, founder of Stoneridge Software. A long-time Microsoft employee, Newell left in 2012 to start his own business as a Microsoft Dynamics software partner.

Eric Newell presentation

With a passion for business excellence and the drive to better serve the market, he set out to create a company with a great environment and great people. “It had been a dream of mine to start my own business since I was a kid, and the timing worked out well,” Newell said. “When I began Stoneridge Software, it was the right time in my own career development and the right time for my family.”

In the first year, Newell was joined by several Microsoft veterans to form a dream team which helped establish the company in the market quickly. The team defined its core values as Integrity, technical excellence, tenacity, a client centric approach, and enjoying our work which laid a great foundation for the company’s growth.

And things grew quickly. Each year saw more customers, more employees, new divisions and new product releases. Now, just four years later, Stoneridge Software employs 67 team members and has three times as many customers in the area as any other Microsoft Dynamics AX or NAV partner.

And like any great leader, he credits the success of the company to his whole team. “I haven’t seen as capable of a team anywhere that are all moving in the same positive direction,” he said. “We truly do have the best folks in the industry.”

All this growth keeps Newell busy. He travels one or two days a week to their Minneapolis office to meet with clients and the Twin Cities team. When he’s not there, he can be found in meetings, on the phone and conducting job interviews. But he makes sure to balance it all with family time every evening, avoiding work between 5 p.m. and when his daughters go to bed.

Community Involvement

A resident of Barnesville, Minnesota, Newell also chaired the Economic Development Authority for years. Realizing that larger businesses will never move to a small town, he made the conscious decision to change that and inspire economic growth from within. He has now set the example that a successful national business can based in Barnesville.

It’s also important to Newell to give back to his community. “I like being involved in my daughters’ activities, so I started the K-2 basketball program for Barnesville Community Education and have been coaching basketball ever since,” he said. “My wife, Becky, and I run the Whist tournament every year at the annual Potato Days Festival and my friend Leah and I play music at Barnesville’s Purple Goose restaurant once a month or so as well.”

And in 2015, a pay-it-forward initiative at Stoneridge Software allowed his employees to choose charities to donate to, in which 40 different organizations received funds as part of their corporate giving campaign.

Looking Forward

What’s next for Newell and crew? “For the company, we want to be viewed as the best Microsoft Dynamics partner out there,” he said. “We want to be seen as the go-to choice if people are looking at a business solution software in the region. We also want to develop some industry specialization so we can serve some specific industries that haven’t gotten a lot of attention from modern software.”

And personally, Newell says you may just see him as an usher at the Minnesota Twins Spring training facility in Fort Meyers, Florida, in his retirement.

Throughout all his experience, Newell says he’s learned that communication and culture are key to the success of an organization. “It’s important to provide role clarity to your team and provide them the training and knowledge mentoring to make sure that they prosper,” he said. “I’ve also learned that there is always more to learn.”

Advice for the Next Generation

For those looking to become their own boss someday, Newell advises to take your time. “Give yourself a chance to understand what the corporate environment looks like. While you’re there, keep thinking about what you would do if you were in charge. Take all of that and use it as the foundation for what you want to do.”

He says that there are the three key areas necessary to run a business.

1) Day-to-day operation. Understand the financial side of the business and systems that are required to support it.

2) The product or service that you are delivering. You must completely understand it.

3) Sales. It wasn’t until the last few years I worked at Microsoft that I understood everything that was entailed in selling. If I had started the business 10 years earlier, I wouldn’t have understood this valuable portion of the business.

What Newell Wants You to KnowEric with tab

Implementing a new business software solution for your company can really help you grow your business.  Many companies are afraid of instituting this change, but when it’s done right, it doesn’t have to be painful. Think about what it would look like if you didn’t have paper everywhere and people entering data multiple times in four different systems, he says. Think about the return on investment (ROI) that you get by creating efficiency in your business and connecting your business to your clients and suppliers. This leads to responsiveness, better decision making and greater profitability. Putting in a solution that streamlines your business not only helps your company grow, it also really improves the experience your team members have at work.

Beside adrenaline, you can find Eric running on four to five cans of TaB per day.


Another Year for the Books! Thank You.

December 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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The holidays are here, and it gives me pause to reflect on yet another incredible year at The Chamber. A year that could not have been accomplished without so many important people.

First, I would like to thank our Chamber board—a diverse and impressive group made up of highly qualified, engaged and dedicated people committed to the success of the organization and our region. These 16 individuals graciously give their time and talents to better our community.

And to the 15 wonderful staff that I have the honor and privilege to work with every day, I say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your families. This team works tirelessly to give all we can to our members throughout the year, sometimes sacrificing time away from their loved ones.

I especially want to thank our well over 500+ dedicated volunteers. You are the ones that through your dedicated, time and commitment to The Chamber help us spread the word on the work of our organization and the importance of being a part of the region’s largest business association. Thank you!

This year we celebrated many successes! Our events and program grew, and we kicked it off with the largest ever Women Connect, celebrated the first full year of YEA!, enjoyed Shark Tank in March and graduation in May.

In March, we launched our newest and ninth committee on Agribusiness, and in June sent the largest group of military families to our Military Appreciation Night at the RedHawks.

We ended the year strong with our leadership in the campaign to further efforts to secure permanent flood protection for the region, with both Fargo Measure 1 and Cass County Measure 1 gaining approval from voters.

I’d be remiss to not mention Voices of Vision, which we just hosted last month with Robert O’Neill. It’s an honor to hear such inspiring messages on leadership from national figures, and our survey responses indicate that this may have been our best event yet!

None of this would be possible without our over 2,100 members representing 109,000 employees. I’m grateful to have such fine folks support The Chamber, and I look forward to another great year in 2017!

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Craig Whitney
The Chamber


Guest Blog: Breastfeeding Support in the Workplace

November 7th, 2016 by Member Contributor

By Michelle Draxten, Public Health Nutritionist, Fargo Cass Public Health

In 2010, an amendment was made to the Fair Labor Standards Act requiring employers to support their breastfeeding employees. The amendment mandates that employers provide reasonable break time for milk expression and provide a place, other than a restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion, which can be used by mothers to express breast milk.1

The benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are well-known.2 We are learning more and more that businesses also experience benefits when they support their breastfeeding employees.

Fargo Cass Public Health recently embarked on a local initiative to educate employers on the business benefits of supporting breastfeeding employees, as well as to encourage and support employers in developing and implementing their own worksite lactation support program.

Employers who support their breastfeeding employees benefit in the following ways:

  • Reduced employee absenteeism: Breastfed babies tend to be healthier babies and therefore parents are able to be at work instead of at home with a sick child
  • Lower health care costs: Breastfed babies visit the doctor less often and require less prescriptions
  • Lower turnover rates: Employees are more likely to return to work after the birth of their baby if they have a supportive work environment
  • Higher productivity and loyalty: Supported employees feel respected by their employer
  • Positive public relations and enhanced recruitment incentive in the community: Supporting breastfeeding employees improves a company’s image and ability to hire and retain the highest quality employees

Employers who are interested in supporting their breastfeeding employees can easily do so. Think of it as taking a STEP.

     S – support. Support for breastfeeding employees needs to come from staff at all levels (e.g., management, supervisors, colleagues, etc.)

     T – time. Employers should allow a flexible work schedule for moms to express breastmilk at work

     E – education. Education for all staff on the business policy around breastfeeding is essential for effective policy implementation, as well as education/information for the expecting mom on how to appropriately combine work and breastfeeding

     P – private space. Employees need a private, intrusion free space that is not a restroom to express breastmilk

To assure that your business is effectively and appropriately supporting breastfeeding employees, and reaping all of the above mentioned benefits, it is essential to have a breastfeeding policy in place.  A business breastfeeding policy is essential for a variety of reasons.

  1. Having a breastfeeding policy is best practice
  2. Policies are a solidified way to effectively implement change
  3. A breastfeeding policy will assure that mothers will continue to receive support in achieving their breastfeeding goals regardless of leadership

Businesses who support their breastfeeding employees should strongly consider becoming an Infant Friendly Designated Worksite. The designation is a way for North Dakota to recognize businesses who truly support their employees and work-life balance.

Why apply for the Infant Friendly Worksite Designation?

  • The application is online and free
  • Being designated reflects a business’s commitment to supporting breastfeeding employees and their families
  • The designation creates a positive public relations image within the community
  • Designated businesses can use “Infant Friendly” on any promotional or recruitment materials
  • Assures effective implementation of breastfeeding policies
  • Free business recognition by the state of North Dakota

Join these local businesses being recognized as Infant Friendly:

Gate City Bank
North Dakota State University
Discovery Benefits
City of Fargo
West Acres Mall
Tronsgard and Sullivan Dental
Elim Care Center
ManorCare Health Services
Preference Personnel
Town & Country Credit Union
Fargo Jet Center
Weather Modification Inc
Lillestol Research LLC
Eide Bailly LLP

Fargo Cass Public Health is dedicated to encouraging and assisting businesses in their efforts to support their breastfeeding employees, and is a free resource for businesses. If you have any questions about how to become an Infant Friendly designated worksite, are interested in resources or employee education, or would like sample breastfeeding policies, please contact:

Michelle Draxten
Public Health Nutritionist at Fargo Cass Public Health



  1. United States Department of Labor. Wage and Hour Division. Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act – Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision. https://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/Sec7rFLSA_btnm.htm Accessed September 22, 2016.
  2. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Breastfeeding: Why breastfeeding is important. http://womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html Accessed September 22, 2016.
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