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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

craig whitneyheadshot
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.

Facts About Fargo’s Air Service

November 2nd, 2016 by Amanda Hofland



Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Gate City Bank

November 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

There are many great places to work in the metro, but the winner of our Young Professionals Best Place to Work award believes in not just investing in the young professionals in the workplace, but also creating a better way of life. In fact, at Gate City Bank, 65% of the full-time employees in the region are young professionals!

gate city bank

A strong culture and robust benefits package that includes a wellness program, health club credits, a work-life balance assistance program, paid maternity and paternity leaves, discounted personal loans and mortgages and more are just some of the ways Gate City Bank invests in its younger workforce. And it all starts at the top.

Chairman, President and CEO Steve Swiontek is the biggest advocate for culture at Gate City Bank. He encourages employees to be leaders and empowers them to make a difference in their communities.

Volunteerism is a part of this culture, and Gate City Bank encourages employees to volunteer on company time without a limit. In 2015, they volunteered over 11,700 hours, and philanthropic giving totaled $1.7 million for over 360 organizations.

Another way they give back is through their new BetterLife™ Student Loan program, which was launched in November 2015. This unique student loan program boasts no fees and a 1% APR. It is designed to help student loan monthly payments be more affordable so college graduates can purchase a home.

“By investing in college graduates, we are building our local economy and increasing home ownership,” explained Kevin Hanson, director of lending. “Our program is helping make the dream of owning a home a reality by breaking down barriers for college graduates who want to purchase a home.”

Shortly before, Gate City Bank also started My School Spirit Card program in which individuals can express their school spirit with their own My School Spirit ATM and Check Card. With every card ordered, Gate City Bank donates $5 to the designated school. Since it started, they have donated over $16,000.


Low turnover and employee longevity suggests that the workforce at Gate City Bank believes in the work the company does. Gate City Bank believes that an open environment is key to open communication. For instance, Swiontek often treats employees to lunch meetings to discuss their ideas, and the company works with employees on career development plans and advancement opportunities.

To give back and encourage creativity, they incorporate fun days into every week where employees can dress up with a theme, play games, hold potlucks and celebrate fun holidays.

They also make sure to shower employees with appreciation and celebrate their successes. After winning Prairie Business Magazine’s 50 Best Places to Work three years in a row, they celebrated with five days of fun that included lunch, treats, games and gifts. And after a successful year in 2015, all employees got an extra four days of PTO.

“It is our expectation that we provide the highest standard of service internally as we assist young professionals in showcasing their talents and empowering their skills,” said Amanda Torok, culture and engagement strategist.

Going forward, you can expect Gate City Bank to continue their mission of providing a welcoming atmosphere and a commitment to making the lives of customers and employees better by investing in them and their communities For a Better Way of Life®.

The Bank’s Beginnings

Gate City Bank started in 1923 with only eight employees in downtown Fargo. After 93 years of service, they continue to be a hometown bank with 36 locations, over 600 employees and $1.9 billion in assets.


YEA! is Underway! Welcome to the 2016-17 Class

November 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Last month we told you about our recruiting efforts in area schools and the warm welcome our Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program coordinator, Katie Ralston, received from school administrators, teachers, counselors and students. This month, we can’t believe we are announcing that we have a FULL class! YEA!, Inc. sets a maximum class size of 24 students for each local program and we are thrilled to have met that goal in our second year. We have students in grades 6 through 12 from all three communities and the surrounding area, attending public and private schools. These students exemplify what it means to be young entrepreneurs and we are looking forward to watching them develop their ideas over the course of this program.

On October 17, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Class of 2017 and their parents met for the first time at an orientation to learn about what their year in YEA! would look like. Special guests who joined in on the evening were Craig Whitney, NDSU President Dean Bresciani, Dr. Scott Beaulier, Dean of the College of Business at NDSU, Dan Hurder from Great Plains Hospitality and Jim Hambrick from Cornerstone Bank, the Presenting Sponsor for YEA!. The YEA! class is meeting at NDSU’s Barry Hall for 10 weeks before moving to MSUM’s Center for Business and Concordia College’s Grant Center to finish off the year.

In addition to starting the business brainstorming process in October, students had the opportunity to tour Fargo Jet Center. They loved what they saw and were inspired to be creative in the development of their own businesses and social movements. This month, students will continue to develop their ideas, learn business plan basics and will start to conduct market research. By next month, each student will finalize his/her business idea and will be preparing to dive into the process of writing a business plan!

We are excited to have Josh Teigen, president and CEO at Crossfox Innovation and president and CFO at Protosthetics, back on board as our YEA! instructor this year. Teigen, a young entrepreneur himself, is an excellent resource for YEA! students as he can help them navigate their way through the business development and launch process that he has been through himself. Teigen believes businesses launched through YEA! will have a positive economic and social impact on the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo community–and we think he’s right!


Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for—meet the Young Entrepreneurs Academy class of 2016-17!

YEA class headshots

Assraa Al-abase, Cheney Middle School

Cooper Chwialkowski, West Fargo High School

Connor Dahlvang, Davies High School

Josh Gronneberg, Davies High School

Ciarra Hanson, Liberty Middle School

Fardosa Hassan, West Fargo High School

Logan Heger, Cheney Middle School

Habiba Heshmat, Davies High School

Taranvir Johal, Oak Grove High School

John Johnson, Cheney Middle School

Ameena Jovonovich, Fargo North High

Max Lavitschke, West Fargo High School

Joanna Lin, Davies High School

Bridget McManamon, Moorhead High School

Chase Monson, Fargo South High

Chase Ohren, Cheney Middle School

Evan Ohren, Cheney Middle School

Tanner Paler, West Fargo High School

Derek Phelps, Davies High School

Grant Puckett, Moorhead High School

Anushka Sikdar, Cheney Middle School

Lauren Steinhauer, Cheney Middle School


It’s Time to Get It Done!

November 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

craig whitneyheadshot

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the recent decision by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to deny a permit for a dam on the Red River; a dam that is a major component of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Project. This decision not only flies in the face of facts gathered by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers over an eight-year period, but is contrary to the DNR’s own Environmental Impact Study of the Diversion.

The Minnesota DNR’s answer to devastating floods that affect both sides of the Red River of the North is sandbags. Most of us remember the economic and emotional toll that sandbagging and other methods took in the years we had major flooding, particularly the near catastrophe in 2009.

The good news is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dedicated to moving forward and getting the project done, and will shortly award its first construction contract. The Corps believes, and our business community agrees, that they have chosen the right project that will guarantee that a major flood will be as manageable as it now is for our neighbors in Grand Forks and Winnipeg. In fact, Manitoba estimates that since 1968, their Red River Floodway has prevented more than $40 billion in flood damage in Winnipeg.

We are on the verge of the right funding to get that same protection here. With no new taxes, we can make the difference needed to pay for the F-M Diversion in the fairest way possible.

By extending sales taxes for both the City of Fargo and Cass County, we not only include those who will benefit from the Diversion today, but future generations who will benefit most from it down the line. And if the project is paid for before 2084, the taxes will expire.


The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted to support another measure across the river: the Clay County half-cent sales tax for a new regional law enforcement center. This joint law enforcement center meets needs that are currently not being met for the Clay County Sheriff’s office and Moorhead Police Department.

Their existing facility does not meet the state’s standard requirements and is deemed ineffective for rehabilitation as the oldest jail in the state of Minnesota. The construction of a new correctional facility will address the housing needs of inmates and provide necessary treatment to violators while creating a safe environment for inmates and staff.

Public safety is a top priority to a thriving metro, and we are proud to support the half-cent sales tax to provide the funds necessary to keep our community safe.

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Craig Whitney
The Chamber


AE2S: Keeping the Community Out of Hot Water

October 3rd, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Next time you turn on the tap, think of AE2S. This engineering firm quite simply, keeps the water running.

More specifically, Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, or AE2S for short, focuses on providing water expertise for the greater good of the community. From drinking water to wastewater, the AE2S team is a solutions provider, doing master planning, capital improvement, study and reporting, surveying, mapping, site development and more.

Fargo WTP construction observation

This also includes specialized environmental engineering consulting to clients throughout the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain region, as well as assistance with funding assistance, public information, marketing and information technology.

This busy group was first founded in 1991 in Grand Forks by Steve Burian and Charlie Vein. AE2S currently has 17 offices in six states and 44 employees in its Fargo and Moorhead offices.

Since then, there is no doubt the organization has been integral to our community in many ways. You can credit the AE2S team for the great quality of Fargo’s drinking water as well as the project that recently delivered Fargo water to West Fargo residents.

Their work has also helped protect our cities from recent floods. They’re extensively involved in the Fargo Water Treatment Plant improvements and expansion, the F-M Area Diversion, and the Red River Valley Water Supply projects.

Eric Dodds, PE, says this is one of the reasons the work is so rewarding. “All of these projects have a community aspect to them,” he said. “They touch the lives of everyone across the community. It’s unique, fun, challenging, and so important.”

construction site 2

One of AE2S’ hallmarks is “extreme client service,” meaning they intend to provide service so outstanding that their clients will think of them as an extension of their own staff. “If our clients are happy, if we’re responsive to their needs and exceed their expectations, it means we can provide more services,” Dodds said. “That culture is paramount here, and within our team, it means that we can lean on each other, collaborate and build trust.”

AE2S gives back to our community in many ways, from its leaders serving on steering committees and boards, to participation in fundraisers and community events. They participate in the Matthew’s Voice Project, which provides supplies to area high school students in need, pay the water bill for a couple months for struggling individuals, and sponsor STEM programs in the schools.

There are many faces at AE2S working behind the scenes, but folks like Daron Selvig, Heather Syverson, Tammy Jo Anderson Taft and Rocky Schneider are able to publicly represent the company by advocating for the issues and educating the community. Schneider has played an integral role in our own Public Affairs committee.

For the past several years, AE2S has been recognized by PSMJ with the Circle of Excellence Award, and by CE News as a “Best Firm to Work For” due to their outstanding benefit package and low employee turnover. AE2S’ projects also win Excellence Awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies on an annual basis.

AE2S wants you to know that they appreciate the business community’s support of the Diversion and understanding of the importance of good infrastructure.

In short, you can always count on AE2S to keep our community out of hot water … but you can also count on them to keep that hot water running and keep up with community growth.


It’s Election Season!

October 3rd, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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It’s that time of year again! We are in the midst of campaign season, gearing up for what is sure to be a historic election. Between TV commercials and your mailbox filling up with advertisements, it’s hard to miss the importance of what will be happening on November 8. Between the presidential election, congressional races and legislative candidates all the way down to local measures, your ballot is sure to be full next month.

I encourage you to reach out to the candidates you could be voting for and get your questions answered. Find out where they stand on issues important to you and make an educated decision on the candidates for whom you will cast your vote.

When it comes to legislative races in Cass and Clay counties, I invite you to attend our Legislative Candidate Cracker Barrel on Tuesday, October 18 at 3:30 p.m. at the Hjemkomst Center. Candidates from Cass County Districts 16, 22, 44 and 46 have been invited to participate along with Clay County District 4 candidates. A cracker barrel style event provides attendees and candidates a way to have informal discussion and interaction on topics versus a formal debate.

A specific measure that will be on everyone’s ballot is the half cent sales tax extension vote in the city of Fargo and in Cass County. The Chamber is a firm supporter of the Fargo Moorhead Diversion Project, and we ask all of our members to please vote “yes” on this extremely important vote. Extending the half cent sales tax is the fairest way to properly fund a project that is so necessary for our region.

It must be made clear that voting “yes” will NOT raise any taxes, and will only extend the tax until the completion of the project and it is fully paid for.

It’s time to get this done, and approving both of these extensions will do just that.


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Craig Whitney
The Chamber


Small Business Saturday: November 26!

October 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

SS_Logo_Clean_BlueLaunched in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday® is dedicated to encouraging customers to get out and shop at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s since grown into a much larger movement, with many businesses and communities embracing the concept, offering specialized shopping experiences to show support of local goods and business.

This year, Small Business Saturday will fall on November 26.

Sign up to be a Neighborhood Champion by November 11 at ShopSmall.com.

Becoming a Neighborhood Champion means you can help raise awareness and support for local small businesses in your community. Looking for ideas and inspiration to get started? As a Neighborhood Champion, you will receive monthly emails with resources leading up to the day to help plan your Small Business Saturday event. You will also receive a Small Business Saturday Event Kit (while available) with Shop Small merchandise, including items like bags, balloons and more to support your activities.

There are many Chamber-member businesses, large and small, that offer outstanding products and services and work hard to better the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo community. We hope you will consider shopping local in any of these merchants this holiday season.


Are you a small business looking for help advertising your Small Business Saturday specials? We want to help! Share your deals and plans with us by emailing thebridge@fmwfchamber.com, and we’ll promote them on our website and on social media!

Chamber Member Specials on November 26

Dakota Chrysler Center / DCC Pre Owned: Three drawings for 31 bags with miscellaneous items, as well as a $300 gift card for anyone who purchases a vehicle of $4,000 or more.

McCulley Optix Gallery: $50 off glasses and sunglasses and FREE LENSES on any pair after the first pair (for the same patient, see optician for details).

Plains Art Museum – The Store: Museum members get 20% off all store purchases. Valid 11/25 through 12/24.

Red Banty Boutique: 30% off your total purchase, plus door prizes and a drawing for a $50 gift card. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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