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!
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.
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!
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
— YEA Fargo (@FMWFYEA) October 18, 2016
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
Launched 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 email@example.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.
Yesterday, The Chamber’s Sixth Annual Meeting allowed us to honor all our amazing volunteers, recap our year, look ahead, and recognize the 2016 Legacy Leader.
Outgoing board chair Jon Riewer shared our accomplishments from the prior fiscal year, while incoming chair Judd Graham explained our priorities for the next year, which include workforce efforts and advocating for a convention center.
Roger Gilbertson also accepted the Legacy Leader award to a standing ovation after an introduction from former Fargo mayor Bruce Furness.
We want to thank everyone who has volunteered and supported our efforts. It’s been a great year!
To recap, give these videos a watch!
2015-16 Year in Review
2016 Legacy Leader: Roger Gilbertson
Also check out this recap from The Forum: ‘Dr. G’ presented with chamber’s 2016 Legacy Leader award
Check out these Tweets from event attendees!
— Samantha Gust (@FMWFSamantha) September 22, 2016
— Kristi Huber (@UnitedWayKristi) September 22, 2016
— amanda maslowski (@AmandaMaslowski) September 22, 2016
— Kirsten Jensen (@NextKirsten) September 22, 2016
— Jenny Johnson (@jennyj_84) September 22, 2016
— Lake Agassiz HFH (@LakeAgHFH) September 22, 2016
“He managed by wandering around, a key part of leadership.” Yes. Dr. G’s one of the most approachable leaders I’ve worked for. #fmwfam16
— Kirsten Jensen (@NextKirsten) September 22, 2016
— Jessica Thomasson (@lssndjessica) September 22, 2016
— Network Center, Inc. (@NetworkCenter) September 22, 2016
— Midco Sports Network (@MidcoSN) September 22, 2016
By Jon Pederson, Chief Technology Officer, Midco
Our world is changing fast. New technology is driving new perspectives. New innovations appear every day. It’s all happening now. As Midco gets closer to delivering gigabit internet in the Fargo area, you may be asking, “just what I am going to do with a gigabit?”
Midco has partnered with CableLabs, a nonprofit innovation and R&D lab, on gig and other initiatives. In this video, CableLabs offers a thought-provoking vision of the home (and work from home) of the near future. I think you’ll enjoy it.
There’s even more interesting behind-the scenes explanations about really how close to reality some of these technologies are. Check them out at TheNearFuture.Network.
Midco Gig Technology Update
How is Midco Gig going? Since this spring, when Midco ran its first field trial of network technology to prepare us for gig, our network and engineering groups have been working diligently to test the new technology and work out the kinks. We now have our Fargo network infrastructure prepared with the new technology. This month, we’re starting beta testing with a small, select group of Midco customers in Fargo – distributed geographically throughout the metro area.
It’s really exciting, but the main challenge is that it’s hard to get the new modems that enable gigabit speeds without a direct fiber connection. It’s brand new technology, and Midco is on the cutting edge of this deployment. We had been using factory prototypes, and have just received the first production modems.
So what’s so special about these modems? Their underlying DOCSIS 3.1 technology that will enable us to offer a gigabit service to our customers, but more than that, it is a fundamental change that sets the bar for the future. Any new or existing customer who switches to a DOCSIS 3.1 modem will actually get more network “elbow room.” It’s kind of like moving from the slow lane to the fast lane on the highway.
I’ve had a prototype modem in my home for a couple of months now. Performance is solid, and my speed tests are consistently 843 Mbps – and that’s on a Mac that’s more than five years old! Others have been testing at the gigabit max, which is about 940 Mbps.
We look forward to delivering more updates and news on gig in the coming months in the Fargo area, so stay tuned!
About the Author
Jon Pederson oversees construction, engineering and network services – including all core technical systems and infrastructure. He designed and implemented Midco’s internet and digital phone services, and established the network operations center. Pederson was also responsible for creating the first cable modem system in the Upper Midwest. He holds degrees from Southeast Technical Institute and Augustana University. Pederson is an ardent supporter of the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History, and serves on that organization’s board.
Most new insurance agencies would not advise starting with zero clients or prospects and no infrastructure, but that’s exactly what Great North Insurance has done, and quite successfully at that. The agency’s founder, Nick Killoran, wanted a challenge, and with his prior successes in the banking industry, embraced building a new business in a hard market.
Killoran teamed up with Zach Bosh, whom he worked with at Wells Fargo, and they quickly got to work. “I always knew that we were going to open a business; I just didn’t know what type of business it would be,” he said. “When we got to thinking about something that would play on our strengths, that’s when insurance popped up as a way to provide a higher level of service to our clients.”
After just five years, Great North was able to eliminate all start-up costs, and they proudly run a 100% locally owned independent agency.
Like any great leader, Killoran credits his success to the work of the team and high standards in the workplace. “My strong suit is connecting the right people together as a team,” he said. “As far as the heavy lifting and work with our clients, that I attribute to the team. They truly put their best foot forward every single day, which makes it easy to grow as a business when everyone is acting like an owner.”
It’s this great teamwork that has helped Great North Insurance overcome a number of adversities. Killoran believes in hiring for attitude and training for skill, and with his team bringing together diverse backgrounds, they’ve seen incredible growth.
“I have learned to step back, and that took time,” he said. “Hiring the right people is just one step – the rest is getting out of their way.”
Great North Insurance also makes sure to treat every customer the right way. High standards ensure that they provide the best care and attention for all, from the smallest client to the largest client. This customer-centric model has shown in the agency’s satisfaction reviews, where they consistently see high marks.
Outside of their client care, Killoran emphasizes a family-first approach in the workplace and encourages vacations, time with children and volunteerism. By having a close-knit team that can step up and share the workload, it means that no client will ever have to wait to receive assistance.
It also means that the Great North team has flexibility. “Our goal is to provide top notch service which will create a good business,” Killoran said. “But we also need to be a community partner. If we can provide our people the freedom to attend personal events and not feel guilty about being away from the office, it’s so very important.”
Great North even offers VTO (volunteer time off) hours so the team can give back to their community while on the clock. As an organization, they are involved with Junior Achievement, the YWCA of Cass-Clay, the United Way Cass-Clay and the March of Dimes ND Chapter. Killoran and his wife Michelle are even chairing the Signature Chef’s Auction for the March of Dimes later this month on September 22.
It’s evident that Great North Insurance has immense pride for the region in which they work. “I can’t think of a better place to open a business,” Killoran said. “The support has been unbelievable, and people are so willing to help support local business. On every level, it’s fantastic.”
If there’s one thing Killoran wants you to know, it’s the difference between an independent insurance agency and a captive agent. Captive agents can provide an insurance quote from one carrier, whereas independent agencies are typically locally owned businesses that provide multiple options for the client to choose from. The key competitive advantage independent agencies have over captive agents are products from multiple insurance carriers. Nationally recognizable brands like Nationwide, Travelers, Safeco, MetLife and Progressive.
“When you call Great North Insurance, you’re going to get multiple quotes from multiple carriers to ensure you get the best policy and the best value,” he said. “The real difference though is you get local representation through all of it. To me, it’s a win-win.”
What types of insurance does Great North offer?
- Home & Renters
- Multi-Peril Crop/Hail
- and more!