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Events to Educate Voters Amid Election Season

June 1st, 2016 by Tyler Fischbach

craig whitney headshot

Election years are always an exciting time for our communities, states and nation. It’s a time to exercise our democratic right to voice our opinion and be heard. As we begin this election season with a primary election on June 14, I urge you to do your research on candidates and voice your opinion.

Public policy is a strong pillar in the foundation of our Chamber. We aim to provide educational opportunities to our members to ensure they are able to engage with candidates and create the most informed decision. With that being said, we have a few great opportunities for our members to connect with candidates.

On Wednesday, June 1 at 7 p.m., The Chamber in partnership with WDAY, will be holding the North Dakota Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate. The 2016 race for governor is extremely important as the state continues to grow, prosper and face new challenges. The debate will be broadcast live on WDAY’Z Xtra, live streamed on the WDAY website and radio broadcast live on WDAY radio. We encourage Chamber members to tune in and join the conversation online. Limited tickets will be available. Those interested in attending are encouraged to contact the candidates’ campaigns.

Another great opportunity for our members is the City Commission Candidate Cracker Barrel. On Thursday, June 9 at 8 a.m., we will be hosting city commission candidates at the Hjemkomst Center to meet with Chamber members about their visions when it comes to their campaigns for city commissioner seats. Attendees will meet with candidates in a small group setting to encourage discussion on key city policy. Candidates running for Fargo City Commission will be in attendance, and West Fargo City Commission candidates have been invited to participate. All candidates have been asked to fill out a questionnaire prior to the event, and you can find the full results of each of their responses on The Chamber blog. If you are interested in attending the event, you may register on our website at fmwfchamber.com.

We are excited to be able to host these key public policy engagement events for our members and we look forward to continuing to provide an avenue for our members to be engaged in the election process with the candidates that are running. We are committed to providing the best opportunities for members to learn about candidates and about the election process. I invite you to join us for these great events. Thank you for your continued membership.

Craig Whitney
President & CEO
The Chamber


Crowning the 2016 ChamberChoice Winners

May 20th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Earlier today, we were honored to host another year of the ChamberChoice Awards and honor the best of the best organizations in our community. James Cunningham was back for the fourth year as emcee, and once again had everyone laughing throughout the ceremony and on the blue carpet. Tom Dawson and Roger Reierson, representing the event’s presenting sponsors, opened the luncheon in a Charlie Chaplin-inspired video with about 800 people in attendance.

We unveiled the winning businesses—and entrepreneur—in six categories according to our judges’ votes, and named the People’s Choice winner from your own voting prior to the event.

chamberchoice 16 winners

The winners are …

  • Small Business of the Year: Great North Insurance
  • Business of the Year: Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc.
  • Small Not-for-Profit of the Year: Dorothy Day House of Hospitality
  • Not-for-Profit of the Year: Rape & Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Eric Newell – Stoneridge Software
  • Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Gate City Bank
  • People’s Choice Award: Healing Arts Chiropractic

Finalists for the awards were…

  • Small Business of the Year: Matt’s Automotive Service Center and Spotlight Media Inc.
  • Business of the Year: Heritage Homes, LLC and Midco
  • Small Not-for-Profit of the Year: Emergency Food Pantry, Inc. and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
  • Not-for-Profit of the Year: YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties and YWCA Cass Clay
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Nick Killoran, Great North Insurance and Brady Nash, BNG Holdings, Inc.
  • Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Discovery Benefits, Inc. and Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc.

The ChamberChoice Award finalists and winners were selected by a panel of independent judges from the regional business community, who evaluated accomplishments in the areas of business growth, innovation, creativity, community involvement and unique achievements relating to a specific business or industry.

chamberchoice crowd

Congrats to everyone, and thank you to everyone that helped make this event possible. It was another incredible time!

Click HERE to view our photo album from the event on Facebook.

Check out some of these Tweets from event attendees!

What was your favorite part of the event? Please share with us in the comments below or on social media using hashtag #ChamberChoice16


Technology and Training Intersect at May Eggs & Issues

May 5th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland


At the May Eggs & Issues event, the topics of technology, workforce, history and higher education merged into one fascinating discussion. North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott presented, and we were joined by Interim UND President Ed Schafer, NDSU President Dean Bresciani and NDSCS President John Richman for commentary.

Hagerott engaged attendees with some history and a framework to start the discussion. Referencing Navy research, he says the world is splitting into three realms – human-centered activity, the integration of human and machine, and autonomous robotic machines, in which there is tremendous competition among companies and countries for the latter. Hagerott elaborated on how each realm evolved and overlapped, and further, how each affects major industries such as agriculture, energy, the military and more.

He also said that two macro events of historic proportions are happening right now: the revolution of robots and UAS, and big data. “These are two epic events, on which North Dakota is incredibly well-positioned to capitalize.”

In other exciting news for these innovations and our region, president Obama has tentatively proposed a $3.9 billion research grant related to unmanned vehicles that would start in North Dakota on Highway 83.

For more on this topic, the chancellor suggested watching this YouTube video:


From there, the three college presidents took the stage to provide commentary on how their institutions are involved in this tech shift and how it affects the Red River Valley.

“What we’re talking about here is not compliance, but developing the ethics of universities,” Schafer said. “We’re talking about building people that come out of our universities … so that it betters our administration, our economy and culture.”

EIMay_044_SmallRichman spoke on the two-year schools’ role in all of this innovation, tying it back to our region’s workforce, of which he said there is a massive critical need. For every graduate that NDSU or UND puts out, three to five techs are needed to support the work of each of their engineers. And with the tremendous growth projected in each of our region’s school districts, the colleges need to be ready to train those workers.

“Any study you look at today will tell you that you cannot have a productive society without a 12th grade education,” Richman said. It used to be 1-8 in the old days, which became k-12, and now it’s p-14 that is the educational limit to be a productive member of society.

Richman put out a call to policymakers to put more funding toward education so the system can be better aligned to support growth. He also spoke on the importance of all the region’s education systems working together to align curriculum to best prepare and train students for this workforce, as well as having one center for the current workforce to continue their education and be upskilled. “If you’re really serious about moving the socio-economic position of this region, we need to do that. We’ve talked about it long enough.”

Check out some of these Tweets from event attendees!

Thank you to all our speakers, sponsors, attendees and the Courtyard. It was another fantastic event!


Now’s Not the Time to Pause the F-M Diversion

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

craig whitney headshot As a chamber of commerce, it is critical for us to evaluate our priorities on a regular basis in order to best represent the needs of our metro’s business community. Typically, prioritization happens by ranking the issues in order of importance.

In our case, there are two issues equally so important that we can’t define which should receive top billing. Those two issues are permanent flood protection for the region, and workforce. I would actually make the case that these issues are, in fact, related. And because of our workforce issues, we can’t afford to delay the critical process of the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion.

With dry springs these past few years, it is easy to believe we are already handling the risk of a catastrophic flood. And, based on a great deal of work already done, in some ways we are. But remember 2009? The year that due to the rising Red, schools had to close, workers were let off to help sandbag, dikes were breached, hospitals were evacuated, court trials were suspended, emergency shelters were set up, residents and pets were rescued south of the city, and Mayor Walaker had plans to shut down the city. Now, the city did not actually shut down due to the fear of stopping commerce in the region, but it was a scary possibility. This is exactly why investing in and supporting permanent flood protection is absolutely vital. It’s just not worth another risk.

It will only take yet another “flood of the century” to put us back in the national news and remind people that we are the region with regular flooding issues. That reputation affects our ability to attract and recruit workers for the thousands of open jobs we have and also affects economic development in the businesses that have those job openings to fill.

While we are fortunate that our region has become a hotbed for startups and entrepreneurs looking for a friendly environment for their businesses, there are also companies already based here looking to expand their footprint. Permanent flood protection needs to be a priority for the sake of all these organizations and individuals.

The process to get to permanent flood protection has had ups and downs. While the F-M Diversion celebrated some project milestones, the most recent news has been concerning. Cost estimates are up, and federal funding is down. But the discussion at the April 11 Fargo City Commission meeting, frankly, was deplorable. With more than six years of research put into this project and over $200 million spent, now is not the time to pause. Shifting focus to a temporary fix does not and will not provide the necessary protection that the diversion brings.

The metro business community needs to care about the flood issue here because it can mean a loss of revenue to their organizations and the flow of commerce in the community, a loss of wages to employees, and extra expenditures to keep up operations, not to mention a potential stop to commerce in the city entirely.

I urge you to reach out to members of the Fargo City Commission and explain the importance of this project moving forward. Rather than press pause on the Diversion, we need to hold down the play button and continue positive movement forward.

As one of the top two community needs, it will continue to be at the top of our list. We will work diligently with all of our elected leaders, community members, organizations and congressional members to continue the progress this project has made, and we are committed to seeing it completed.

Craig Whitney
President & CEO
The Chamber


Member Spotlight on Don’s Car Wash

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

This month’s member spotlight is on a popular spot where area residents can count on getting their car squeaky clean. Here’s a little more about Don’s Car Wash from Dan Durr, president/CEO.

dons car wash 52nd Ave

Q: Please tell us a little more about the history of Don’s Car Wash.
A: In July of 1958, the first Don’s Car Wash opened. This wash was located at 1802 Main Avenue in Fargo. Don Johnson and Mel Skarphol were partners in this. Don managed the first location. Most people from the Fargo area had not been through a conveyor car wash. At that time, most people washed their cars at home or at a service station. Duane Durr started working for Don’s in 1960 as a line employee. In 1972, he became a part of the corporation operating Don’s of Fargo.

Our Dual Serve car wash is located at 2727 13th Avenue South in Fargo and opened in 1992. Duane is now retired and I’m serving as the president/CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead operation, while Shaun Lugert is the vice president/GM.

Wrap ShotQ: How many employees do you currently have?
A: 119

Q: What do you like best about doing business in Fargo Moorhead West Fargo?
A: I would have to say one of the best things is our diverse customer base. This community truly enjoys taking care of their vehicles. We see younger drivers and customers who have been coming to Don’s since day 1 take the same pride in vehicle ownership and want a clean car to drive!

Q: What’s your best business tip?
A: Enjoy what you do. Put in 100% every day, and you will be rewarded.

Q: What do you like most about being a member of The Chamber?
A: Being part of a group of local businesses that believes in character, community and each other.


Interested In Having Your Business Highlighted In This Section?

We’re looking for small businesses in current good standing with The Chamber that have a unique offering, interesting history or are just doing something spectacular, to profile in this section. Tell us who you think deserves to be featured! Fill out the form at bit.ly/BridgeMS to suggest a business.


Vocational Training Center: Empowering Individuals with Disabilities

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

One step inside either of Fargo’s Vocational Training Center buildings, and it’s clear that they’ve got a lot going on. With 108 individuals in their day support program, people are coming and going all day, and all to serve various community needs and teach valuable skills.

First incorporated in 1962 by a group of parents and community partners that wanted more work and social opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to be productive members of society, that is exactly what the Vocational Training Center seeks to provide. And it’s actually one of the first programs of its kind in the state of North Dakota.

music at the vocational training center

By providing vocational training and work opportunities through partnerships with area employers, the Vocational Training Center is able to offer individuals with intellectual and/or physical disabilities the opportunity to work. Whether it’s learning basic job skills, doing job readiness training from their own building (the day we visited, individuals were laminating and sorting lanyards for the Fargo Marathon) or going out into the community, they are able to enrich their own lives and provide needed services around town.

They’ve also partnered with a number of school districts to provide transition services to 18- to 21-year old students preparing for the world of work, and now with their program expansion, they can also help those that are retiring. It’s really all about helping adults with disabilities in every stage of their life.

Opportunities for these individuals are almost endless, and the Vocational Training Center makes sure to accommodate everyone the best they can. Aside from employment and training services, a recently added second location gives them more space to offer additional opportunities, such as therapeutic services, community integration and volunteerism.

vocational training center furnitureSome of those volunteer opportunities have included sandbagging, bell ringing, Adopt-a-Highway cleanup, Food Bank packing and nursing home visits.

They also search for hidden talents and interests. For instance, the Vocational Training Center has a woodshop in their original location on Ninth Avenue where individuals learn to build furniture. In their new location in the old Quality Bakery building, they’ve been able to dedicate space as a show room for the furniture, and some individuals with skills in sales have emerged, now that they’ve been given that opportunity.

No day at the Vocational Training Center is the same. With so many opportunities, each individual can really make their day their own, Alissa Arndt, program coordinator, said. “Each person supported has unique goals and dreams. The Vocational Training Center tries to make new connections in the community through volunteerism, community events and other resources to help each person realize those dreams and goals. With wide options, people can choose how busy they want to be; some people may be on the go all day and others may want to spend part of their day socializing with others at VTC.”

On any given day at the Vocational Training Center’s new location, there could be a chair yoga activity, cooking demonstrations, Zumba, reading and current event discussion groups and more. They provide computers for the individuals to keep in touch with family and friends, have a Wii, fitness machines and even bring in a musician that plays guitar and sings to the group.

For the businesses out there, the Vocational Training Center wants you to know they are a labor solution with a variety of talented individuals ready to work. “We work with employers to offer them the best candidate and recommend appropriate accommodations for that individual to succeed,” Tom Thompson, employment & placement services coordinator, said.

From these work opportunities, most individuals are able to earn a paycheck, purchase items with that money and be a consumer just like the rest of us. It teaches them a sense of pride in a job well done as well as belonging.

“Even a small paycheck for certain individuals can be huge,” Scott Burtsfield, executive director, said. “It’s that hurdle somebody’s been trying to clear for years. Those little successes are big for us.”

“We don’t want to focus on the disability here; we want to focus on their abilities as individuals and what those strengths and abilities are, as well as dreams and goals,” Paulette Wood, program director, added.

If you’re interested in purchasing some of the outdoor wooden furniture, call the Vocational Training Center at 701.241.4858.

Come see up close what the VTC does! They invite you to an open house and ribbon cutting for their new location at 2532 University Drive South on May 25 at 11:30.


Guide to Area Construction this Season

April 21st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

You probably have already noticed those orange cones popping up and crews at work fixing our city’s streets. With several major projects already underway in the metro, you might need to plan alternate routes when you’re out and about. To make things a little easier, here’s a list of resources you can check out to see where exactly the work is and how the projects are progressing.

Fargo Streets

With frequent updates on construction from the city of Fargo. Or, follow them on Twitter for up-to-the-minute announcements.

13th Avenue Reconstruction Project

With a map and overview of the work on 13th Avenue between 38th Street and 45th Street.

F-M Diversion

For construction updates regarding the Diversion and downtown levees.

West Fargo Streets

Project updates from the city of West Fargo.

Minnesota Highways

Overview of all projects from the Minnesota DOT.

I-94/Hwy 75 Interchange

Details of progress of the I-94 and Hwy 75/8th Street Interchange project in Moorhead.

Safe travels!


Ag Economy at April Eggs & Issues

April 5th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Agriculture was the star of our April Eggs & Issues session. Gathered as panelists to share their expert insight into the issues were Lynn Paulson, senior VP & director of agribusiness development at Bell State Bank & Trust; Mike Krueger, president of Money Farm; and Andrew Swenson, extension farm and farm resource management specialist at North Dakota State University.

Bev Adams from Sanford Health moderated the discussion, and added a few of her own remarks. “The agriculture industry is one of the industries that has stood the test of time,” she said. “The Red River Valley is ground zero for some of the ag industry’s most innovative creators and producers. Currently, the agriculture industry is finding itself in a very precarious state.”

Swenson shared lots of data regarding ag’s impact locally. Over an 11-year period of time, the physical size of regional farms hasn’t changed, but gross cash income has more than doubled. 2012 was the best year, he said, and land values went up 40% in one year. In the years to follow, net income significantly dropped, but expenses went up. He also noted that farm debts are increasing.

North Dakota land values quadrupled from 2004 to 2013, which Swenson called “unprecedented,” though it’s turned in the last couple of years.

The average farmer is 59 years old now, so there will be a lot of transition coming, Paulson added, also touching on both the good and bad times from the lending perspective. “It used to be the 3 C’s of lending were things like collateral, conditions, capacity and character,” he said. “Now the 3 C’s are conservative in the good times, courageous in the tough times and consistent all the time.”

Following the panelist’s presentations, the audience was allowed to ask questions of the presenters, and judging by the number of questions, it seems safe to say that our business community truly knows and cares about the importance and longevity of ag in the region.

04-16 Eggs Issues cover


We were also happy to have David Berg of American Crystal Sugar take the stage to announce a new Chamber committee for Agribusiness.

Here’s some of the social media from the event!

Eggs and issues #fmwfeggs

A photo posted by Peter Schott (@peetnd) on


Member Spotlight on Dress for Success

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Suggested by a fellow Chamber business for this spotlight, Dress for Success recently won the Power of 100 money and hosts several great events in the region. Here’s what else Amanda Even, program director, shared with us.

Isha Kromah Employed

Q: In your own words, briefly share your company history and what you offer today.
A: Dress for Success Red River Valley is a non-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Dress for Success worldwide was founded in 1997 and was brought to the Red River Valley in 1998 with a boutique in Hawley. Dress for Success Red River Valley has also had a second boutique in downtown Fargo since 2012. Today, Dress for Success has expanded to almost 150 cities in 20 different countries around the world.

Q: How many employees do you currently have?
A: Three

Q: What makes your organization unique?
A: We serve women from all walks of life. Many times women who have utilized our services reemerge as donors. Other women who were once donors end up utilizing our services. Over half of women we serve have attended college and most are mothers. Some have been staying at home with their children and just need support when reentering the workforce. Others are victims of domestic violence looking to put their lives back together. There have also been a number of retired women having to reenter the workforce due to excruciating circumstances.

Q: Are there any initiatives you’re focusing on right now?
A: We are currently building our sponsorship and volunteer base. We have events throughout the year with corporate sponsorship opportunities and love to work with businesses for clothing and accessory drives. Whether it is in on an individual or team level, we always have plenty of volunteer opportunities from creating displays and organizing the boutique, to working with women as a personal shopper or in the Career Center.

Q: What is one thing you most want our area or other Chamber members to know about you?
A: We are always looking for new partnerships and creative ways to expand our services. Over the past year we’ve doubled the number of women served and our program is continuing to rapidly grow.

Q: What do you like most about being a member of The Chamber?
A: The Business Training events are very informative with great presenters. Also, the networking opportunities through Women Connect and Business After Hours are unparalleled.

dress for success red river valley boutique

Interested In Having Your Business Highlighted In This Section?

We’re looking for small businesses in current good standing with The Chamber that have a unique offering, interesting history or are just doing something spectacular, to profile in this section. Tell us who you think deserves to be featured! Fill out the form at bit.ly/BridgeMS to suggest a business.


Spotlight on 2016 ChamberChoice Candidates

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Get ready to walk the blue carpet, celebrate amazing local businesses and laugh along with us at the 2016 ChamberChoice Awards. Back to emcee is James Cunningham.

Be sure to vote for the People’s Choice Award online May 2 through May 16!

ChamberChoice Awards Luncheon
May 20 | Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Ramada Plaza & Suites and Conference Center

It is with immense pride that we announce the following as candidates for the 2016 ChamberChoice Awards. Congratulations to all on this achievement!

  • Absolute Marketing Group
  • AE2S
  • Alzheimer’s Association MN-ND Chapter North Dakota Regional Centers
  • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties
  • Brady Nash – BNG Holdings, Inc.
  • Children’s Miracle Network
  • Choice Financial
  • Cornerstone Bank
  • Josh Teigen – Crossfox Innovation
  • Dabbert Custom Homes LLC
  • Discovery Benefits, Inc.
  • Dorothy Day House of Hospitality
  • Dress for Success Red River Valley
  • Easter Seals Goodwill ND, Inc.
  • Eide Bailly LLP
  • Emergency Food Pantry
  • Express Employment Professionals
  • Family Wellness LLC
  • Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation
  • Gate City Bank
  • Nick Killoran – Great North Insurance
  • Erik Hatch – Hatch Realty
  • Healing Arts Chiropractic
  • Heritage Homes, LLC
  • Tyrone Leslie – Heritage Homes, LLC
  • Homeward Animal Shelter
  • JLG Architects
  • Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity
  • Matt’s Automotive Service Center
  • Midco
  • MODE
  • Mortenson Construction
  • National Hospitality Services, LLC
  • New York Life Insurance Company
  • Ryan Fritz – Office Sign Company
  • Precision Diagnostic Services, Inc.
  • Rape & Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley
  • Paula Klein – Smartt Interior Construction
  • Spotlight Media Inc.
  • Eric Newell – Stoneridge Software
  • TMI Hospitality
  • Trinity Schaff – TrinSpin Inc.
  • TrueIT
  • Western Products, Inc.
  • Western State Bank
  • YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties
  • YWCA Cass Clay
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