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Military Appreciation Night 2016 a Sell-Out Event!

July 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Last night, we were honored to host yet another incredible Military Appreciation Night at the RedHawks. With a sell-out crowd of over 5,000 in attendance during the game, we gave out tickets to 1,000+ military families for a pre-game picnic that featured hot dogs, inflatable games and a special photo opportunity with the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. RedHawks players and Hawkeye also stopped by to spend time with the families and sign autographs.

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Kicking off the baseball game against the Sioux City Explorers, iconic country musician Lee Greenwood hit the field to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” while a parachuter brought in the American flag.

Delivering the first pitch was Sargent D. J. Guerrero, a retired Marine who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was awarded five Purple Hearts.

The night also featured another appearance from the Clydesdales, new military recruits taking oath, and Lee Greenwood’s performance of “Stars and Stripes” in the 7th inning stretch.

While the RedHawks did not end up pulling out a victory over the away team, all the attendees were in great company for a winning evening of patriotism and family-friendly fun.

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Check out THIS great recap article from The Forum: “Country music icon Greenwood helps RedHawks honor military at Newman.

Thanks to everyone that came out for the event, thank you to D-S Beverages for sponsoring the event and bringing in the Clydesdales, and a huge thank you to all the military men and women that have served our country.

Here are a few social media posts from the event!

Another awesome #militaryappreciationnight at the @fm_redhawks with @leegreenwoodusa #thankyoumilitary #patriotic

A video posted by The Chamber (@fmwfchamber) on

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June Primary Behind Us. But What Lies Ahead?

July 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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My guess is that many Chamber members, like me, were tuned in to the news on the evening of June 14. The results of our June primary elections were critical for our metro and the state of North Dakota.

As the results rolled in that night, there were some surprises. Most notably, the race for governor, with many speculating that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem would pull a victory over our own Fargo businessman Doug Burgum. Yet as the precincts started reporting, and the night went on, it became more clear that voters wanted a change, and to the surprise of some, Burgum prevailed, clinching the GOP seat for the November general election.

Burgum received 59% of the vote statewide and a whopping 72% in Cass County, but he also pulled big numbers out West. While an earlier poll put Burgum largely behind Stenehjem, his heavy campaigning may be what won him over across the state.

As it now looks like Burgum will receive the title of Governor of North Dakota in November, the question for us becomes, what does this mean for the state? For the metro? For The Chamber?

That answer remains to be seen, but with Burgum’s business acumen, I have high hopes that he will lead our state in a positive direction. In his campaign, Burgum said that his priorities will be to cut runaway spending, reform the property tax system, support term limits, oppose Obamacare and create high-paying-jobs.

One of his first challenges in office will be to unite legislators. Once the dust settles from the campaign, he’ll need to start an endless list of meetings across the state with legislators on both sides of the aisle, as well as set an agenda for a productive 2017 session. Working closely with current Governor Jack Dalrymple and others to ensure a smooth transition will also be key.

Locally, I am excited to see where fresh energy will take the new Fargo city commission. The many years of legislative experience that Tony Grindberg brings will be an added boost on important issues like the F-M Diversion and economic development. With Grindberg, who is an active Chamber member and supporter, and John Strand taking the two open seats, I see these results as largely positive for the metro and for The Chamber.

In West Fargo, the two incumbents Mike Thorstad and Mark Simmons won re-election, and in a city that is seeing phenomenal growth, this can only continue to make West Fargo even greater.

With the primary election now behind us, I thank all the candidates for running, and I applaud everyone who got out to vote. It’s important that we as a business community express our opinions on those in elected offices and show up at the polls.

As November’s election now looms ahead, I am eager to see how both the national and local races and measures will play out. I once again encourage everyone to research the candidates and to vote informed. As a Chamber, we look forward to providing more opportunities to do just that.

Craig Whitney
President & CEO
The Chamber

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Small Operation, Big Impact: The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality

July 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

For 33 years, the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality in Moorhead has been working tirelessly to change homelessness and hunger in the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo community. Staffed by a group with a passion to serve, the house represents a safe place for people to make positive changes in their lives. And for some, it’s an opportunity to change everything.

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The Dorothy Day House started as an emergency shelter in 1983 and was founded on the spirit of hospitality and generosity. Since then, it has expanded to include two food pantries to better accommodate volume, as previously they would give out food baskets from the small house kitchen.

The Dorothy Day House currently has beds for 13 men – and while this makes them the smallest shelter in town – it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t make a big impact. With a staff of 13 employees and over 3,000 volunteers, they are able to empower people on their journey to self-sufficiency. Their food pantry serves nearly 2,000 people a month, and in the last five years, the house has helped 136 men move into homes of their own.

Sonja Ellner, executive director, was thrilled to learn that the organization was selected as the 2016 ChamberChoice Small Not-for-Profit of the Year. “For us, it was exciting to provide that visibility for homelessness and hunger. It was great for our staff to be recognized for the work we’ve been doing for so long and to be able to share that with our community.”

Days at the Dorothy Day House are busy. Visitors, volunteers, staff and the individuals they serve come and go throughout the day, but things are much more structured for those staying in the house. Wake up calls happen at 8 a.m., and breakfast and lunch is self-service from the kitchen and dining room. All current guests are out in the community between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and are expected to be actively working on goals they have set. Come 6 p.m., a family-style dinner is served to all.

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The staff at Dorothy Day House believes in each of the people they serve, and they work to provide and empower them, but also to hold them accountable. A case manager meets weekly with the guests to set – and check in about – each of their goals and talk through any issues they might be having, providing further resources when needed.

Goals vary for all the people they serve, but each is personalized to the individual. Some may be pursuing employment, job training, housing or battling addictions or illnesses.

While others might turn people away, the Dorothy Day House welcomes all with warmth and graciousness. Whether you need a bed to sleep in, a meal to eat, a load of dirty clothes to wash, or simply an ear to listen, you can expect to find an environment of people ready to provide just that at the house.

The people there celebrate victories large and small. Take Bart, for instance, a resilient man with a storied past and trademark suspenders. Bart had been homeless for the majority of his 56 years and suffered from PTSD. During his stay at the Dorothy Day House, he discovered he had liver cancer. After a series of close calls with his housing and health, at one point, the doctor said he had three weeks left to live, and things seemed impossible. But the staff worked some miracles and was finally able to set Bart back on his feet. A special apartment was secured, home health services and Hospice were set up, and Bart moved in. Turns out, the second chance at life was all Bart needed. Within days, he was walking, shopping and decorating, and his spirits were higher than they’d ever been. As the shelter director at the time said, “The transformation he went through from homeless and sick to housed and hopeful was incredible.” While Bart passed away last July, he is a shining example of the great things that can happen when a group of people who truly care come together to help.

This is the kind of work that leaves a lasting mark on the people who see these stories day in and day out. Ellner says what’s most rewarding is seeing people make positive changes in their lives. “I think we’ve broken down what success means,” she said. “We celebrate things like being sober for a week—maybe we’ll get a cake from the food pantry—or seeing people get the key to their own place, and coming back to tell us how they’ve decorated.”

Ellner is excited at the spirit of collaboration and care that is starting to happen around homelessness in the community. Part of that is the partnerships they have with other area shelters and care providers, even furniture and grocery stores. “I think there’s a lot of work still to be done, especially in terms of affordable housing, but there’s also been a lot of progress lately.”

The one message Ellner wanted to deliver through this article was to help change the stigma around homelessness. “I would challenge people to look at everyone as a human being,” she said. “Homelessness or poverty doesn’t define them as a person. Once we get through some of those layers, people can open their minds, and we can foster understanding about the issue.”

The Dorothy Day House has served a great community need for the past 33 years, and they hope to do the same for the next 30 by embracing the people they serve and adapting their programs to meet those needs.

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Business After Hours 6.16.16

June 20th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

What an incredible Business After Hours we had last week! Despite a few other events in town and construction headaches, we’re thrilled to see so many of our members show up at the Courtyard by Marriott for another month of great networking and fun. We hope that lots of new connections were made over delicious appetizers and refreshing drinks.

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A special thanks to Midco for sponsoring this month’s event. Check out our Facebook Live broadcast with Midco CTO Jon Pederson.

Here are a few of our favorite photos from the event.

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For the full event photo album, visit us on Facebook!

Social Superstar

Congrats to Kristin Miller from YMCA Cass Clay, who won our first-ever Social Superstar award for our favorite post from the evening on Twitter! This post was voted superstar status by The Chamber staff.

See if you can be August’s Social Superstar by posting to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram from BAH using #FMWFBAH.

We look forward to seeing you again next month at the Fargodome!

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Report on Community Crime from Eggs & Issues

June 10th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

At last week’s Eggs & Issues, the three area police chiefs shared a fascinating—and startling—report on recent crime and drug use in the region. Fargo Police Chief David Todd, Moorhead Police Chief Dave Ebinger and West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan covered lots of ground, presenting the packed audience with facts, figures, and even a few heartbreaking stories and heartfelt pleas.

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We’ve all heard about a rising number of drug-related deaths in the area, but one thing we don’t hear as much about that the police are seeing is people passed out at a stoplight, in their car, from drug use, and how many times they’re called, along with medical professionals, to try and save individuals that have overdosed.

Todd started the discussion with an overview of heroin and opioid types, uses, sources, and how in many users it escalates to crime and can cross over into a health care concern with needle sharing. When it comes to fentanyl, he says it’s almost impossible not to overdose as its potency is so high–50 times more so than heroin.

The Fargo police are getting serious about this issue. If you sell an opiate to somebody who overdoses and die, you are looking at 20 years to life, and if the police is able to save them with CPR and Narcan, you could be looking at attempted murder. “That being said, we’re not interested in putting people with addiction issues in prison. That doesn’t solve the problem,” Todd said. “We’re interested in getting them the help they need, but we do have to go after the people that are bringing this product into our community.”

In order to crack down on this issue, the Fargo Police has added a few new narcotics detectives to the force.

 

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW CHIEF TODD’S PRESENTATION SLIDES

Ebinger was next up and opened by saying that what we’re seeing is not a law enforcement crisis, but rather a health care crisis, and that as a community, we need to stand together and get better resources to get these individuals healthy.

In Moorhead, officers do not carry Narcan, but the Good Neighbor program does, and Ebinger said they have seen a lot of success with that, as well as with F-M Ambulance.

He also touched on a big concern for his force, which is the current jail. “Our jail is just replete with problems,” he said. “It’s the oldest in the state of Minnesota. That’s a great claim if you’re wanting a museum piece, but if you want to incarcerate people in a community where crime is increasing, it’s not a very good resource for you.”

On top of that, the size and design is no longer in compliance with state standards, and many inmates are being housed in other parts of the state, which creates a very inefficient and costly problem.

The Moorhead police are looking at a proposed joint law enforcement center, which Ebinger believes will be more convenient, efficient and will facilitate collaboration between agencies. Forty percent of the new design would be shared space, meaning taxpayers can save by building once instead of twice.

The cost of all the upgrades is estimated just under $49 million, which Ebinger acknowledges is not a small sum, but says they have a critical need for. To pay for this, the city of Moorhead has agreed to a long-term lease with Clay County, there will be some funds from wind energy and maturing debt, and a half-cent sales tax that will be on the general election ballot this November.

Last, he shared that as our metro is growing so rapidly, they have tracked calls per officer as being way up. “I looked at the numbers this morning, and I was astounded at how much we’re expecting out of [our officers],” he said. “We’re not three small towns on the prairie. We’ve got a lot of issues, and we’re going to need support to grow our departments.”

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW CHIEF EBINGER’S PRESENTATION SLIDES

Reitan also spoke to what his force is seeing in West Fargo, which are the same challenges in our other metro’s cities, and the need to adapt to the changing times.

He spoke of new drugs coming on the scene, including W19, a synthetic drug that was created to tranquilize elephants and rhinos, that is now showing up in Eastern parts of Canada and the U.S. It is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. He also noted shatter hash, a marijuana derivative, that can actually be made at home with instructions found online.

Reitan also addressed unintended consequences, medical marijuana and the ND Compassionate Care Act, noting that an initiated measure of the latter will be on the November ballot.

“The cheapest solution to addiction is education,” he said. “You need to educate people to get them away from sharing narcotics amongst themselves, amongst family members, maintaining narcotics in their homes that are available for others to take. We need to educate this community on what the problem is and what your role is in overcoming what we’re faced with.”

He reported great success by partnering with the schools to proactively address the issues with students and parents. He also said some more community forums will be coming up for us to tackle the issue together. “This issue of narcotics is not a law enforcement issue; it’s not a prosecutor’s issue; it’s a community issue, and we’re going to have to get everybody on board for us to get ahead of it and make our community healthy again.”

After each presentation, several attendees were able to ask questions and share their own stories of seeing drug abuse firsthand, and it became clear that 28 days is not enough for anyone to tackle an addiction.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW CHIEF REITAN’S PRESENTATION SLIDES

For more information, check out this media coverage from the event.

www.wday.com/news/north-dakota/4049567-drug-trafficking-becoming-bigger-issue-fm-area

www.valleynewslive.com/home/headlines/Area-Police-Chiefs-outline-drug-crisis-at-Eggs-and-Issues-382164171.html

www.kvrr.com/news/local-news/battling-drug-addiction-in-the-metro/39944824

 

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Fargo City Commission Candidate Questionnaire

June 1st, 2016 by Tyler Fischbach

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As part of The Chamber’s public policy and advocacy efforts, to keep our members and community informed on the issues affect them and the metro, we’ve asked all 11 Fargo City Commission candidates to answer a questionnaire about their stances on various issues. With a total of six questions each, we have their full answers below.

Question 1

As a candidate for Fargo City Commission, what do you view as the top three challenges that our community is facing?

 

Nealul Andrew:

  1. I think that there’s an issue of not having well thought out programs for New Americans that can help them with their English and writing. There are lots of New Americans and minorities living in Fargo that have only worked in low income jobs and factories and can barely read. This is definitely an issue because those people don’t get the opportunity that others who have gone through an extensive education get.
  2. Affordable housing is another issue I see. Fargo is expanding and there are larger families who really want to live in single family homes but can’t because of high priced homes.
  3. The issue with the diversion, how long will people argue about whether the diversion is good or not. At this rate, by the time that everyone agrees to it, we could possibly have a flood occur already.

 

Mara Brust:

  1. Permanent flood protection
  2. Workforce retention & attraction
  3. Sustainable growth, by encouraging a healthy mix of infill and planned expansion paired with the revitalization of current structures and strong neighborhoods

 

Joe Burgum:

  1. Flood Control: Permanent flood control is the biggest challenge, and opportunity, that our community faces. We are not only building flood control for this generation, but for subsequent generations as well. Viewing this project as a multi-generational investment is crucial to getting community buy-in and support needed to start construction. Without permanent flood control, our community is at risk. As a City Commissioner, I would vote to support the start date, and be actively involved in the financial modeling to insure we have a sustainable way to pay for the project. On the whole, we need to increase the amount of community dialogue around this project, informing people about the advances and/or setbacks involved throughout the process. When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, people don’t like being surprised, so keeping the community up to speed is crucial to this project’s continued public support.
  2. Economic sustainability: Fargo is currently experiencing an economic rise and population increase, which means that we’re able to build and finance new, and often expanding, infrastructure. But, if this growth were to falter, we need to make sure that we can afford to maintain the infrastructure we’ve already built. This is key, as to not increase the cost burden of the city on to our tax-stressed homeowners. In 2014, the city of Fargo spent $130 million on capital improvements. This debt is paid largely by sales tax revenue and special assessments. With the possibility of an economic low tide, these funding sources will not be as reliable. We need to look at our city’s financials and prepare in a way that will lead to a sustainable future. In order to prepare for the future, we need to have an increased focus on expanding our current tax base and using existing infrastructure to its fullest.
  3. Workforce: We are entering a new era of work where people are choosing to move to the cities they want to live in even before they have secured a job. We are competing at a new level for national talent. Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo metro is up against cities like Austin, Boulder, Omaha, Minneapolis, and Des Moines as cities that people are choosing to live. Continuing to create a city that is attractive to families, professionals, and business owners alike means that we need to design neighborhoods that meet the needs and wants of different people, whether that be neighborhood schools; restaurants and nightlife; or outdoor recreation. All of these attributes aid in our employer’s ability to recruit people to our community.

 

Bridget Ertelt:

  1. Flood protection – I want long term flood protection but I don’t support the current diversion plan. Previous versions of the diversions were more cost effective and less of a burden on Fargo taxpayers. The local share of the project needs a solid and feasible plan for funding and opposition from the south still poses the possibility of delays and additional legal conflicts. These issues need to be addressed before we burden the taxpayer further.
  2. Property taxes – The current outlook for state revenue will likely eliminate the buy down option for property taxes. Spikes in home assessment values as well as pressure from the school board for additional funding add to potential increases in property taxes. We need to work to ensure lower, more predictable property taxes for our city.
  3. Common sense budgeting and prioritized spending – Continued efforts need to be made to prioritize spending. We need to ensure essential city services are met first to provide for strong infrastructure. Additional projects will need to be met with further scrutiny to ensure responsible allocation of taxpayer resources.

 

Tony Grindberg: Three top challenges I believe are related to infrastructure, economic growth and public safety. First, completion of the F/M Diversion and addressing the long term water supply issue for the Red River Valley. Second, strategically work to ensure continued economic development occurs by partnering with education and maintaining a favorable tax climate. Third, while growth is a key component for our community, public safety and addressing the rise in drug offenses is a priority.

 

Matt Kuebler: Permanent flood protection, balancing the budget, keeping the city safe and prosperous.

 

Tammy Linn:

  1. Community safety. This involves an absolute guarantee that the F-M Diversion will be built and that our neighborhoods will be safe from gangs, drugs and other violence.
  2. A balanced and common sense growth management strategy. This should be growth from within (infill and Historic Preservation); growth up; and growth out.
  3. Multi-faceted targeted workforce recruiting programs. We need to obtain the right workers to fit our community job needs.

 

Robin Nelson: Permanent flood protection, workforce shortage and public safety are the three most pressing issues for Fargo. Public safety is a growing concern due to the opiate epidemic and the heightened violence our officers are experiencing. Chief Todd states that he is down 12-18 officers at any given time, and attributes it to the fact that our compensation packages are not competitive in the regional market. I will fight for a competitive compensation analysis for both our law enforcement and fire departments prior to the next budgeting cycle. I will expand upon my opinions of flood protection and the workforce shortage below.

 

John Strand:

  1. Addressing the shortfalls in chemical and alcohol addiction intervention, treatment and rehabilitation services.
  2. Collaborating to secure permanent, comprehensive, metro-wide flood protection.
  3. Affordable housing and homeownership.

 

Scott Wagner: Securing permanent flood protection, the need to keep up with new infrastructure demands as our city continues to grow, and enhanced public safety.

 

Lance Yohe: The three top challenges facing the city are:

1) Flood protection, to the highest level possible—for economic, business, housing and workforce stability and growth.
2) Water supply, for the same reasons. Both of these issues are long term and expensive. Without flood protection in place there is an unacceptable risk of $10 to 12 billion in loss from a flood fight we lose and the resulting community devastation.  Without a reliable source of water, we face the impacts of a long term drought on all aspects of the economy and community. We live in a semi-arid region that has in the past experienced a 250-year drought like the dirty 3’0s. This will happen again, and our current situation is to precarious to sustain the current economy and community in a long term drought.  We need a more stable supply than a river that can run dry with a few backup reservoirs.
3) Public safety, continue and expand the current effort (outreach, medical provider dialogue and communication, use of Narcan by first responders (fire department) and treatment versus incarceration options–related to the spread of drug use and the resultant crime increases associated with drugs.

 

Question 2

Do you support the F-M Diversion, as it is currently proposed, as the only solution for permanent flood protection? If so, would you be committed to support the project throughout your tenure as a Fargo city commissioner?

 

Andrew: Yes, I support it and would definitely commit to the project as commissioner. This is essential for Fargo and will be needed to avoid a disaster.

 

Brust: Absolutely. Permanent flood protection is critically important to the continued vitality of Fargo and the region as a whole, and the Diversion is the only solution. The protection provided by the Diversion will provide the stability businesses need in order to plan for the future and the peace-of-mind potential residents seek before investing in homes in the area. Implementing flood protection in Fargo as soon as possible is vital to protect homeowners, especially our senior citizens trying to stay in their homes, from sharply increased flood insurance rates. Fargo leaders need to show unified support for the Diversion. As a city commissioner, I will be an advocate for the Diversion.

 

Burgum: Yes. In order to begin construction on the F-M Diversion, I would vote to support the start date. The F-M Diversion is the best way to provide permanent flood control for our community.

 

Ertelt: No, there were other options for the diversion that served the tax payers better. If the current diversion plan continues to move ahead, I would work to make sure the project is limited to what is required and make sure funding for the project is properly planned and mapped out so that the rising costs are controlled as much as possible.

 

Grindberg: Yes, it is critical to complete the F/M Diversion project to ensure permanent flood protection is accomplished. I will continue to listen to the stakeholders, experts and industry professionals as we develop this vital long term solution for flood protection.

 

Kuebler: I do support the F-M Diversion but would like to see more federal funding for the project.

 

Linn: The Red River has exceeded flood stage in 49 of the past 110 years, including every year from 1993 through 2011, and again in 2013. The estimated cost of the floods between 1993 and 2011, and 2013 was $3.7 billion.

The FM Diversion is the only plan that the federal government approves to protect our region from 100/500 year floods. That being said, the cost of $2.1 billion is necessary to make certain the Diversion is built to the highest and long-lasting standards possible. The FM Diversion will protect the local economy, which generates $4.35 billion in annual non-farming wages and over $2.77 billion in annual taxable sales along with $14 billion in property value.

If we do not build the diversion, the cost to virtually every property owner in Fargo, as mandated by the federal government, will be $2,000-$4,000 per year in flood insurance because of the change in flood plain to 41’. This would be approximately $40-$60 million per year that would go to out-of-state insurance companies and would not be spent in our North Dakota.

I will do whatever I can to move the F-M Diversion forward on schedule. I will support the extension of a Fargo ½ cent sales tax for flood mitigation which expires in 2029. In addition, there is a ½ cent infrastructure sales tax that can be used for flood mitigation. I would support that extension as well.

Finally, I will ask the City of Fargo to apply for multiple federal grants that would allow us to convert at least 30 miles of one of the football field size banks on either side of the diversion into usable transportation/biking/hiking trails. I have already found available grants to help this become a reality!

 

Nelson: Yes, absolutely. It is the only option to avoid large flood insurance premiums for 19,400 homes in south Fargo. I will continue to fervently support the project until its completion and publicly promote the approval of an extended sales tax.

 

Strand: Without a doubt, the FM Diversion is the only and best solution for Fargo flood protection. The risks associated with property damage and or skyrocketing flood insurance further substantiate the need for the Diversion.

That said, however, there are obstacles to overcome: 1) guaranteeing federal and state funding for the project, itself, so as to not compromise the protection delivered; 2) mediating and negotiating agreements with opposition upstream and in Minnesota so we are all speaking with a unified voice; and 3) securing required permits from both North Dakota and Minnesota under the duress of short deadlines.

 

Wagner: I strongly support the F-M Diversion. As a past member of the F-M Diversion Authority board, I’m dedicated to getting this project done. That includes working with local, state and federal partners. I have been part of the local team of leaders who have been to Bismarck and Washington, D.C. lobbying on behalf of this project.

 

Yohe: Yes, absolutely. This is the best option for the greatest level of protection for the citizens and economy of Fargo. Fargo has to be able to fight a 500-year level flood, and win, and the proposed diversion is the only option that gets us to this level. Any level of protection less than this puts the community at risk for a $10 to 12 billion loss. Grand Forks in 1997, as well as Minot and Bismarck in 2011, all discovered the perils of 100-year flood protection using levees.  hey all lost the battle and the damages were in the billions of dollars and parts of their communities devastated. In Fargo, other measures like in town protection are part of this overall strategy. Upstream retention is worthwhile doing as it increases the protection of the diversion, but only in conjunction with the full diversion as currently proposed. I will support the diversion as long as I am a city commissioner, or until it gets built.

 

Question 3

The low unemployment rate and lack of available workforce is challenging businesses across the metro. What can the city do to help attract the workforce that is necessary for our businesses to grow?

 

Andrew: This has to do with not having enough programs to help people who have a second language. Lots of New Americans are in need of jobs and love to work but can’t because they don’t have the education. If we can make sure that each workforce has an intensive training that not only tells how to do the job, but English and writing along with it, then we are closer to educating people. We also need to make sure that women are getting paid the same amount of pay rate as men.

 

Brust: Millennials have become the largest percentage of the workforce, so we must build a community that is attractive to them. As a young professional who moved away for law school only to be drawn back home to Fargo, I will bring to the commission unique insight into what attracts young talented workers to our city. This demographic looks for affordable housing near work and amenities. They want low cost transit and multiple options for getting around a city. This demographic expects diverse cultural attractions and entertainment options. These digital natives value a thriving tech and startup community.

 

Burgum: People are aware of the high cost of air travel in and out of this community and it has become prohibitive for individuals and employers. To those from other U.S. cities, the few flight options creates a perception that Fargo is difficult to access. If Fargo is truly going to compete at the national level in business and talent we need a strong airport. To achieve this, the city needs to incent more airlines to operate at our municipal airport.

Fargo’s business culture is perfectly positioned for startups and emerging industries to call home. However, if Fargo doesn’t become easier to access, it won’t be considered a first-choice city for those who are destined to launch and grow companies. Simply put, if the city wants more people to move here, it needs to provide more flights.

When individuals are looking to move into new communities, a place’s vibrancy becomes a key metric in their decision-making. As a city, we need to be creating policy that allows for unique aspects of our culture to flourish in order to differentiate our city from competing metros.

 

Ertelt: Making sure we have a low predictable tax rate will encourage businesses growth and investment. We can also continue to work with business leaders to understand their concerns about the lack of workforce and discuss issues and plans to improve the situation. We should continue outreach efforts in the community to ensure concerns and feedback are addressed.

 

Grindberg: First, encourage partnership and collaboration with our educational institutions through promoting career awareness and support for public/private partnerships to prepare young people for career pathways. Second, support the Chamber of Commerce and GFMEDC initiatives to implement programs that address the strategies outlined in the 2015 FM Regional Workforce Report. Third, the City of Fargo needs to continue its growth strategies that improve our quality of life and well-balanced tax policies.

 

Kuebler: First, have a safe community that encourages young families to stay in town or come in from other parts of the country. Second, through the free-market system encourage new businesses and ideas to spread throughout the community with low sustainable taxes.

 

Linn: We need employees in dozens of different professions and positions. According to the 2015 Regional Workforce Study (RWS), there was a 24% increase in the number of jobs in the F-M region from 2004-2014. During that time, the U.S. economy grew by 5%. At that time, our area was projected to have more than 30,000 job opening in five years (by 2019).

The establishment of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation was a very important step in collaboration, communication and action to help our workforce needs. However, we can do more to support them.

When elected, I will propose that the City of Fargo does the following:

  • Support the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and offer additional fresh strategies to them. These strategies, which may involve City of Fargo Staff, include:
  • Contacting the Department of Labor in states with the highest unemployment rates and ask them to work with us. The states with over 6% unemployment include Alaska, West Virginia, Illinois, District of Columbia, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama and Louisiana.
  • Based on the RWS, the needs for the following should be promoted: hospitality and tourism jobs (821 annual openings); business management and administration (764 annual openings); marketing (674 openings); and health services (509 openings). These positions should be publicized in other states (as mentioned above) and in the area.
  • Offer incentives to current residents to recruit workers from other areas.
  • Meet with the offices of ND tourism, economic development and job service to coordinate recruitment activities.
  • Survey new employees from businesses that are members of the Chamber of Commerce (through a free survey site) and ask them where they came from, why they chose Fargo, and other questions. This information will help us better target potential job-seekers and develop a better communications and marketing message that reflects their insight.
  • Develop a comprehensive multi-faceted marketing plan to recruit workers in the areas of highest need.

Nelson: Workforce development and retention is a complex challenge that will require a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach. Well-aligned educational systems from preschool through graduate school, proven economic development strategies and incentives, enhanced quality of life through vibrant arts and entertainment, affordable and diverse housing options, and public safety all play important roles. 

 

Strand:

  1. With the thousands of college students in our community, we should explore incentive programs that will help career-prepared graduates lower their student loan interest rates or even work off student loans, themselves.
  2. Our vast and capable, hard-working New American community would fill even more workforce gaps with additional, stepped-up English Language Learning classes, along with focused coaching in the job application and interview processes.

 

Wagner: The answer to this issue has two components, retention and recruitment. In the area of retention, some local high-tech companies are already looking at how to partner with higher education to compress the time it takes to obtain a degree. Paired with an internship, graduates could leave college with less debt and a good paying local job in hand, creating a great incentive to keep graduates here. Regarding recruitment, during my 12 years on the Greater Fargo-Moorhead EDC board workforce recruitment was a primary focus. Companies sold the job and the EDC partnered with companies to sell the community.

 

Yohe: Fargo needs a plan to address the key areas of workforce needs: degreed workers, technically trained workers and service industry workers.  There is a lack of highly educated (degreed) workers that need to be attracted and retained. Some will be interested in downtown amenities are urban living style infrastructure. We need to do a better job of selling what we have to these groups, to overcome preconceived ideas like: it’s too cold, not enough to do, not enough opportunity, etc.  Business, the community and city need to talk positively about the area and work with k-12 and higher education on strategies to keep, attract and maintain these workers. The use of financial incentives to continue to develop the downtown area should be considered. The city could be more creative and proactive on housing issues and business incentives throughout the city to provide more options. There is also a lack of a technically trained workforce and the service industry workforce is projected to increase.   Some in these workforce groups will be interested in affordable housing, housing in the right locations, language training, and bus services and transportation options that fit work schedules. The city needs to review its policies on zoning in older neighborhoods to address needs and density issues, where people will choose to live. In new development areas, a review of the cost of special assessments is needed and use of incentives to make housing more affordable. Fargo also needs to consider the ratio of single and multi-dwelling housing units. To address all these demands Fargo should work closely with higher education, economic development, non-governmental groups, government and others as policies are set and incentives provided to provide a competitively attractive place to settle, work and live.

 

Question 4

City leaders and The Chamber agree that Fargo is in need of additional convention center space. The question is: where should it go and how should it be paid for?

 

Andrew: There are a lot of places downtown that could be used as a convention center space. The location of downtown would be great because it’s a city attraction. We could remodel a building there that isn’t currently being used. We have a lot of money coming in from the oil revenue, and that money could be used toward this. As part of planning, I would look into where the cities money is going to and use any money that goes to unnecessary projects and use it toward this. The city needs to utilize its resources.

 

Brust: Fargo residents have voiced a strong desire for a new convention center, and it belongs downtown. Obviously there are logistical issues like access and hotels that we would need to address, but a convention center could be the catalyst for these improvements. A downtown location would provide the greatest economic boost to our local businesses. Visitors would enjoy uniquely Fargo experiences in the heart of our community. Of course, before moving forward the city must look carefully at the numbers to find a balance between the costs and the economic stimulation (and subsequent additional tax revenue) such a facility will bring to the area around it. In addition, the Fargodome will continue to play an important role in our community.

 

Burgum: In order to secure adequate funding, the convention center will need to go to a public vote for a half-cent sales tax. Like the Fargo Library and the Fargodome, community projects similar to the convention center need to be supported by the public to ensure success.

The purpose of a convention center is to attract visitors into the city, show Fargo to people from across the country, and have them spend money at local businesses. To accomplish these goals, the center needs to be located in an area that makes it easy for visitors to experience Fargo. Any place can have a great convention space, but to differentiate itself and attract events, the center must be uniquely Fargo, which points to our biggest tourist attraction: Downtown. With a convention center located near our vibrant downtown, guests have the opportunity to see our community and spend money at local businesses and restaurants. In this way, guests remember the unique aspects of visiting a new place, the character, charm, nightlife, restaurants, and local flare.

 

Ertelt: The Chamber would be a great organization to take the lead on organizing business interests, location and funding for a new convention center. If taxpayer money is proposed for such a project, I would require a vote of the community. Projects like these should be sourced from the private sector.

 

Grindberg: A site selection feasibility study should be advanced to research and provide rationale for the best location of such a project. After independent research of all factors, proceed only if recommendation would lead to a location that would ensure long term success. A public/private financing partnership model would be an option to consider.

 

Kuebler: My platform has always been to priorities spending and focus on needs over wants. At this time I believe we have other issues that need to be at the forefront than a convention center; the FM diversion, hiring of new police officers, infrastructure, public works. So at this time I do not think a convention center is a priority. If the city budget allows for one down the road we can look at the location and how we can pay for the center without having it going over our budget.

 

Linn: The 2014 Report completed by the Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting Firm from Chicago is a thorough and well-written document that gives us information comparing the FARGODOME site and the Downtown Site. This study was expansive and very thorough.

In this study, there were many pros and cons relating to both locations. It reviewed all types of events, including trade shows, conventions, banquets, conferences, meetings, training/workshops and other activities.

The report articulates that the FARGODOME site would attract larger events and grow existing events with joint space. There is the financial benefit of having staff and equipment efficiencies for a single site. In addition, it provides easy access from all parts of the area because of the access to major highways. In addition, there is an abundance of ready parking spaces.

Some of the pros for the downtown site include the possibility it could be tied to flood mitigation. In addition, there is the potential connect to existing and new hotel development. Also, the downtown area would experience an increase in traffic resulting in more use of downtown restaurants and retail space.

I suggest that a team of interested parties establish a short-term working group to fully analyze this report and give the City of Fargo a recommendation. This team should include at a minimum the following: FM Chamber of Commerce, the City of Fargo, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, meeting planners who represent potential bookings, representatives from the hospitality industry, and more.

Nonetheless, after my brief analysis of the report, if I had to make a suggestion, it would be to build the Convention Center in conjunction with the FARGODOME. The expansion has more positive financial benefits, transportation convenience, and the ability to attract larger events.

Financing the project should involve a variety of sources that will cover all hard costs and soft costs of the project. Prior to implementing any of these options, a legal review must be undertaken to make sure the financing is consistent with Fargo’s Home Rule Charter. Here are some options:

  1. Public private partnership (P3). The City of Fargo/FARGODOME could establish one or more relationships with private entities to help partially fund the FARGODOME Convention Center or Downtown facility.
  2. Naming and other sponsorship rights. The Fargo Dome Authority could establish sponsorship packages and offer them to interested parties.
  3. Researching the establishment of a small “bed/lodging” tax. Prior to doing this, we need to get input from the hotel industry and community members. A “bed” tax would help spread the tax burden to those visiting our community and using the Convention Center.
  4. Tax exempt bonds. Typically, cities structure long-term debt either by issuing either revenue bonds or general obligation bonds. I would not support general obligation bonds because it would increase citizen’s property taxes. I would support revenue bonds that are tied to the “bed” tax as stated above.
  5. Other revenue sources may include: FARGODOME cash reserves; food and beverage taxes; car rental taxes; and gas taxes.

 

Nelson: The 2014 Market and Feasibility Analysis indicates a preference to a convention center co-located with the FARGODOME due to the attendance draw of trade shows, consumer shows, meeting and conferences in addition to leveraging the Dome’s resources due to proximity. With approximately $32M in cash reserves, the FARGODOME has enough ready capital to bond the project. I have been told that the downtown location option has been all but ruled out since the owner of the Howard Johnson intends to rebuild onsite, thereby greatly limiting land availability.

 

Strand: My personal thoughts on location are preempted by practical, broader-view consideration of assuring optimum use and success associated with the convention center, which I also agree is needed. Location should be based on what would deliver the greatest result not only for those coming to Fargo, but also in terms of the spectrum of services and amenities offered them, such as food, housing and access.

 

Wagner: The F-M Diversion is the number one funding issue. If and when the city takes up the conversation regarding the need for additional convention space it should look to the Fargodome location. In regard to paying for the project, in addition to Dome reserves, any new additional dollars should require voter approval.

 

Yohe: Issues of hotel accommodations, access, downtown development and costs all play a part in finding the best location.  Of the locations discussed downtown, Fargodome, West Acres Area or some other place—I like the Fargodome area for accessibility and would lean in this direction. The cost at this time will be a major challenge, as $60 million or so from the general fund budget would be difficult. Getting this much from sales tax revenue, when we need this source of funding for water issues, seems out of reach. I would support exploring at this time a multiple funding source approach. These would include fundraising (from grants to private donors), a sales tax vote for some portion, and maybe a general fund appropriation of some portion. Funding would be over a number of years, to lower annual funding demands, as this type of facility would be worth investing public dollars in for the revenue generated and for the community image it will create. This approach is more proactive than waiting until current sales tax needs expire.

 

Question 5

To what extent do you think our city leaders should prioritize incorporating a regionalized approach to city and resource management versus an autonomous plan?

 

Andrew: Majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology, I do a lot of studies on cooperation and how people work well together. Having an autonomous plan is OK, but having cooperation within the resource management is better because everyone’s best ability is used and the outcome can be great.

 

Brust: We should collaborate with our neighbors whenever feasible. Our communities are truly intertwined, with many residents living in one city, working in another, and shopping in the third. The agreement between West Fargo and Fargo for supplying tap water is a great example of us all doing better when we share resources.

 

Burgum: A regionalized approach is critical. It would be financially irresponsible not to coordinate on a regional level. We can achieve a higher quality of service, and save taxpayer dollars, with an economy of scale. Everyone benefits from a regionalized approach. A great example is the current sale of water to West Fargo. We have the opportunity to share our facilities to sell them sewage capacity as well. Our Fire and Police departments have done this approach with region-wide sharing of training facilities and staff. This shows the vast opportunities that would be available by taking a critical look at our metro-wide resources.

 

Ertelt: When it makes sense to regionalize we should do it, providing that all parties are in agreement. Some of these opportunities, like the project to support water to West Fargo, can start paying for themselves almost immediately. These projects create revenue opportunities for the city by selling services to our neighbors which in turn will allow us reinforce our resource management services for our future growth and demands as well.

 

Grindberg: The City of Fargo should always look for opportunities to partner to reduce costs and improve quality or access. But we must be ever mindful that as the state’s largest city, we must have financial partnerships that are fair to our taxpayers. Some of our most important issues require collaboration across political subdivisions. Water supply, flood protection and safety issues (drug problems, gangs etc.) all are best served by an integrated approach.

 

Linn: To what extent do you think our city leaders should prioritize incorporating a regionalized approach to city and resource management versus an autonomous plan?

The City of Fargo is a self-sufficient municipality. However, in order to adequately address critical issues, including permanent flood mitigation through the FM diversion, crime/gang/drug prevention, transportation, job recruitment/retention, economic development, tourism, health, roads, etc., we need to continue to work regionally with West Fargo, Moorhead, Horace, Cass County, Clay County and the state of North Dakota.

In addition, we need to be proactive and look for other areas in which we can work regionally. Some of those areas may involve: recreation opportunities; multi-city events (competitive and non-competitive bike events); and potential cost savings through combined purchasing of products or services utilized by all the entities.

 

Nelson: Collaborative efforts should be pursued to the greatest extent possible. It makes complete sense to leverage monetary resources and intellectual capital whenever feasible. Landfill and water-supply agreements are great examples of successful partnerships and we should continue to seek ways to increase them.

 

Strand: The best model for such a regionalized approach is the Chamber itself, along with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. A broader, more efficient delivery system of essential services is for the greater public good and for the long term.

 

Wagner: Where the city can, it should look to regionalization. In fact, it has on a number of issues over the years. While I was on the Cass County Commission, we partner with other metro jurisdiction on many projects, including the City of Fargo. We partnered on flood protection, transportation infrastructure and public safety.

 

Yohe: Wherever possible, Fargo should learn from its own positive experiences on regional and cooperative approaches and expand the opportunities to do more. Positive experiences like the following should be considered in other areas: metro-cog transportation planning; Fargo sharing drinking water with West Fargo; the multi-jurisdictional “street gang team” between the area police departments; the effort now underway to buy a shared radio system for police and fire, using a Minnesota system; the FMWF Chamber; and the FM Economic Development Corporation.  These are all ways to strengthen services, build good-will and trust and reduce costs. These are worthwhile doing. And they will be especially valuable in the future addressing the three highest needs listed above: flood control, water supply and public safety. Fargo should continue to take the opportunity to do joint regional efforts and should intentionally strategize how best to do this on flooding and water supply.  This could be a first step toward a larger regional approach to city and resource management.

 

Question 6

Do you think the City of Fargo should redevelop already purposed land or continue to grow by expanding their city limits?

 

Andrew: The City of Fargo is growing in itself, so yes we should expand city limits. High density areas could be problematic because of crowding and not careful planning. Expanding the city would also be able to provide more single family homes and we could reserve historical landmarks.

 

Brust: We need a healthy balance of both infill and responsible expansion. Obviously as we rapidly grow, we will see some expansion to the south. Rather than piecemeal growth, we should seize this opportunity to ensure we provide a variety of housing options, including affordable options, throughout the city. Cohesive planning for Fargo’s expansion to the south would encourage strong, mixed-use neighborhoods as we grow.

Infill is vital to ensure that our growth is sustainable and to keep our older neighborhoods vibrant. Developers often argue that infill is only financially viable if they erect high-density apartment buildings. Smart tax-incentives would encourage developers to embrace opportunities for infill that revitalize our older neighborhoods while respecting their character. These infill projects could provide that missing mid-level housing we so desperately need.

 

Burgum: We need to grow in a way that is economically sustainable for the future. Within city limits, we have under-used infrastructure that we continue to pay for, regardless of outward growth. When creating new neighborhoods, it is important that we create density that allows for long-term financial stability. A block or road costs the same to build and service whether there are five property owners or 10. If more people are sharing the cost of the city’s services, then taxes can be lower for everyone.

Whatever the lifestyle you want to lead in the city, it needs to be economically sustainable for all of us, the taxpayers. Simply put, we need a tax base that can finance our city’s growth without digging itself a hole that it could fall into down the road.

 

Ertelt: I think those solutions should be driven by the private sector. Investors and business leaders know what the market demands are and can work to fill those needs. The City of Fargo can grow and redevelop where those situations make sense.

 

Grindberg: I support balanced market/private sector growth that aligns with the City of Fargo zoning and planning. Infill development that is appropriate for established neighborhoods after an open transparent process is paramount. I also support growth by expanding city limits as determined by market demand. A successful long-term strategy requires support for both models.

 

Kuebler: As the city expands, the growth stretches out the cities services. I believe we need a controlled growth of the city limits and focus on the land that is readily available throughout town.

 

Linn: I believe that expanding the city limits may be needed. However, we need a common sense and balanced approach to growth. That means we should thoughtfully grow up, out and grow within the city. We are a diverse community composed of people who may want to downsize, to upsize, to right size and many who may want to move out of the multi-family dwelling. Currently, multi-family housing makes up 54% of the city’s housing. With all the different types of housing desires, I believe we need to make sure we work to help all those who want to live in Fargo and give them safe neighborhoods in housing that they want. We need to support revitalization of our city’s historic neighborhoods, as well as offer options for new development.

The City of Fargo should be a catalyst for managed and common sense growth. In addition, we should provide information that will help residents find programs to help them purchase property (Homestead Property Tax Credit, Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit, etc.)

 

Nelson: Both. Fargo must be poised to meet the demands of the market and simultaneously encourage infill. The current city limits include a large amount of undeveloped land and can probably accommodate future development for many years to come without annexing more.

 

Strand: First priority is to redevelop already purposed land. Secondarily, while not before adequate flood protection is in place, Fargo should prioritize infill in in the city’s core. Thirdly, managed and smart development of available properties at the city’s outer edges can unfold, however not before updated planning and zoning, and provision of essential public services is deliverable.

 

Wagner: I believe in a multifaceted approach to growth. For example, one great thing about Fargo is its many options in housing, whether its downtown condos, rehabbing historic properties, or new subdivisions. The City of Fargo needs to be sensitive to consumer demands. This includes expanding the cities’ physical footprint in its natural growth areas.

 

Yohe: I think Fargo should allow people the opportunity to live where they want within the city limits. Fargo should however should have policies clearly in place that show the limits of what Fargo will provide in infrastructure costs as people move into less dense areas. There needs to be a point of economic viability related to infrastructure costs and revenue return to provide budget stability for the city. This policy will help guide and increase development of areas already with infrastructure in place. I do not think the city should make these type of decision by density quotas, even though density numbers can help guide the city policies on growth.

 

To learn more about the candidates and ask them questions in person, please join us for our City Commission Candidate Cracker Barrel on Thursday, June 9.

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Frank’s Lounge: The Place for Friends, Food, Drinks & Fun

June 1st, 2016 by Tyler Fischbach

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Along the quickly growing strip of 52nd Avenue in south Fargo sits a new hangout serving the neighborhood. It’s been open just over a year, and has proven itself as a staple for people to go to for drinks, good food, NDSU gaming and fun in a spot where there is not much else going on.

“We opened our doors because as residents of south Fargo, we kept hearing that the neighborhood was being underserved from quality of life perspective,” Owner Jeff Thomas said. “Frank’s was created for our friends and neighbors.”

Frank’s Lounge is a cozy restaurant and bar perfect for grabbing lunch, gathering after work or bringing the kiddos to on the weekend. Thomas and his wife Sue opened Frank’s (a nod to Thomas’ father and the bar’s namesake) in April last year to serve a niche in that spot of the community. Its simple premise features a unique wine and cocktail selection, great food, comfortable atmosphere and a signature pink cat.

Bringing some Fargo history into today, the famous neon sign that once adorned the Pink Pussycat Lounge in downtown Fargo in the ‘60s now sits inside Frank’s for all to enjoy again. Thomas was thrilled to acquire the piece from his old classmate Mario Oliveri of Josef’s School of Hair Design, who used the sign in hair shows but agreed it was something that should be enjoyed year around.

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But it’s not just the signature cat that makes the décor of Frank’s special. “The design of the building was meant to invoke a sense of the past and pay tribute to some of our local artists,” Thomas explained.

Frank’s has a number of pieces from local artists on the walls that have sparked a great deal of attention. Pieces by Rando and Matt Mastrud (Punchgut) have been big hits. In a few select spots you can also find photos of Frank himself, with a larger portrait on its way soon. Don’t forget to look for the old Quality Bakery sign on the ceiling. “This was a favorite haunt of my kids when they were growing up,” Thomas said. “The fun fact however, is that this sign use to be the old Bob’s Big Boy sign and resided across the street from the former Quality Bakery. When Bob’s went out of business, the Cook Sign company repainted it and moved it across the street to the bakery.”

In one corner of Frank’s, you can enjoy Team Maker gaming. The organization that plays a critical role in helping the student athletes at NDSU has pull tabs,
a pig wheel and two blackjack tables. IMG_1259

Thomas says the neighborhood has been very welcoming and that each month just gets better for the bar. A former dishwasher at the Cork ‘N Cleaver, Thomas remembers making lavosh there, which was the one item he insisted on bringing to Frank’s. Otherwise, the menu, which he calls “better than average bar food” was developed by GM Mike Anderson and refined by Kitchen Manager Wade Wenaas.

Thomas says one of the things they are very proud of is the wine list. Aaron Hanson, a long-time bartending icon in the area put together a great list of wines for the neighborhood and brings in new options often. Together with mixologist Chad Bjork, they have created a unique specialty drink offering that changes to feature seasonal cocktails for the patio and warming drinks for the cooler months.

Though there are many options on the menu (including an incredible blueberry BBQ sauce), Thomas says his favorite is the Philly flatbread, and of course, the lavosh.

Sharing the building with next-door Spicy Pie also allows them to offer pizza to bar patrons after their own kitchen has closed.

One of the reasons Frank’s has been so successful is likely due to the values taught to Thomas by his parents, who instilled in him that you must treat people the right way. “My wife and I are very proud of what we have built, and most importantly, we are very proud of the team we have at Frank’s,” Thomas said. “We believe in doing things the right way, taking into consideration everyone we do business with and for. It’s important for our team to be treated fairly. It’s important to us that the customer has a great experience, which means our team knows who they are when they visit us. It’s also important to us to treat our vendors well, because they’re a huge part of our success.”

Thomas also knows the importance of giving back to the community. Frank’s is a proud member of Team Makers and supports their two neighborhood high schools, Davies and Shanley. They have actively supported a number of non-profit organizations such as the Fargo Youth Hockey and the American Diabetes Association.

“We take a holistic approach and are in this for the long run,” he said. “We want everyone to feel good about coming to Frank’s. We want everyone to win.”

For more information, visit franksloungefargo.com.

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Events to Educate Voters Amid Election Season

June 1st, 2016 by Tyler Fischbach

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Technology and Training Intersect at May Eggs & Issues

May 5th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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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.

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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:

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE CHANCELLOR’S PRESENTATION SLIDES.

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!

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