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West Fargo city commission candidates offer ideas

May 27th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

wf city commission 300x223 West Fargo city commission candidates offer ideasTwo of the three candidates vying for two seats on the West Fargo city commission shared their ideas for how to manage the city’s expanding footprint and needs of a larger population.

Incumbent Mark Wentz and challenger Brad Olson both see the growth of West Fargo as a good problem to have, but both realize the city’s future relies on solid leadership and sound decisions.

Incumbent Duane Hanson was unable to attend the debate.

Here’s how Wentz and Olson land on the important issues facing West Fargo:

  • Sales tax increase: Both support the increase. Wentz cited the additional tax money would provide a revenue source for the estimated $120 million in infrastructure projects in a cost-effective way; Olson echoed those thoughts.
  • Attracting skilled workers: Olson believes the city should be advertising available jobs and a great economy as heavily as western North Dakota does to make more people aware of the opportunities in West Fargo. Wentz would like to see students getting more involved with trades so they can understand what those careers would look like.
  • Water demand: Neither Wentz nor Olson want to see West Fargo give up control of its water source, so a regional partnership seems less attractive than building a new water treatment plant.
  • Redevelopment of Sheyenne Street: Olson would like to see West Fargo create a dedicated downtown area that would attract visitors and shoppers; he also believes Sheyenne Street south of Interstate 94 is a prime location for retail and restaurants to move into. Wentz supports bringing additional businesses into the old business district to improve that area.
  • Future growth: Wentz wants to see the city commission plan for future development and expansion of the city’s footprint; Olson supports revitalizing older areas of town and filling space in the manufacturing corridor by balancing prudence and vision.

Mayor Rich Mattern, who is running for re-election unopposed, spoke at the beginning of the event about the importance of the sales tax increase to provide an additional $3 million in revenue each year for infrastructure improvement projects as well as examining the feasibility of a West Fargo water treatment plant.

Bernie Dardis of Indigo Signworks, Inc., moderated the event.

The election is June 10. To find out where you will vote, visit the Secretary of State’s website or call the Cass County Auditor’s office at 701.241.5600.

Please remember you will need a form of identification to vote.

2014 ChamberChoice award winners announced

May 21st, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce has announced its 2014 ChamberChoice award winners.cc winners 300x200 2014 ChamberChoice award winners announced

  • Small Business of the Year: Spectrum Aeromed
  • Business of the Year: Integreon Managed Solutions
  • Small Not-for-Profit of the Year: United Way of Cass-Clay
  • Not-for-Profit of the Year: CCRI Inc.
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Kory Anderson, Anderson Industries
  • Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Marco
  • People’s Choice Award: Rape and Abuse Crisis Center

Finalists for the awards include:

  • Small Business of the Year: Absolute Marketing Group and Office Sign Company
  • Business of the Year: Discovery Benefits, Inc., and Park Co. Realtors
  • Small Not-for-Profit of the Year: TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics and Youthworks
  • Not-for-Profit of the Year: Access of the Red River Valley and Anne Carlsen Center
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Ryan Raguse and Jake Joraanstad, Myriad Mobile and Tom McDougall, High Point Networks, LLC
  • Young Professionals Best Place to Work: Border States Electric and Sundog

The winners were announced at The Chamber’s annual ChamberChoice Awards Luncheon held Wednesday, May 21 at the Ramada Plaza & Suites and Conference Center. Nearly 800 people attended the event, which honors the important contributions made by businesses, nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs in the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo metropolitan area. Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page.

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.

Candidates for mayor of Fargo debate issues

May 16th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

In a debate kept closely in check by moderator Mark Western of Nilles Law Firm, incumbent mayor Dennis Walaker and challenger Brad Wimmer explained their respective positions on a number of issues facing the city in a debate hosted by The Chamber. Attendees packed the City Commission room at Fargo City Hall on Thursday, leaving only standing room for last-minute attendees.photo 300x225 Candidates for mayor of Fargo debate issues

While Walaker pointed out his accomplishments since becoming mayor eight years ago, Wimmer described his own leadership experiences and passion for seeing the city continue to grow toward a new vision.

While Walaker and Wimmer agree on several issues, the two also differ in their approaches to others.

Here’s a breakdown of what the candidates agree on:

  • Permanent flood protection: Both Walaker and Wimmer expressed their excitement for the impending authorization of federal funding for the diversion project and credited The Chamber for working to secure state funding for the important flood protection project.
  • Convention center in Fargo: The candidates would both like to see Fargo tout a convention center, whose location and funding sources have been thoroughly examined. Walaker citied fiscal responsibility and public input as vital to the process while Wimmer described the necessity for a study similar to the one the Fargo Dome Authority conducted.
  • Fiscal responsibility of local government: Walaker and Wimmer agree that the current city government officials have worked hard to maintain balanced, responsible budgets and would continue to do so if elected.
  • Increased police force: As Fargo’s footprint continues to grow, Walaker and Wimmer understand the crucial importance to keeping residents safe and would endorse increasing police staff to accomplish that goal.

Here are key differences in issues the candidates spoke about:

  • Vision for Fargo: While Wimmer described the importance of having a new vision for Fargo to keep the city vibrant, Walaker said that assertion does not take into account the progress made over the last eight years.
  • Campaigning: Wimmer pointed out that if he hadn’t challenged the mayor, Walaker would not have run a campaign. Walaker admitted “it would be a lot easier for me if I didn’t” have to campaign.
  • Fargo’s land use management: Walaker said reaching the density of 9 people/acre as cited in Go 2030 is left to home builders who could help rehabilitate homes so they remain viable. Wimmer believes that Go 2030 priority needs to be reworked to account for building out the neighborhoods surrounding the core while planning for future development and footprint expansion.
  • Attracting skilled workforce: Wimmer would like to see collaboration between universities and businesses—both large and small—as well as the entrepreneurial community to attract, educate and retain workers. Walaker would like to see collaboration between the cities and select organizations to improve the opportunities for young people in the area.

The debate is available online, and will be broadcast on TV Fargo 12 on the following dates and times:

  • May 16 at 5 p.m.
  • May 20 at 8 a.m.
  • May 28 at 10 a.m.
  • June 4 at 7 p.m.
  • June 9 at 8:30 p.m.

The candidates will debate again on KFGO-AM Mighty 790 at 11 a.m. on May 28. The election is June 10.

Several media outlets covered Thursday’s debate, including The Forum, WDAY, Fox News and KFGO.


Seven city commission candidates differ on issues facing Fargo

May 14th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

The seven individuals who are vying for two available seats on the Fargo city commission offer a variety of viewpoints on the most pressing issues facing the city.

The candidates gathered on Tuesday at a forum hosted by The Chamber.

Here’s a breakdown of the candidates and their stance on important issues:

  • Vern Bennett: 80-year-old current Cass County commissioners who supports the diversion as the only viable option for the area; he also believes the issue of a convention center should be decided by the people and should meet needs 20 years in the future. Bennett supports the expansion of the Renaissance Zone as a way to emulate the success of downtown.
  • Mara Brust: 24-year-old lawyer who wants to help the city maintain its current momentum and believes the diversion offers stability for future growth. She supports a convention center being located downtown, the heart of the community; she also supports expanding the Renaissance Zone strategically.
  • Tony Gehrig: 30-year-old North Dakota Air National Guard pilot who is running again on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He does not support the diversion but would rather see the focus shift to inner-city flood protection; he also believes a new convention center is not necessary and should not be paid for with taxpayer dollars but rather private investments. He supports lower taxes and would offer a “different perspective” than the current commissioners.
  • Tim Mahoney: 65-year-old incumbent who has helped guide the city to its current situation and believes the diversion is the best option for protecting the city.  He agrees with the Fargo Dome Authority on having a convention center at the dome and said funding could potentially come from the city’s escrow account. He supports the expansion of the Renaissance Zone as a way to increase the tax base and offer additional housing opportunities.
  • Dave Piepkorn: 53-year-old businessman and former city commissioner who supports lower taxes and reduced government regulations. He supports permanent flood protection that involves completing dikes and levees using local contractors rather than a diversion that would be built using federal contractors. As far as a convention center is concerned, Piepkorn believes the dome is a viable option but a downtown location should require a majority vote. He also supports expanding the Renaissance Zone if it makes sense.
  •  John Strand: 58-year-old co-owner of the High Plains Reader and current Fargo Public School Board member who wants prudent metro area flood protection and supports a convention center that makes sense when considering the need for a new city hall. He believes the Renaissance Zone success can be replicated in other neighborhoods to drive additional growth and success.
  • Scott Wagner: 44-year-old with 12 years of experience as a Cass County commissioner who believes the diversion offers the flood protection the city needs and would like to see the convention center issue more fully explored in terms of location and funding options. He believes the Renaissance Zone has “improved the overall health of the city” and could mean success for other areas.

You can watch the entire debate online. The replay will also be broadcast on TV Fargo 12 at the following dates and times:

  • May 14 at 7 p.m.
  • May 16 at 8:30 p.m.
  • May 20 at 9:30 p.m.
  • May 28 at 9 p.m.
  • June 5 at 6 p.m.
  • June 9 at 9 a.m.

The election will be held Tuesday, June 10. Find your polling location by visiting the Secretary of State’s website or by calling the Cass County Auditor’s Office at 701.241.5600.

The Chamber is also hosting the Fargo mayoral candidates Thursday, May 15 and the West Fargo city commission candidates on Tuesday, May 20.

Military Affairs Committee Chair Profile: Steve Blazek, First International Bank & Trust

May 8th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

Military Matters Steve Blazek 240x300 Military Affairs Committee Chair Profile: Steve Blazek, First International Bank & TrustThe Military Affairs committee fosters a community of support for the men and women of our military and recognizes these individuals. The committee helps raise awareness for their work and keeps a keen eye on advancing public policies that will advance our regions military units.

Steve Blazek, senior vice president from First International Bank & Trust, has served as the committee chair since 2012.

What have you enjoyed most about serving as committee chair of the Military Affairs committee?
attitude of the entire committee. If a need for a service member is presented or a s attention, multiple hands get raised immediately with ideas and resources for support and resolution. It has been a very rewarding experience.

What is one thing you would like other people to know about the Military Affairs committee?
The Military Affairs committee has a mission, in part, to educate our community regarding current local military issues and to advocate for men, women and their families living in our community who serve in the United States Military.

Why is it important to you to support the military men and women in the community?
The men and women who wear the uniform are some of the most caring and devoted patriots you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. This country was founded with the strength of the people’s army who volunteer to be our first and last line of defense, whether it is fighting an adversary or fighting a natural disaster. Countless times our National Guard has given of themselves to our community first and their own needs second. In addition, the United States military is one of the largest employers in the area with more than 2,000 personnel and annual budgetary impacts of close to $100 million.

Local Leaders Share Savvy Strategies for Business Success

May 8th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

SavvyStrategies web 300x199 Local Leaders Share Savvy Strategies for Business SuccessLeadership is an art that involves many dynamic components; that is the conclusion four local leaders came to as they shared their wisdom on how to be a s important to strike a balance between actively engaging in a conversation and taking it over, Mike Artnson from Cardinal IG said, and being a mindful listener is indicative of a good leader, said Patricia Patron from Family HealthCare.

Many leaders cited various tools to use within teams to determine strengths and leadership qualities; Jodi Duncan from Flint Communications, Inc., and Steve Swiontek from Gate City Bank both cited StrengthsFinder as a tool their organizations have implemented to help employees lead successfully.

After sharing insights for more than an hour, the panelists offered their final thoughts on how to be an effective leader:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Realize the strength of your team.
  • Love your employees to develop trust.
  • Appreciate your accomplishments but don’t forget there’s more to life.


Leadership Class Serves Local Nonprofits Through Program Projects

May 8th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

Every year, an integral component of the Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo program involves the nonprofit organizations that have s needs before selecting a project to work on. Class members were organized into seven small groups, and work began in November.

Last month, each group presented its project to the class, employers, nonprofit representatives and Chamber staff members. The session was held at Cass County Electric Cooperative, Inc., and CEO Scott Handy kicked off the day with a welcome. Handy graduated from the leadership program in 1989, and he said he still enjoys many of the friendships he made during his time in the class.

Congratulations to the 39 participants of the 2013-14 class. We offer our sincere congratulations to the graduating class, and we look forward to their future contributions to our business community.

Applications for the 2014-15 class are being accepted until May 29.

President’s Corner: May 2014

May 8th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

Craig Whitney e1384196398346 207x300 Presidents Corner: May 2014Dear Chamber Members,

For more than 20 years, The Chamber has recognized the outstanding businesses and organizations within the community that make a difference in our region every day. The ChamberChoice awards are an opportunity for us to shine a befitting spotlight on all the incredible member businesses who help our economy grow and thrive.

Applying for the awards involves a rigorous process that begins with nominations, an incredible testament to the engagement of our members and the vitality of our member businesses. As the 60 applications came pouring in at the end of March, we soon realized how lucky our community is to be home to so many exciting, worthwhile businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs. I do not envy the judges or their difficult task of evaluating the applications to determine the 2014 winners.

Recognizing our members is a crucial component of our job as your Chamber of Commerce. We know how hard you all work, and we all enjoy one of the best local economies in the nation because you have mastered your work yet continue to innovate and inspire. Our hope is that all businesses, nonprofits and from nominees to candidates to feel honored for the recognition received; it is well deserved and well placed.

We’ve also worked this year to recognize past award recipients so the benefits of winning continue long after the luncheon concludes. Our six award winners have been profiled in past issues of The Bridge, and we highlighted a few winners from recent years in videos that have been posted online. I hope you’ve had a chance to watch those videos. A list of our past award winners is also available on on FMWFChamber.com under Events/Programs > ChamberChoice Awards. You can also watch the video from last year’s show last year that featured all the candidates in each category.

Please consider joining us on May 21 as we recognize the stars of our business community. The ChamberChoice Awards Luncheon promises to be a thrilling event with surprises, laughter and maybe even some tears.

Thank you for your membership,
Craig Whitney
The Chamber

Recognizing past ChamberChoice winners, part 5

May 7th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

As we continue recognizing our past ChamberChoice award winners, we are highlighting Family HealthCare this week. F HC video 300x182 Recognizing past ChamberChoice winners, part 5

Last year, Family HealthCare won Not-for-Profit of the Year. CEO Patricia Patron sat down with Josh Lysne from Flint Communications, Inc., to explain what winning meant to the company.

You can also learn more about Family HealthCare by reading this profile about the company.

We hope to see you on May 21 when we announce the #ChamberChoice14 award winners from this list of 2014 ChamberChoice candidates!

Recognizing past ChamberChoice winners, part 4

May 2nd, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

Lillestol video 300x182 Recognizing past ChamberChoice winners, part 4Another featured winner of a ChamberChoice award is Lillestol Research.

In 2010, Lillestol won Small Business of the Year, and Kim Peterson sat down with Josh Lysne from Flint Communications, Inc., to explain what winning meant to the company.

Learn more about Lillestol from this profile about the company.

We hope to see you on May 21 when we announce the #ChamberChoice14 award winners from this list of 2014 ChamberChoice candidates!

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