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

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig Whitney
President & CEO
The Chamber


Member Spotlight on Don’s Car Wash

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

dons car wash 52nd Ave

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

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

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

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

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

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


Interested In Having Your Business Highlighted In This Section?

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


Vocational Training Center: Empowering Individuals with Disabilities

May 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

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

music at the vocational training center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Guide to Area Construction this Season

April 21st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

Fargo Streets

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

13th Avenue Reconstruction Project

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

F-M Diversion

For construction updates regarding the Diversion and downtown levees.

West Fargo Streets

Project updates from the city of West Fargo.

Minnesota Highways

Overview of all projects from the Minnesota DOT.

I-94/Hwy 75 Interchange

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

Safe travels!


Ag Economy at April Eggs & Issues

April 5th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

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

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

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

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

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

04-16 Eggs Issues cover


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

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

Eggs and issues #fmwfeggs

A photo posted by Peter Schott (@peetnd) on


Member Spotlight on Dress for Success

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

Isha Kromah Employed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dress for success red river valley boutique

Interested In Having Your Business Highlighted In This Section?

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


Spotlight on 2016 ChamberChoice Candidates

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

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

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

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

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

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

A Tasty Trio: The Boiler Room, Barbacoa & Sazerac Alley

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Behind three of the region’s most popular restaurants is a small team committed to offering a unique dining experience in the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo area. Dan Hurder, CEO, and his business partner Christian D’Agostino, executive chef, run Great Plains Hospitality, the management company behind The Boiler Room, Barbacoa and the soon-to-be-opened Sazerac Alley restaurants.


While all three establishments are new to the dining scene, the two men behind them certainly are not. Hurder started his career with the Hilton Garden Inn hotels, coming to the FMWF metro as general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn Fargo.

After figuring out he wanted to work for himself, Hurder’s first business venture was the purchase of The Otter Supper Club and Lodge in Ottertail, Minnesota, which he and D’Agostino still run today. Next was the purchase of a long-time downtown Fargo dining staple, Monte’s, in 2012, which only recently announced was shutting down to reopen and rebrand as Sazerac Alley.

The next addition to their restaurant portfolio was The Boiler Room, a new but quick favorite in downtown, which they opened nearly two years ago, followed by Barbacoa, which opened in south Fargo in October 2015.

Each establishment is equally delicious, while having its own unique identity and story.

The Boiler Room’s concept was created specifically to fit the space after they were approached to open a restaurant there by Kilbourne Group. Wanting to stray away from the typical “bar” or fine dining offering, Hurder explained that “We started looking around at what we felt downtown was lacking, and it was that middle-of-the-road option. Clean, comfortable, casual, with good quality food at a reasonable price. We knew we wanted to work in the comfort food wheelhouse, but put our own unique twist on it.”

Barbacoa was actually pitched as an idea from the former Monte’s sous chef Ian Berry, who is now executive chef there. Boasting a Southwestern barbecue concept, Barbacoa offers a wide range of gluten free options and perfectly paired bar menu to accompany the rich tastes found in their food.

Sazerac Alley (not yet opened, but coming soon as of the time of publishing this article) will be occupying the former Monte’s space inspired by New Orleans. Offering yet another experience you can’t get anywhere else in town, Hurder is hopeful that Sazerac Alley will resonate with FMWF diners. Capitalizing on both Hurder’s and D’Agostino’s prior experiences there, they’re confident they can bring the cuisine of New Orleans up north. “I think it’s a testament to what people’s dining expectations are,” Hurder said of the change. “We all work hard in our lives. You don’t want going out to dinner to also feel like work.”

dan hurder sazerac alley

Of all the dishes at each of the restaurants, Hurder says his favorites are the biscuits and gravy from Boiler Room because “they’re delicious and warm and comforting but a little spicy.” He’s also really excited to debut the char-grilled oysters at Sazerac Alley, which are cooked in their shells on the grill and topped with garlic butter and breadcrumbs. The latter will only be available at happy hour, and he hopes they become a hot commodity.

While every day is different and dining trends are ever-evolving, Hurder says he pulls his motivation from his investment into the restaurants, in terms of time, energy and emotion. “I can’t imagine not doing everything we can to make sure that this succeeds.”

What’s most rewarding for him is simply seeing a full house. “It’s always awe-inspiring to see how many people have chosen to spend their time and money with their friends and family in your establishment, of all their options,” Hurder said.

As for what’s next, Hurder said they’re not done growing their portfolio yet, though what is next is yet to be decided. He would like to get outside the FMWF market at some point. Ultimately though, “as long as I’m happy, I think it’s a success and I’m reaching my goals.”


April Message to Members: Announcing a New Agribusiness Committee

April 1st, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

craig whitney headshotI am incredibly proud and excited to announce the formation of a new Agribusiness committee here for The Chamber.

Agriculture is, and always has been, an extremely important and integral part of our region’s economy. Today, the industry faces many challenging issues as they compete in the global market. We oftentimes forget the far-reaching impact the ag community has on all of us and on so many of our local and regional businesses.

As an extension of The Chamber’s public policy efforts, our goal with this new committee is to bring together a collective voice of businesses and leaders in the ag sector. This is The Chamber’s ninth committee, and we are eager to get to work. The first meeting was held March 8 with close to 40 people in attendance. The committee has established the following mission and vision.

To promote the strong impact that the agriculture industry has on the Red River Valley while serving as a bridge to engage business leaders from across the community in the evolving agriculture market.

The Agribusiness committee will be implemented to create an awareness of the impact of agriculture throughout the Red River Valley. The committee will promote agriculture and agri-business for similar relationships with businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead, West Fargo area. The formation of this committee will focus on an understanding of the value of agriculture to the economy, particularly in water, farming, and other ag-related industries.

David Berg, president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar, will serve as the committee’s first chair. American Crystal Sugar Company is a world-class agricultural cooperative that specializes in sugar and sugar-based products and byproducts. We feel especially grateful to have a man of David’s stature stepping up to chair this new venture in its inaugural year. There is perhaps no better person to lead this committee as his over 20-year commitment is nearly unparalleled.

The Agribusiness committee is still open to additional participants, and all employees of Chamber member companies are welcome to join. Meetings are held at 8 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at The Chamber office.

As the ninth Chamber committee has kicked off, I want to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation for everything that all of our committees do. Each committee is made up of a group of individuals who graciously give their time and talents to serving the mission of The Chamber and the betterment of the business community. We simply couldn’t do what we do without each and every one of them. The rest of our committees are listed below.

  • Ambassadors – Member Relations
  • Ambassadors – Public Relations
  • Business Training
  • Leadership Fargo Moorhead West Fargo
  • Military Affairs
  • Public Affairs
  • Women Connect
  • Young Professionals Network

As with the Agribusiness committee, all employees of Chamber member businesses are welcome to get involved through the work of our committees. For more information on any of these opportunities, please visit us online or give us a call.


Call for Presenters!

March 28th, 2016 by Amanda Hofland

Share Your Expertise at Business Training or Women Connect in 2016-17

fmwf chamber call for presenters

Do you have expertise that other businesses need to hear? Want to make valuable connections and build credibility? Speaking at a Chamber event is a great way to do just that. If you’re interested, please apply! Any employee of a Chamber member business is invited to submit a proposal.

* Applications open April 1 and close May 31, 2016. *

Business Training

The Business Training series enhances the success of our community’s businesses, large or small, through top-notch presentations at affordable prices to provide valuable professional development and strengthen your work force. Topics have covered sales, culture, leadership, customer service and more.

What do YOU get by presenting?

  • Two complimentary guest passes to your session.
  • Promotion of your session and company on The Chamber website, in our monthly Bridge newsletter and in our weekly eBridge e-newsletter.
  • Electronic invitation to 10,000 recipients.
  • Exposure to a crowd of top business professionals

* Apply online HERE, or contact Bobbi Jo with questions at 218.359.0525.

Here’s what attendees have said about Business Training events:

“Session content EXCEEDED expectations. I’ve been to a few seminars now, but haven’t learned anything that I could really apply at work…until today!”

“Possibly one of the best seminars/speakers I have attended.”

“This really hit home for me.”

Women Connect

If your topics are edgy, empowering and inspiring, Women Connect wants you! We want presenters who can engage the crowd and share practical advice for navigating life as a professional woman while sharing positive messages you simply can’t get elsewhere. Topics might include work-life balance, how to negotiate, tips on surviving when you feel overcommitted, closing the gender gap in the workplace or managing conflict. We reached about 2,500 people in our first year alone!

What do YOU get by presenting?

  • Two complimentary guest passes to your session.
  • Promotion of your session and company on The Chamber website, in our monthly Bridge newsletter and in our weekly eBridge e-newsletter.
  • Electronic invitation to 10,000 recipients.
  • Exposure to a crowd of roughly 300 area women.
  • The opportunity to connect deeper with regional female professionals and bring light to the topics that matter!

* Apply online HERE, or contact Bobbi Jo with questions at 218.359.0525.

Here’s what attendees have said about Women Connect events:

“Without other women leaders in my organization, I look to Women Connect as my rock, my center, and my home-base.”

“As soon as I walked in the room and saw so many other women I was blown away and incredibly excited to begin coming to events.”

“In the world today women do not take enough time to build each other up, and share. This will work its way into being an event that women put on their calendar.”

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