Valley Prosperity Partnership poised to act on first strategic initiatives

In a report to stakeholders, the Valley Prosperity Partnership released three reports that identify action steps to support the first three of six initiatives: workforce attraction, development and retention; water security and management for the Valley and university research capacity and relevancy.

During the report to stakeholders, the VPP leadership team outlined the process and development of the strategic plan, results of the working groups and next steps for the VPP.

Immediately following the release of VPP’s report in May of 2014, three working groups came together to start putting strategy into action. The groups focused on ways the region could collectively have an impact. The groups put together recommendations that support each initiative including a legislative agenda.

Talent Attraction, Retention & Development:

The VPP will help coordinate regional talent attraction, development and retention initiatives to ensure the Valley can meet and sustain the current and future employment demands while helping to give North Dakota, Minnesota and the Valley a greater voice in national policy.

Expanding research capacity and relevancy:

The VPP will work to ensure that the Valley’s universities’ research and technology commercialization activities are fully funded, can attract quality faculty, and can support regional industry and their unique competencies.

Ensuring water security and management:

The VPP will collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to ensure the Valley’s water security infrastructure and management system are fully funded, constructed and operational, effectively protecting against future flooding while providing for a readily sustainable water supply.

The VPP has retained lobbyists with Vogel Law Firm and is moving forward with a legislative agenda that includes support for business and education partnership initiatives aimed at retaining youth and increasing in-migration to meet future employment needs; for increased investment in university research and growth of commercialization capacity; and funding for water projects that impact the Red River Valley.

“The priority areas we have identified impact our businesses, our employees, and our communities. We will not achieve these goals by duplicating programs or systems that already exist. We are focused on enhancing collaboration and bringing new partners together.” said Tammy Miller, committee co-chair and CEO of Border States Electric.

Made up of 27 leaders from up and down the Red River Valley, the VPP was formed to develop an action-oriented strategy and plan to collaborate on these issues that impact the long-term economic growth and sustainability of the Red River Valley.

Delore Zimmerman, Praxis Strategy Group CEO

“The VPP is a regional voice supporting the efforts laid out in the strategic plan. This is a historical and pivotal time for the Red River Valley. We are working toward common goals at local, state, and federal levels to help key programs evolve and increase funding support when necessary,” said Steve Burian, VPP co-chair and CEO of AE2S.

In May 2013, the VPP undertook an extensive outreach effort to gather input and collect background information.  Hundreds of interviews and focus groups with regional stakeholders along with hours of research culminated in the plan.

The strategic plan identified six key areas for action:

  • Workforce attraction, development and retention
  • Water security and management for the Valley
  • University research capacity and relevancy
  • Entrepreneurial activity and output
  • Infrastructure development and capital improvements
  • Perceptions of the Valley

The VPP will begin tackling the final three initiatives in May of 2015.

More information:
Grand Forks Herald: ‘Partnership on track to boosting valley prosperity’
The Forum of Fargo Moorhead: ‘Valley prosperity initiative makes strides in first year’
WDAY-TV: ‘VPP launches agenda in hopes of economic growth’


GFMEDC’s Mark Vaux earns prestigious Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification from International Economic Development Council

Mark Vaux, EVP Business Development for the Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC, recently earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), a national recognition that denotes a mastery of principal skills in economic development, professional attainment and a commitment to personal and professional growth. The CEcD exam is administered by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC)

The CecD recognizes qualified and dedicated practitioners in the economic development field and sets the standard of excellence within the profession. Candidates must pass a rigorous and comprehensive three-part, two-day examination, which tests a practitioner’s knowledge, proficiency and judgment in the key areas of economic development including business retention and expansion, marketing, finance, workforce development, community development, real estate planning, technology-led economic development and management.

Congrats, Mark!


The Fargo Moorhead Metro celebrates 30 years of United Airlines Service

The City Of Fargo, Fargo Airport Authority, and the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) recognize United Airlines for 30 years of service to the Fargo market. 

 United provides non-stop United Express service to Chicago and Denver.

 “United provides travelers in the Fargo area with a number of convenient air service options. Leisure and business travelers are able to access one stop service to hundreds of domestic and international destinations each day.  I value their 30 year partnership with our community and surrounding region. I look forward to working with United to explore the possibility of expanding service in our market to meet the needs of the traveling public in our region,” said Mayor Dennis Walaker, City of Fargo.    

“We appreciate the great service United provides to Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding region. United provides global connections to our mutual customers via their Chicago and Denver hubs. United continues to be a valuable partner in the ongoing efforts to expand air service opportunities in our market. Congratulations on your 30th anniversary of service to our market. We look forward to the next 30 years of service to our community,” said Shawn Dobberstein, Executive Director, Fargo Airport Authority.                                              

“United has played an important role in the development of Fargo-Moorhead’s economy over the past 30 years,” said Jim Gartin, President of the GFMEDC.  “United is a critical part of our community’s business infrastructure providing connectivity in an increasingly global market.” 

The Fargo Airport Authority, the City of Fargo, and members of the GFMEDC wish to congratulate and thank United for providing valuable service the Fargo-Moorhead region.

Consulting firm, TIP, hired to lead first-ever regional workforce study

As the region consistently boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, workforce presents a challenge to continued economic growth and prosperity. In response to that challenge, five organizations, along with a diverse range of businesses and higher education organizations, have come together to sponsor a first-ever regional workforce study.

TIP Strategies, a consulting firm based in Austin, TX has been hired to lead a six-month study to examine the region’s labor market, study the industry-workforce alignment and develop systems for ongoing collaboration to enhance this alignment.

The project will cost an estimated $150,000 with an anticipated November start date. The study will look at labor market characteristics, labor shed definitions, target industry alignment and high-demand occupations. The consulting firm will also conduct sector council facilitation.

The Regional Workforce Partnership & Collaboration involves The Chamber, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Fargo Moorhead Area Foundation, United Way of Cass-Clay and the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau along with several sponsors who helped fund the study.

Sponsors of the study include:

Border States Electric
Industrial Builders, Inc.
Meinecke-Johnson Company
North Dakota State College of Science
City of Moorhead Economic Development
Greater Fargo-Moorhead EDC
The Chamber
United Way of Cass-Clay
Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau
Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation
Forum Communications Company
City of West Fargo
North Dakota State University
Trail King Industries
Sanford Health
Eide Bailly LLP
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Dakota Medical Foundation
Essentia Health
American Crystal Sugar Company
O’Day Equipment, Inc.

Educating and changing perceptions of the manufacturing industry: 160 high school students toured four local companies for manufacturing day

Emile Dargbeh’s enthusiasm was infectious.

The Fargo Davies High School senior spoke excitedly about his prospects in finding a career in manufacturing, something he would now “definitely like to have.”

Dargbeh was one of about 170 students from Fargo Moorhead who attended the third Manufacturing Day on October 3rd, hosted by the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.

Coinciding with National Manufacturing Day, GFMEDC aimed to have the event educate students of the many valuable careers available in their own backyard. Through the morning, the students toured four local manufacturing businesses, getting valuable hands-on experience.

Experiences like the manufacturing tours are helping influence students’ choices for their education after graduating high school and life-long careers.

“Because I’m getting more and more experience in automotive and things like that, more mechanical work, I’m leaning over to that side right now. I think a technical college like [MState] would be the best option for me right now,” Dargbeh said.

Students from Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo visited Aggregate Industries, the Fargo Jet Center/Weather Modification, John Deere Electronic Solutions and Prinsco. Students like Dargbeh found the hands-on learning to be valuable.

“They show us actual stuff, like over in the automotive lab. We saw the actual trucks over there, which was pretty good because sometimes it’s just like prototypes that you see. You don’t really get to work on the real thing, the real deal and here it’s all about the real deal,” Dargbeh said. “Definitely one of the most exciting, entertaining, and most educational experiences I’ve had in a very long time.”

At Aggregate Industries, students visited an open gravel pit east of Moorhead, with a huge scooping dredge that plunged about 100 feet down into a large pond, gathering material that the company turns into asphalt and concrete.

Before Manufacturing Day, student Brian Phillips had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do after high school. He said one of his teachers piqued his interest in industrial technology and the experiences he had visiting the local businesses gave him an even bigger perspective.

“We saw a whole wide view of the different varieties of jobs there are,” Phillips said.

Fargo South High School junior Aleigha Abner wants to find a career in auto or diesel mechanics and MState may be the school for her. After the day of learning, Abner said she would recommend the manufacturing tours to her fellow students.

“I would tell them to go because you’ll learn much more than what you learn in class,” Abner said.

At Prinsco in Fargo, the students toured the whole facility where recycled plastics like milk jugs and detergent containers are turned into corrugated plastic piping used in agriculture. They saw the process from the beginning, with small pieces of plastic making its way through machinery, becoming a useful product that can increase yields for our local farmers.

“I think it’s a reality check, really,” Prinsco plant manager Marc Valenzuela said. “Oftentimes we see products on the market and have no idea how they’re made and all the work that goes into them.”

Valenzuela thought Manufacturing Day was a perfect chance to expand students’ horizons.

“I try to share that passion with the kids. I see them when they come in; they’re not that interested, they’re wondering why they’re here. And as we finish the tour, they’re attentive, they’re interested, they’re engaged, and that’s a win-win for me,” Valenzuela said.

Students also toured the Fargo Jet Center, a full-service fixed-base operator where you might run into someone famous as they step off of their private jet. Students were able to see a variety of planes up close and even got to take the driver’s seat of a state-of-the-art airport firefighting truck.

At John Deere Electronic Solutions, the tour showcased industry-leading electronics components used in much of the agricultural equipment on fields around the world.

Manufacturing Day 2014 was sponsored by the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Minn-Dak Manufacturers Association and Dakota MEP.



Valley Prosperity Partnership released action-oriented report to shape Valley’s economic future

The VPP released a 62-page report that lays out six action oriented goals focused on sustained economic growth for the entire Red River Valley in both North Dakota and Minnesota.

  1. Workforce attraction, development and retention
  2. Water security for the Valley
  3. Research capacity and relevancy
  4. Entrepreneurial activity and output
  5. Infrastructure investment
  6. Improving outside perceptions of the Valley

The group will focus initially on the first three goals related to workforce, water security and research. Working groups have been formed to move the action items forward.

“Our region needs talented people, great places, sensible public policies, good ideas, and a diverse economic base. The Valley is in a position of prosperity. This action plan isn’t a response to an economic downturn; rather, it is one that seeks to build on our strengths.” said Tammy Miller, committee co-chair and CEO of Border States Electric.

Check out the Full Report

Fargo – no longer defined by a movie or TV show

No matter what you think of the movie “Fargo” or the new FX television series “Fargo”, there’s no denying that the two have contributed to quite a bit of name recognition for our wonderful community (what kind of recognition may be up for debate).

At the same time, a lot of people are singing our praises. Check out these (most recent) articles:

“No joke: It couldn’t get much better in Fargo” Joel Kotkin, Forbes. With the launch of the FX show Fargo, Kotkin focuses on what Fargo is really like including the rapid growth our region is experiencing.

What Fargo can teach you about community  Ben Hanten, Forbes. After visiting Fargo, Hanten focuses on five things he believes set Fargo apart as community builders create a startup culture.

The 6 best things to do in Fargo (not inspired by the movie) Downtown Traveler

7 life lessons we could all learn from the Midwest  Rob Fee, Thought Catalog.

Fargo ranked #10 on “10 Best Cities to Find a Job” by My Life.

An excerpt from Scott Meyer’s 9 Clouds blog regarding a recent Fargo visit by the entrepreneurial communities of Aberdeen and Brookings:
“We took a walking tour [of Fargo] and everyone our host introduced us to stopped to share their projects and ideas with us. After three hours we headed down the road, but everyone in the car was on the Fargo bandwagon. The fact that people throughout the community gave us their time meant that we felt grateful. We left feeling like a part of the community.”

Like Meyers, the folks who visit are impressed by our community full of creative, entrepreneurial, smart and generous people. It’s time to start believing them!

GFMEDC’s Strong Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) Program Builds Relationships, Solves Challenges

The Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC manages a robust Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program to better understand the local business climate. Visits with leaders at regional primary-sector companies allow GFMEDC staff to communicate available programs and learn about each company’s activities and potential challenges. Mark Vaux, executive vice president business development, meets with about 15 businesses in Cass and Clay County each month.

One of the more enjoyable parts about doing these visits is meeting new companies and people.  The diversity is really interesting as we can visit with a software developer one minute and an agricultural manufacturer the next,” Vaux said.

Kicking off March, Vaux met with leaders at two companies. The first was with Jeff Davis, manager, Identity Ag in Casselton. Identity Ag cleans, packages, and ships non-GMO soybeans and wheat. They are also a certified organic processor for soybeans and wheat with around 95% of all products shipping internationally.

The meeting focused on ways to support the company’s growth including hiring new employees and a possible new purchase of equipment. The GFMEDC can assist with both through various programs and staff support. Identity Ag has eight employees and is looking to add about three more.

Vaux also met with Tom Boyle, President of D & M Industries located in Moorhead. D&M specializes in doors, millwork, windows, cabinets, frames and hardware for many types of building projects nationwide. These projects include residential housing, hotel-motel, assisted living and multi-family housing. 

As a Moorhead business, Boyle emphasized the importance of engaging the Moorhead community and Minnesota as a whole. D & M Industries employs 111, and the company is seeking qualified new employees.

The BRE visits have confirmed that workforce continues to be a challenge for many regional companies.  

“Workforce needs continue to be the largest issue we face as a community for sustainable growth, both in terms of recruiting new talent to our region and providing training for the existing workforce,” Vaux said.

Through BRE visits, the GFMEDC continues to build relationships with regional companies connecting them with resources and gaining valuable insight into the regional economic landscape.


Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC Launches Faith in Fargo Moorhead Web Page

The Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC has launched a Faith in Fargo Moorhead website page highlighting the various religious and faith-based options in the Fargo Moorhead Metro.

The webpage was built in response to a need expressed by local investor companies and partner organizations.

The information targets people who are new to the area or considering locating here. The Faith in Fargo Moorhead page is unique to the area and benefits people trying to connect and integrate into the community.

Along with the many Christian denominations, Fargo Moorhead is home to a Baha’i community, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan and Free Thinkers.

“As president of Concordia College, I am delighted by the lively and welcoming spirit revealed in the “Faith in Fargo-Moorhead” page of the GFMEDC. Our community, our colleges and universities, our places of business—all are strengthened by the diversity of faith commitments that define our friends and neighbors and that call us to work for the common good,” William J. Craft, President Concordia College.

The GFMEDC partnered with David Meyers, PhD. Founder & Executive Director of Center for Interfaith Projects, and Jacqueline Bussie, PhD. Director, Forum on Faith and Life and Concordia College Associate Professor, to gather the information provided on the webpage.

1 Million Cups connects entrepreneurs and community

“Running a startup is terrifying and exhilarating.”

Blaine Booher, an entrepreneur featured at a recent 1 Million Cups event, told a packed room about his experiences building and running a startup company called Clifton Labs. Clifton Labs provides computer engineering and software development. The company builds software and hardware solutions.

Communication, taking ownership of projects and remembering that businesses are run by human beings are three themes Booher discussed as a core in his business. “I want to build a company that I want to work for.”

The weekly 1 Million Cups event gives entrepreneurs, like Booher, an avenue to gain community involvement and support. The events also benefit audience members who can gain insight into some of the challenges and benefits of starting a business.

Booher, who recently moved to Fargo from Cincinnati, praised the Fargo Moorhead community as one that has really welcomed his family. Clifton Labs is based in Cincinnati, but Booher is looking to expand his company into the Fargo market. “The community is amazing. Everyone seems so honest, and it’s an embracing community.” Booher said.

1 Million Cups happens every Wednesday morning at 9:00 and is free and open to the public. There’s free coffee thanks to Danielson Legal. For more information or to sign up, go to Fargo is one of 26 locations across the country hosting the weekly event.