Education today, a documentary and the beginning of a discussion

“Powerful.” The reaction from one local K-12 education leader who was among a group of education leaders who got a sneak peek at Ted Dintersmith’s documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed“. The documentary focuses on the current education system and examines the needs within the classroom. The film highlights High Tech High a school in California that uses an educational practice called project based learning.

Watchingdocumentary1The documentary continues a growing conversation focused on mainstream teaching practices versus newer education practices. What does that mean? There’s the current stand-and-deliver method of teaching or teaching to a test; it’s what we all know and remember. Then there’s a newer practice of education that incorporates what is called project-based learning (PBL). PBL focuses on one challenge or one project that forces students to work in a team to solve that problem. It turns teachers into coaches, integrates multiple subjects and challenges students to communicate, collaborate, think critically and be creative. It more closely reflects how people live and work. PBL allows teachers to meet standards through engaging projects and real, relevant problem solving.

From an educator’s perspective, the documentary represents “a visual of the things we’ve been talking about.”

About two years ago, the Greater FM EDC, the three public schools in West Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead as well as United Way of Cass Clay formed an initiative called Education that Works focused on ways to assist education in its effort to continue to make education more relevant in today’s world.

“We (Education that Works) have aspirational goals. This is affirmation,” Dr. David Flowers, Superintendent West Fargo Public Schools.Watchingdocumentary2

So why join us on September 17th to watch this documentary? Why will education, industry, economic development and hopefully, state legislators, and parents all be at this event?

Because this documentary sets the stage for our community to have a discussion. It’s a way to start the conversation and examine what education looks like today and its potential. It’s an opportunity to look at what is happening in our world and ask ourselves, is this enough? Are we doing enough for our students, our children and the future leaders of this nation?

“Don’t all kids deserve this?” Dr. Lynne Kovash, Superintendent, Moorhead Public Schools.

Join us September 17th 7:15 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre in downtown Fargo. Let’s start the conversation. We will be joined by Ted Dintersmith, producer/filmmaker. There will be a panel discussion after viewing the documentary. It’s free; you just need to register.

Sign up here

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer meets with local startups as part of national initiative

From lack of workforce to e-commerce sales tax regulations, twelve folks in the startup community and economic development met with U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer to talk about ways the federal government can support Fargo’s thriving entrepreneurial Meeting with Cramer, Prairie Dencommunity.

Meeting in the Prairie Den, a co-working space in downtown Fargo, entrepreneurs like Clint Howitz, Founder and Pack leader of Dog ID’s, talked about the challenges and benefits to growing a business in the Fargo Moorhead community.

“E-commerce has huge potential for Fargo. You don’t need foot traffic,” said Howitz.

Howitz also echoed the challenge many across the table expressed, a lack of qualified workforce.

The meeting was put together as part of Startup Day Across America. The national initiative invites members of Congress to meet with startups to learn about the challenges new companies face.

Meeting with Cramer, Prairie Den.jpg2

Shawn Muehler, Botlink and Corey Kratcha, CEO and Founder c2renew

While they may face many challenges, the group talked about the tremendous support system that has been building in the community and how folks come together to help each other out.

“Culture has been fostered in community, and it’s a very positive thing. The country could learn from Fargo,” said Jim Traynor, Intelligent InSites.

Traynor said they regularly encourage employees to get out and get involved in community events like 1 Million Cups.

“It’s a great time to be from North Dakota,” Rep. Cramer said, noting how oil extraction has put North Dakota on a national stage. “What are we doing in this moment on the stage?”


With 100-page report in hand, EDC and four regional organizations lead efforts to tackle workforce challenges

Jim workforce study results The Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC and four local agencies have commissioned a study  that lays out four action areas that could help ease the workforce shortage in the Fargo Moorhead MSA.

Six-months of research, surveys, focus groups and in-person interviews by TIP Strategies, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, have culminated in a 100-page report that details the environment surrounding regional workforce and the challenges and opportunities we face recruiting, retaining and developing our workforce.

The Greater Fargo Moorhead region currently has more than 6,700 job openings, and the 11-county labor shed has more than 11,000 job openings. Within the next five years, the region is projected to have more than 30,000 openings, and the labor shed is projected to have 55,000 openings. These jobs openings include both new jobs and replacement jobs which are open due to natural turnover in the workplace.

Employers across the region are already having difficulty securing the talent they need. Some of this difficulty is consistent with challenges employers across the US are facing – the mismatch between the skills that available workers have and the skills employers need. This is known as the skills gap.

In the Fargo Moorhead region the workforce challenges are further complicated by the low unemployment rate and the high labor force participation rate. There are not enough workers in the region to fill these job openings.

The report includes a four-point framework with priority projects to tackle the region’s employment challenges. The five-year strategic plan aims to address ways to cultivate and develop local talent, attract new talent to the region, build a strong path towards financial stability for those who need it and encourage innovation to maximize the region’s use of human capital.

  1. Cultivate: Strengthen the pipeline of local talent to support employers in the region.
    1. Community 101 for college students
    2. Tiny Pulse for Talent Insights
    3. Winter Festival to “Embrace the Cold”
  2. Attract: Enhance and coordinate efforts to bring new talent to the region
    1. Friends and Family Campaign
    2. Talent Recruitment Services
    3. Trailing Spouse Network
  1. Build: Develop a framework for financial self-sufficiency and upward mobility for workers in low-wage and basic-skill jobs
    1. Nonprofit collaborative
    2. Affordable Housing Advocacy
    3. Employer-led childcare
  2. Innovate: Encourage the development of innovative solutions to address the region’s workforce-related challenges
    1. Technology Hackathon
    2. Social innovation challenge

Within the next three to five years, the five lead organizations will drive the implementation of the four strategies and evaluate progress strengthening our workforce system to continue to support business growth.

The Regional Workforce Partnership & Collaboration involves the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber, the Fargo Moorhead Area Foundation, United Way of Cass-Clay and the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Full Report

2015 Workforce Study Executive Summary

Many local companies have pledged their support as sponsors of the partnership and its efforts:

Sanford Health
Minnesota State University Moorhead
City of West Fargo
Meinecke-Johnson Company
Forum Communications Company
Border States Electric
Essentia Health
Eide Bailly
American Crystal Sugar
North Dakota State University
Industrial Builders, Inc.
Trail King Industries, Inc.
Moorhead Economic Development Authority
North Dakota State College of Science
O’Day Equipment, LLC
Dakota Medical Foundation

GFMEDC Annual Meeting Highlights Partnerships to Ignite our Economy

You could easily sum up the GFMEDC’s 2014 to partnerships that are “Igniting” (our annual report and meeting theme) economic activities. Our organization laid the foundation with plans and partnerships to evaluate our current situation as well to build upon synergies and create solutions to our largest challenges.L83A9189 Jim.Crowdshot

So let’s get into the nitty gritty.

First, our organization stepped back and hired Fourth Economy consulting firm to take a look at what’s currently happening in our regional economy as well as what our investors expect from the GFMEDC. What’s changed? What’s working? What can we build upon to keep this economic fire going?

After research, interviews, focus groups and surveys, we created the Cass Clay Strategic Plan. Now sitting on all our desks is a five-year roadmap focused on five priorities. The plan focuses on the following: talent attraction; higher education and STEM education; an advocacy agenda while communicating economic impact; leverage existing and emerging regional industry base for business retention and expansion and startups and finally, strategies to help foster the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. For the entire report, click here!

On to a workforce study. The GFMEDC has partnered with the Chamber, United Way of Cass Clay, FM Area Foundation and FM CVB (along with several sponsors) to begin a workforce study.

L83A9219 crowd shotIf you are wondering why we need a workforce study, here’s a quick snapshot. We consistently boast a very low unemployment rate, we have a large number of open jobs. Companies need to be able to hire adequate numbers (as well as qualified) of employees not only to get their current projects done but to take on more projects. In some cases, hiring adequate staff would actually lead to more growth.

The workforce study will be completed in June and will give us a plan to collectively tackle workforce challenges impeding growth.

The Valley Prosperity Partnership is a large regional initiative that brings together 26 leaders from across the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota. Six initiatives focus on actionable items to benefit the whole region from Wahpeton to Grand Forks and everything in between. The VPP has tackled water security, workforce and research so far and has already had an impact during the North Dakota legislative session.

Education that Works is an initiative we started two years ago focused on ways to support alignment of K-12 education and the workforce. How can we support partnerships and initiatives that lead to students who are better prepared for the workforce. The group is tackling three initiatives: accelerated professional development for teachers, working with higher education to prepare tomorrow’s educators differently and communicating 21st century skill developments with teachers, parents and the business community.

And at the same time, the GFMEDC is doing things, lots of things.

L83A0145Manufacturing tours expose high school students to the high tech world of manufacturing. Teachers in Industry turns teachers into students for four weeks each summer. Sector summits bring education and specific sectors together to enhance synergies and to uncover challenges to growth. Business Retention and Expansion meetings connect businesses to resources they need. Marketing efforts elevate the stories of the good things and great people here in the FM Metro, giving outside folks a glimpse of what it’s really like to live and work here. And that’s not all but we’re getting a little long winded so check out our website, for more!

Now get out there and tell folks why you love living and working in the metro. Fire up! :-)

Share your love of the FM Metro

We’re pretty sure you love the Fargo Moorhead Metro. We also believe you would recruit all the friends and family you could if you had the right tools.

The Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC needs your help recruiting more people to the metro. So we’ve decided to start creating tools to help you do just that.

The postcard… GFMEDC Postcard 5. take a pic_Page_1Your mission…take this postcard (already stamped for you) and send it to your friend, family member, favorite person who you know would be a great addition to the FM community. No commitment, just a nice friendly postcard that encourages them to consider us.

You can stop by the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) at 51 Broadway Suite 500 to pick one up, or we will be handing them out at 1MCFAR. You can also call us 364-1900, and we’d be happy to drop them off at your work anywhere in the Fargo Moorhead metro. (If all goes well, we’ll place them at various locations around town for your convenience.)

So, you may be wondering why an economic development corporation cares about recruiting more people to the community.

From an economic development perspective, workforce (specifically, a lack of qualified workforce) is one of the greatest challenge this region faces. We know it’s a big challenge and critical to the success of local companies. We need more people to get the job done and support business growth. If we want to support stable and growing companies, this challenge has to be answered. The GFMEDC is doing what it can to recruit to the region, and we hope you’ll join us.

Check out our website for more information about who we are and what we do. www.


GFMEDC Releases Five-Year Strategic Plan

After identifying five priorities to support the area’s continued economic growth, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) has released a five-year strategic plan to address those opportunities.

The plan focuses on talent attraction; career awareness and workforce alignment; advocacy for economic development initiatives; business retention, expansion and attraction; and finally, support of a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Specific actions are listed for each of the five priorities, which will be addressed by the GFMEDC in partnership with local business leaders and educators.

“We are on the cusp of a true renaissance in the FM area. The outside world is starting to understand the power of our region, and our new five-year strategic plan will help guide us through these exciting times,” said Jim Gartin, President of the GFMEDC. “This new plan will be a working, living document. Each one of the five priorities will be driven by a committee, whose responsibility will be to ensure its implementation.”

The strategic planning process was initiated in the spring of 2014. The GFMEDC hired Fourth Economy, a Pittsburg-based consultant, to conduct stakeholder interviews, surveys and cluster analysis.

“Our firm frequently points to GFMEDC and the FM region as a model for public and private engagement,” said Steve McKnight, VP Community & Market Assessments, Fourth Economy Consulting. “Regions across the country can learn a lesson from Fargo-Moorhead – how to create a robust entrepreneurial community, address key challenges and leverage what works. And Fargo works!”

The five priorities:

  • Facilitate the attraction of talent to the region
  • Encourage the expansion and increase the awareness of technical training, higher education, STEM education and associated career opportunities
  • Advance an advocacy agenda and communicate economic impact
  • Leverage existing and emerging regional industry base and NDSU Research & Technology Park resources for business retention, expansion and startup
  • Continue the development of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

You can access the full report on our website:

West Fargo students present problem-solving tech ideas at Innovation Fair

Portable homeless shelters, a vibrating steering wheel to alert drivers who may be falling asleep, an app to support people experiencing cyber-bullying and an app-controlled robotic snow plow. These are just a few of the problem-solving ideas that local 7th graders presented at the Innovation Fair on NDSU’s campus Friday.

The West Fargo Liberty Middle School students presented their innovation and received real-time feedback during a Q&A with the audience. The questions and comments were intended to help the students improve their ideas before submitting them to the eCYBERMISSION competition, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math competition at state, regional and national levels.

Other solutions the STEM students devised included a net that skims garbage off of lakes and rivers, touchscreens at bus stops, an elliptical that generates energy to power devices, a way to generate electricity from city water flowing to homes and businesses and other assorted apps and websites.

Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC Vice President for Marketing and Public Relations, Lisa Gulland-Nelson, hosted the fair.

“These students did such a great job. It’s fun to see their innovative solutions to real-world problems. Authentic learning experiences like these are what will prepare students for the future. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a company or two come from this,” said Gulland-Nelson.

The Innovation Fair was held at the NDSU Memorial Union Century Theater and was sponsored by the NDSU College of Engineering.

1 Million Cups Fargo celebrates successful first year

1 Million Cups Fargo turned one year old on Wednesday, and organizers and attendees celebrated with a birthday party complete with cupcakes, coffee and conversation.

It was a packed house at The Stage at Island Park, with more than 360 people attending.

On stage were speakers James Burgum of Arthur Ventures, a local software venture capital firm, and Zak Fick from Help U, a service that sets up college students with small jobs or volunteer work in their communities.

(L to R) Zak Fick, James Burgum, Greg Tehven

There was even a rendition of the Happy Birthday song by Mark Lindquist and presents handed out to lucky attendees, donated from area businesses.

Since its launch in January 2014, 1 Million Cups Fargo has grown in attendance from about 40 people to an average draw of 200 people each week.

MSUM President Anne Blackhurst

A new twist was a special Internship Fair for college students. Employers with internships up for grabs gave their pitched to the packed house and were able to connect with interested students.

Minnesota State University Moorhead President Anne Blackhurst spoke about the importance of internships for students and outlined the efforts that the university has undertaken to connect students with opportunities.

“Over the last year, 1 Million Cups Fargo has been a driving force for entrepreneurs to share their ideas, build partnerships and find support. It’s generated hundreds of new friendships, launched new businesses and supported the decisions of a few businesses to choose Fargo as their home. I would have never guessed 1 Million Cups would have led to this level of impact, yet I’m grateful for what has happened and what is coming,” Greg Tehven, one of the program’s local volunteer organizers, said.

James Burgum of Arthur Ventures

The weekly event is a program aimed at local entrepreneurs to help educate, engage and connect them with each other and also with the community at large.

Past 1 Million Cups Fargo speakers

1 Million Cups — based on the notion that entrepreneurs network and discover solutions over a million cups of coffee — was founded by the Kauffman Foundation to help build startup communities on a grassroots level. Since launching in Kansas City in April 2012, 1 Million Cups is now in more than 65 cities across the nation.

Photos: A drone fly-in at Fargo’s 1 Million Cups

It was a sort of “Bring Your Own Drone Day” at 1 Million Cups Fargo this week. David Baeza from Vine Rangers showed off his drones and told the audience how he uses them to help farmers increase production. It was also a special installment because Nate Olson, 1 Million Cups co-founder presented about a new venture he is part of called Cremalab which is a user-experience design agency!

Check out more events from Emerging Prairie.

Here are a few photos:





1 Million Cups Fargo: a tremendous 2015 on tap

1 Million Cups Fargo rang in the new year with another installment of the entrepreneurial event, continuing to build on the success of 2014. For the first week of 2015, it was Josh Christy’s turn to make a pitch. Christy works with Codelation, a software product company in Fargo, and talked with the group about his new venture, Booth.

Here are some photos from Christy’s pitch:

Click here for more information on 1 Million Cups.