An Inside Look at the GFMEDC

Guest blog by John Machacek, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation

It’s no secret Fargo-Moorhead appreciates and supports its startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses (think 1 Million Cups, Startup Weekend, CoStarters, Financial Planning Day… we could go on and on.) These people and businesses are helping shape the economic ecosystem, as well providing the area with many new, fun opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment.

The bottom line: startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to our community. In fact, there are organizations in the community that have resources dedicated to helping businesses grow and thrive. One such organization is the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC).

The GFMEDC is a great resource for those who want to live, work and play in the FM area. The Mission and the Vision of the GFMEDC do an excellent job of explaining who we are as an organization and what we aim to do.

Mission: The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation is a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity. Using a comprehensive approach to economic development, the GFMEDC accelerates job and wealth creation in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN.

The Vision includes points such as:

  • Lead the development of a robust economy where people and businesses thrive
  • Strategically pursue job creation and business attraction
  • Work with K-12, higher education and industries to ensure a strong talent pipeline
  • Support a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • Create collaboration between public and private sectors

In other words, the GFMEDC wants to see the area’s economy and ecosystem thrive, and it understands the importance of small businesses in making this dream a reality.

Innovation and new businesses contribute to a stronger economy and job creation in the area, and the GFMEDC serves as a resource to support this emerging ecosystem.

On a high level, one role of the GFMEDC is to encourage the idea of being an entrepreneur and the importance of them on our economy. The FM area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, so it isn’t realistic to rely on the attraction of new businesses into the community. That’s where the entrepreneurs and startups come in.

By increasing the awareness and support of entrepreneurial development, the GFMEDC helps connect startups, builds confidence and portrays the community as a great place to build a business (and it truly is). This message is conveyed through a combination of messaging and events, which come from traditional organizations like GFMEDC, as well as help from non-traditional organizations like Emerging Prairie and Folkways which help us reach a wide variety of audiences.

On a more personal level, another purpose of the GFMEDC is getting to know the entrepreneurs on an individual basis and to be there for them throughout the various stages and needs of their business. The GFMEDC aims to engage with startups to listen to their story, learn what they need and be all ears about how they can help down the road. By building these strong, trusting relationships, the GFMEDC helps make entrepreneurial connections and strengthens the network of all those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Although the GFMEDC wants to see all types of businesses succeed, there is a special interest for those in the primary sector. These businesses are those who are adding value to a product/service and a significant portion of their customer base is outside of the region. Think of software and application developers, manufacturers, value-added ag services, etc. These companies could be located in nearly any part of the country and it wouldn’t change their customer base much – yet they’ve chosen to make the FM area the home for their business because they know the benefits of doing business here. These companies bring new wealth to the communities, which then gets passed on to employees who have spending needs which grow other industries in the area. The support of the GFMEDC helps fuel the economy by creating an ecosystem where businesses and industries all benefit from each other.

The GFMEDC also likes to stay on top of what and how these businesses are doing so we can better help them with any needs that may arise. For the more established businesses, routine visits are scheduled with them to check how things are going, but also to stress the importance of remaining in contact, especially if the business is planning an expansion in employment, facilities or financing needs. For startups, the GFMEDC aims to be in contact with them right from the start to better understand their growth stages and to be a better guide for them.

The positive approach from the entrepreneurial ecosystem (GFMEDC, Emerging Prairie, SBDCs, universities, fellow startups, etc.) has increased entrepreneurial confidence, community pride and the innovative image of the metro area around the country. Startups and small businesses are better aware of programs available to them to help them progress faster.

The Fargo-Moorhead community is friendly and caring, and entrepreneurs should know they’re not in this alone. At the GFMEDC, we pride ourselves on knowing people and programs, and we simply cannot expect businesses to know all this on their own. The GFMEDC is here as a resource to listen and learn about the current stage and future plans of each business, and to help them take advantage of what is available in the community in order to help them grow and thrive.

Lessons from #SWFargo

Startup Weekend just happened in Fargo. It was pretty inspiring, full of creative ideas to answer real problems facing our community and region (check out the winners here). There was also a raging after party sponsored by some pretty sweet accountants (cough us cough).

Through all the creativity and the party, there were also some lessons learned that we feel the need to impart (we’re nice like that).

Validation is key.

Shane, the Startup Weekend leader/facilitator, made a point of this throughout the presentations. You have to validate your idea before you ever continue in your business. Read, if no one cares about or needs your idea, it doesn’t matter how good your business plan is.

Build a great community.

The beauty of Startup Weekend is how complete strangers can come together around an idea and end up creating a company. Each individual brings their own unique strengths, which contribute to the overall success of the team.

In the same way, this can be applied to our community. Mayor Mahoney recently talked about Fargo with Emerging Prairie (check it out). He discussed how building communities where people want to live, builds a better economy. In other words, when we all do our individual part to create the community we want to live in, we contribute to the overall success of our economy.

Seek innovation.

The creation of new ideas and different ways of thinking is essential for business growth. By challenging the status quo, we begin to think in new ways and expand our sights. The problems presented at Startup Weekend weren’t new (nonprofits, for example, have been looking for funding sources for a long time). But the innovative answers the teams created were new and, hopefully, will change the way we approach things.

We’re seeing this pattern of innovation not only at Startup Weekend, but on a local and state level. In their annual look at innovation across the United States, the Consumer Technology Association named North Dakota an innovation champion for its growth in 2015. We ranked first in the country for entrepreneurial activity. In other words, great things are happening here.

These are just a few of the things we learned at Startup Weekend, and we were only there for the presentations! We continue to be amazed by what’s happening here. So keep reaching, keep innovating and building. With a little validation sprinkled in, we’ll be on the right path to grow our business climate.

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An Ode to Kicking “Butt”

1 Million Thanks 2016Okay, we’re not going to lie. We’re pretty proud to have won the Kick Ass Award at 1 Million Thanks (read more about it and all the other great honorees here). No, it’s not because we like having an excuse to use the adult version of “kick butt” around the office and in every day conversation … okay, fine, that’s not the only reason.

We’re proud because we believe hard work should be honored. And believe us, we’ve worked hard this past year. We’re working hard to change a mindset. Externally, we often hear we’re intimidating or boring accountants who talk in jargon. That’s why we’re trying to talk differently and really help you understand and embrace your accounting journey (yes, we just said that). To learn more, subscribe to this blog.

We’ve also heard that we’re too big. Well let’s be clear on this, we love working with startups, entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized businesses. We have a lot of resources and nifty people who are more than willing to help you imagine what’s possible through our Possibilities Center (see what we did there?).

In addition, we’re working hard to share our story. Because you see, our story is pretty cool.

In 1917, our business started because of the dream of an entrepreneur right here in Fargo. In May 2017, we’ll celebrate our 100 year anniversary (man we’re old, but you have to admit, some of us look pretty good). During that time, we’ve grown from a one stop shop in Fargo to a Top 25 CPA Firm in the nation with over 1,600 employees (yeah, there’s a lot of us EBers around) in 29 offices in 13 states. And we’re still headquartered right here in Fargo.

While we’ve come a long way, we also know that, to reach the next 100 years, we have to adapt and innovate. So we’re more than proud to have won the award. We’re also truly honored and INSPIRED.

In the past year, we’ve learned so much from so many of you and it has changed our thinking and altered the way we do business.

Here’s just a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:

  • It’s really fun to host parties with fabulous people. Our first foray into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo was Startup Weekend. What a kick off it was. We heard amazing pitches and celebrated with some of the brightest in Fargo Moorhead. It was a stinking blast.
  • Collaboration is so important. We’re proud to call ourselves members of the Prairie Den and partners with the NDSU Research & Tech Park. Through these collaborative efforts, we’ve met amazing people and fostered relationships that (we hope) are beneficial to both parties. We’ve seen new businesses form and grow and have been honored to even be part of the ride on some.
  • Dreams really do come true. It’s unreal to us the amount of cool things happening in Fargo. The people who wake up and decide to make their dream a reality. From Cooper’s Protosthetics research to Girl Develop It, from Co.Starters to Emerging Leaders, we’re thinking our future looks pretty stinking bright with these dreamers. And don’t even get us started on the kids in The Chamber’s YEA! Program.
  • It’s all about community. There are people all over this area who are building a community they want to live in (we’re looking at you Emerging Prairie). There are entrepreneurs making things happen and starting new companies. But there are also community partners coming alongside and lifting these individuals and companies up and collaborating with them to build a better place for all. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

So before this gets too mushy, we’ll just say this. You inspire us. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, for coming to parties with the numbers nerds and for genuinely caring about your community. Thank you for taking this almost 100 year old company along for the ride and helping us rewrite our story. We think you’re pretty kick ass (or butt if you prefer) too.

 

 

 

Top 3 Takeaways from State of Technology

By: Katie Hutton

We spent Wednesday morning talking tech at The Chamber’s State of Technology with a rock star lineup of speakers from around the region. The theme for the day came straight from Senator John Hoeven’s opening remarks: “North Dakota is THE state of technology.”

Below are a few of our key takeaways from the morning:

Take a chance
“We’re going to make our own destiny and make ourselves THE state of technology.” – Senator John Hoeven

A key theme for the event (and for entrepreneurism in general) was taking chances and taking charge. Consider Cooper Bierscheid. He and his co-founders started Protosthetics, an organization dedicated to helping families and children (seriously, check out their story ) while still in school at NDSU. They saw a need, took a chance and filled it.

cooper

And they were not alone. The day was filled with stories like theirs, of chances taken and ideas that became reality.

Adapt (and know your strengths)
“You have to learn to play to your strengths for promoting the commercialization of technology.” – Miguel Danielson, Danielson Legal

Another key takeaway was the ability to know your strengths and how to adapt to your environment. North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani spoke about higher education’s need to change the mindset about entrepreneurism. “We’re far better at creating IP than commercializing it or helping others to do so,” he said.

In response to the ever changing demands of the market and the fast paced growth of the entrepreneurial sector, President Bresciani said NDSU will start to offer programs for student entrepreneurism and innovation, which are long overdue in the Fargo area.

Jenni

Miguel Danielson of Danielson Legal also said that it’s important to learn that all of us have different strokes. When considering commercializing technology or innovation, he cautioned the audience to not have a one size fits all mentality. Rather, play to your strengths and help your whole organization get on board. “Entrepreneurism must be adopted system wide and become part of your culture if it’s going to succeed,” he said.

Collaborate collaborate collaborate
“We need to foster and build an ecosystem that allows folks to jump out in their individual ventures, while at the same time collaborating.” – Corey Kratcha, C2Renew

A vital component to the success of entrepreneurship, and building the Fargo Moorhead and North Dakota business climate, is COLLABORATION.

scott

 

 

 

Speakers heralded the connectivity of the community. Botlink noted that this was an essential component to getting their business off the ground. “There was such a sense of collaboration and cooperation in this community,” said Terri Zimmerman, CEO. “We connected with people who connected us with others in the community and around the globe.”

Every speaker on the panel championed the need to connect with one another and foster an environment of growth for all.

“We’re too small to not collaborate,” said Chad Ulven of C2Renew. “We all have to collaborate if we want to be global and make North Dakota known for technology.”