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Photo courtesy of North Dakota Tourism/Willard Clay

RRV Table of Contents

Welcome to the new western North Dakota edition of Prairie Business magazine! ou might be thinking “Well wait a minute, what’s different?” The short answer is that it’s not so much different...just more. This month’s introductory launch of our zoned western North Dakota issue includes our regular editorial coverage of the business news that affects our shared regional economies and business leaders. What is different is that now, for our selected subscribers with a concentrated interest in the western North Dakota business area, there is more of what you are looking for in terms of filling that business news hole. We’ve been busy as we head into our second decade. Busy updating the look and feel of the magazine, busy expanding our readership, and mostly busy listening to what our subscribers and sponsors are looking for in a business magazine. The introduction of the western North Dakota zoned edition of Prairie Business Magazine also affords us the opportunity to give advertisers the ability to more effectively, and economically target that hard to reach business-to-business marketplace, with specially priced advertising rates and new strategic placement options that go well beyond just being competitive. The better news is that we are not done listening. As a matter of fact, our expanded presence in western North Dakota gives us a greater reach into listening to what business leaders are looking for in a business publication. Again, welcome to our latest efforts to provide the stories and marketing opportunities that you have been asking for and we look forward to working with all of you in the future. And, if you are not currently a subscriber or would like to see more people at your place of business get Prairie Business Magazine, it’s free and you can have the magazine sent to your home or office by going to our website,, and at the very top right look for the “Click here to subscribe” link. It’s easy and free!


2 Architects & Engineers Western North Dakota architects and engineers are seeing a boom in the field.

4 Now is the right time to expand With a positive economic climate out west American Bank Center believes it is time to expand.

6 Great Plains Energy Park Providing access to the oil fields.

8 Award recognizes businesses Recruiting and retaining talent. 2

WNDPB July 2011

Not so challenging times in architecture and engineering out West Architects and engineers around the nation have had a challenge finding work. However, with what is happening in the oil fields in western North Dakota, architects and engineers in that region are seeing a boom in the field. hallenging times’ takes on a different connotation in western North Dakota,” says Janet Prchal, AIA, Hulsing and Associates Architects in Dickinson, ND. “Instead of being in a recession, the challenge is the boom. Our quiet existence has become frantic.” Prchal adds that contractors that architects trust and rely on in western North Dakota are too busy to bid our projects or they can’t find labor to expand their companies. “We find ourselves having to do background checks on contractors and looking into ways to protect our clients from companies with poor performance history,” Prchal explains. And part of the reason many are not having a hard time finding work is because of diversification. “In this part of the country you have to diversify,” states Don Davison, President of Davison Larson Associates in Minot, ND. The company was founded in 1951 on school work and in past years it has been a hit or miss. “Now it is more of a hit because school districts are becoming overcrowded in western North Dakota with the massive influx of oil related work forces.” Davison and his partner, Doug Larson, along with four other employees, do a variety of projects. The firm does not get involved in industrial-type work, but Davison says that is growing in the northwest part of the state. Davison focuses on hospital work, schools, and commercial buildings. While western North Dakota is having loads of work, Davison says he has worked with firms out of Minneapolis who have been struggling because of the economy and the tightness of money. “If the owner can’t get hands on money, they aren’t going to build,” he states. “The financial situation has a huge impact on the construction industry. We’re the exception to the rule here



WND Architects/Engineers

Don Davison, Davison Larson Associates

Janet Prchal, Hulsing and Associates Architects

in North Dakota. The state has a surplus of money and there is a lot of work coming out of state revenue sources. The federal government, however, with its current financial situation, will be slow to respond to the construction industry.” Most of the clients for Hulsing and Associates Architects are public entities, in which lending institutions influence how representatives in government spend tax dollars. “We need to support spending that is worthwhile and beneficial to the public,” Prchal states. “I hope the financial institutions are being cautious. If we overbuild our communities and the oil activity subsides, the local taxpayers will be left paying the bills” Prchal says the new project type that her company is being exposed to is the ‘man-camp.’ “We are designing the food service and commons area for a proposed camp,” she explains. “We were not involved early enough in the project to help with the development of the housing units, which is unfortunate. I believe the assistance of an architect in these projects could help the image of these camps and make them more acceptable to the communities that are impacted.” Much of the development occurring in western North Dakota is by outside developers using in-house designers or design firms they have worked with in the past, Prchal states. “We are working with a few interesting clients from outside the area which is very educational,” she adds. “However, the oil boom has come and gone before in my career and my philosophy is to concentrate on the clients that are a stable part of our economy and not to chase the opportunists.”

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BOTH COMPANIES SEE THE ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING FIELDS CHANGING For Davison, the business has become fast paced. When he first started, he was drawing designs by hand with lead pencils and using lots of erasers. Now, technology has changed that. “The advent of technology has put it at another level - both for the expectations of the finished product and the time frame to put it together,” says Davison, recalling that when he first started doing larger, multi-million dollar projects he would be spending a year on the project. “Now they want it done in six months.” Davison says that increased demand in the field of landscape architecture is finding its place in the design world. There is increased awareness of ‘Green’ design and sensitivity to the environment. But overall, Davison admits it is “kind of wild right now with the amount of work and pace of it in the area. We have a lot of work going on right now and we’re not very concerned about future work.” Prchal adds that owners are becoming more aware of Green architecture. “We no longer have to ‘sell’ the concept of sustainability and energy conservation,” she says. “The clients are informed and want to do the right thing.” WNDPB Alan Van Ormer -

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WND Money

American Bank Center believes now is the right time to expand With the positive economic climate in western North Dakota, American Bank Center feels it is the right time to grow and expand. “

GREG VETTER President, American Bank Center


e have always been a western North Dakota company and we grow when we serve as an economic engine to assist in this growth,” states Bank President Greg Vetter. “Our success is due to the result of the continued success of those we serve. Our customers now have access to the expertise and resources our 300 professionals provide.” The American Bank Center is a $600 million employee/director owned community bank with five offices in Bismarck, two in Dickinson, and one each in Minot, New England, and Killdeer. The financial institution is a member of the American Bancor, Ltd. family of companies (American Bank Center, American Trust Center, American Insurance Center, and Scandia American Bank and Trust,) and also has a 25 year relationship with Investment Centers of America. “American Bank Center continues to be a strong financial services company which is always looking to make sound investment decisions regarding expansion that makes sense to both our customers and shareholders,” Vetter states. “We continue to enjoy the successes our customers have enjoyed and the space needed in Bismarck is a reflection of our mutual success.” The financial institution has developed a brand entitled ‘Make Life Easier!’ for its customers. “By combining resources, we are better able to provide services and products in a streamlined manner, one product line-up,


WNDPB July 2011

one computer operating system, and one way to meet the larger credit needs within the communities we serve,” Vetter states. “The more our two banks, trust company, and insurance agency work together, the more our customers benefit in meeting all of their financial needs.” American Bank Center offers a wide variety of traditional banking products and services. American Trust Center and American Insurance Center can provide nontraditional financial products and services to customers for all life stages and beyond. Additionally, Investment Centers of America provides a full line of brokerage and investment advisory services to customers who desire these services. The American Bank Center provides a complete financial services firm in all the markets it serves. One of the major challenges is staying ahead of the growth that is occurring. American Bank Center has recently entered into a development and sales agreement with local developer Loran Galpin to purchase a new three story 21,000 square foot office facility across the street from the downtown Bismarck office. The new facility will house business and home mortgage lending, American Insurance Center, and American Trust Center. The facility is slated to be completed by August 2012 and will provide the space needed in the future. “It will be a very functional “campus” offering a one stop financial center for our customers,” Vetter explains. This will also help the community bank to provide capital necessary for communities to grow. “Every progressive community has a strong and active community bank. North Dakota is blessed to have many outstanding community banks, and we are one of them,” Vetter says. “Our customers and communities have been good to us and we want to continue to be there for them.” Vetter adds that much has been written the past several years on what went wrong with the national financial system. “Community banking continues to be a very bright spot in the otherwise complicated and sometimes misguided financial services industry,” he states. “American Bank Center has stayed focused on our mission and served the legitimate financial needs of the communities we serve. We take this privilege very seriously and will continue to work for the growth and prosperity of the markets we live and raise our families in.” WNDPB Alan Van Ormer -


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WND Energy


Great Plains Energy Park:

Providing access to western North Dakota o go along with that belief, the Minot Area Development Corporation is actively marketing the Great Plains Energy Center to be that place providing company’s access to oil and other energy needs in northwest North Dakota. “It was our core strategy to make a decision to invite companies to the area,” says Jerry Chavez, President/CEO of the Minot Area Development Corporation. “Once we identified the location, it was the quickest and fastest organized effort I have been associated with.” The entire 160 acre park is expected to be sold in the next couple of months. In addition, it is estimated that more than 400 jobs will be created and will have more than a $100 million impact to the community. Currently, Halliburton Co. has invested in 35 acres to build operational and maintenance facilities, parking areas, and an administrative building. Pumpko Services has garnered another 22 acres for a facility to fill positions as operators, mechanics, and a variety of other areas of employment. Pure Energy Services has taken up 10 acres and has recently expanded its facility, while Magnum Trucking is situated in another five acres with a 5,000 square foot ramping facility. There are other projects in the works. Throughout Minot, more than 30 companies in the oil and petroleum industry have provided 1,200 jobs. The park is tailored to petroleum services companies: it is located within the city limits with city services available; provides a fast track to starting operations; has grade ready infrastructure and land; is located close to


WNDPB July 2011

Minot, ND considers itself a regional trade center and now, with the oil play, believes it is in the Gateway to the Bakken Formation.

fuel and heavy equipment services; and is located near Highway 2, which provides easy access to the communities in the Bakken. Chavez states that Minot has always been a regional trade center with a good hospital, educational opportunities, and shopping. Now, because of recent developments in the oil field, the community’s airport has developed connecting flights to Denver. “The key connection is corporate jets that are bringing in personnel on a regular basis,” Chavez explains. “We are a gateway to the Bakken Formation.” The energy park is also huge for Minot in economic development, in particular, sales tax. Last year, with the help of the Great Plains Energy Park, Minot increased its sales tax dramatically to more than $100 million. To date this year, the sales tax has been far above that number, Chavez says. “It is a direct correlation to the activity in the region,” he says. “We have a larger presence in north central North Dakota for oil companies, access to employees to build homes, and the ability to expand infrastructure. It is a challenge.” Chavez adds that since the community elected to make this a strategic location to develop land for the petroleum industry, it has also made a commitment it use it as a model for developing other energy parks. “We are thinking about expansion,” he says. “What is does for our community is put this type of public infrastructure in one location.” WNDPB Alan Van Ormer -

WND Entrepreneurs

Award recognizes businesses committed to recruiting and retaining talent Big paychecks and perks may sound good to a job seeker, but they aren’t necessarily what keeps an employee loyal to an organization. ismarck-Mandan’s Young Professionals Network recently named their Top 10 Young Professional Workplaces. The award recognizes local businesses committed to recruiting and retaining talented young professionals under the age of 40. This year’s recipients were selected from a pool of 22 nominees, the largest competition since the award’s inception in 2007. YP Network President Molly Sullivan says companies have four weeks to complete the application and then an YP Network committee consisting of six members from diverse backgrounds take about two weeks to determine the winners. “We’re focused on how do they integrate, and what opportunities do they make available to young professionals,” Sullivan states. Because the highly coveted award is useful for recruitment, she explains they receive numerous applications and it is very competitive. She adds that the company names are removed when the committee reviews the applications, so it offers a more neutral playing field. National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) sits quietly northwest of Mandan, even though it employs over 400 people in that location. “We’re kind of an anomaly,” says Kari Reichert, Vice President of People Services at NISC. “A lot of people don’t know what we do.” The information technology company develops and supports software and hardware solutions for utility cooperatives and telecommunications companies across the nation. But they also provide an environment for young professionals to shape the working culture within the office. “The things I want out of life don’t require that I make a million dollars. I want work that’s meaningful – where the work I do makes a difference,” Reichert explains. With a median age of 34, young professionals at NISC are involved in developing the values and advancements within the organization. NISC offers flexible schedules, opportunities to work from home, and efforts to create a healthy life. The company offered blood screenings for its employees earlier this year. Based on those findings, NISC has offered new wellness programs to encourage more active, healthier lifestyles. They are currently wrapping up a six-week fitness competition which concludes with a health fair on July 7. NISC employees can develop community within the organization through unique offerings like the “Green Team” which works to make the company more


“Hopefully [the award] helps attract young talent that want to be here,” -Troy Warner, Barr Engineering.

environmentally friendly, or a Benevolence Committee, an employee funded group that helps fellow employees in need. They even maintain their own internet social platform, much like a private Facebook called “NISC Community.” With a mentoring program, educational assistance and its own learning center, NISC strongly promotes personal development. These opportunities allow employees to gain the knowledge to move throughout the company and allow for advancement. NISC boasts a low turnover rate, which Reichert believes is attributed to the nature of the organization. “At the end of the day it’s, ‘Do the right thing. Always’,” she states. Though large companies like NISC may have greater access to the resources that appeal to young professionals, a smaller business like Silicon Plains, LLC relies on a unique environment for job satisfaction among its employees. “Our young professionals have helped to drive the culture of the organization,” explains Dan Polk, President. “We do a good job of keeping each other in check.” In business for just a year, Polk said Silicon Plains can’t compete with the benefits offered by a large corporation, but he believes the flexible, personal, and professional atmosphere makes up for it. “We try to make it like a Silicon Valley company. We’re very forward-driven thinkers,” Polk adds. Silicon Plains gives employees the option of working from wherever and whenever they want. It’s apparently working, as the company asserts it has become known regionally as the place to call for timely and economical IT support. Polk was quite honored to receive the YP Network award. “It affirms that we’re doing it right,” he says. “It makes a huge difference in how we’re perceived – that we’re more driven, and sharper.” Barr Engineering is also a newer company, having opened in Bismarck just under three years ago. They feel they made the YP Network’s top 10 list because employees experience a sense of ownership, where everyone is responsible for themselves, working their own schedules, and picking their own career path. “We have a self-employed feeling,” says Troy Warner, an electrical engineer at Barr Engineering. “After you’ve developed a client base, you really gain a personal connection with them.” WNDPB


Warner adds being employee-owned offers a lot of benefits versus a public-owned company, and the staff enjoys a hierarchy-free environment. As years of service roll by, they earn more ownership of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. “We’re basically a nonprofit because all of our profits go back to the employees…to reinvest into the company,” Warner explains. Barr Engineering has seven regional offices, employing 500 people. Ten of those work from the Bismarck office. The company offers a variety of engineering services including industrial, civil, mechanical and water resources. Warner says multi-disciplinary projects sometimes require bringing in staff from other offices, and those connections bring further opportunities to expand their services. The company is a self-proclaimed “jack-of-all-trades,” and Warner finds North Dakota’s expanding needs within mines, power plants, and environmental assessments keeps the demand for Barr Engineering’s work force strong. He says Barr Engineering encourages young people to stay in Bismarck-Mandan to further their career, and the YP Network award is a great step in that direction. His Bismarck office hopes to double the number of employees within the next couple of years. “We’ve been trying hard to grow our office, so winning this award helps get our name out there,” Warner adds. “It is a great honor.” The Bismarck-Mandan Young Professionals Network awards each recipient with a plaque for their place of


business and use of the Bismarck-Mandan Top 10 Young Professional Workplace logo for display on promotional materials. WNDPB Maxine Herr is a Bismarck, ND-based freelance writer. She can be reached at

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“It’s a really rewarding experience to be a part of something larger than yourself,” -Kari Reichert, NISC.

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WNDPB July 2011

Prairie Business Western North Dakota July 2011  

Western North Dakota Business News

Prairie Business Western North Dakota July 2011  

Western North Dakota Business News