Last night, Emerging Prairie hosted their second annual 1 Million Thanks event with over 170 people at ecce art gallery.

The event, which debuted in 2015, celebrated another year of activity and energy in the Fargo-Moorhead community, and recognition awards given to community members.

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Jim Gartin, President of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Center, gave a keynote presentation (original speaker Marc Nager, builder of Startup Weekend, was unable to attend due to an emergency shoulder surgery.) In it, Gartin explained how he moved to Fargo from Ann Arbor ,Michigan, and was amazed at the growing economy of the city.

“I’d like you to think back to Fargo, four years ago,” he asked the audience. “Think about what Fargo was like. What’s happened in this city…it’s been truly transformational.”

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That growth, he said, is entirely dependent on the entrepreneurs, risk-takers, innovators, and community builders who have taken initiative in this city. Self-organized meet-ups, student programs, event attendees – each are components to a vibrant, healthy community, he said.

“You will make it happen,” Gartin said.

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A few people who are “making it happen,” were given awards last night, as a recognition for the work, time and/or money they are lending to support the community. Awards were chosen by a host committee, and winners received a hand painted railroad spike award done by Fargo artist McCal Joy Johnson. Here they are:

Rookie of the Year Award

This award is given to someone who is not a Fargo native, but who has put down roots in Fargo and invested in the community. Inspired by the work of Blaine and Amanda Booher, this year the award went to Cooper Bierscheid for his work with Protosthetics. Bierscheid turned down a dream job at 3M to build his startup in Fargo, and continuously works to make others’ lives better. (He recently returned from Haiti, where he delivered a prosthetic arm to man who lost his own arm.)


Team Player Award

This award, inspired by Myriad Mobile and their involvement in the community, goes to a person or company who devotes time and resources to boost the community around them- be that through funding, organizing events, or participating. This year it went to Botlink for their help in organizing the Drone Focus meet-ups and lending their time to speak at numerous different events.

A good chunk of the team was present to accept the trophy, and stated that they will continue to build up the drone industry in North Dakota. Botlink

Kick-Ass Award

This award did not exist last year, and was actually created because the host committee wanted to give this company an award but did not know which category they fit. Eide Bailly recieved this award, due to their continuous support of local meet-ups. Shannon Wiedman, who works at CoSchedule and also co-organizes Girl Develop It Fargo, presented the award and thanked them for their support of Girl Develop It and others.

“We don’t say kick ass in the office nearly enough,” said Jenny Huotari, a partner at Eide Bailly. “But now we’ll start.”

Edie Bailly

Belief Award

The Belief Award goes to “a person that cares,” as Tehven described it. This is a person who gives generously and invests their own time and energy into building the community. This year, the award went to Dave and Sammie Binkard, who started an after school program to teach video game development this past year called PODS Game Design.

“Every day I get to watch these kids build what their imaginations want,” Dave Binkard said. “That’s the most rewarding thing.”

Dave Binkard

Champion Award

The Champion Award, presented by Miguel Danielson (lawyer and founder of the Fargo Startup House) goes to a person or group who supports and mentors the community. This year, that award went to the Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.

“These are people who give generous support, financially and through mentorship,” Danielson said. “But most importantly, they believe in what we’re doing. And that’s what we need.”

Jeffry Volk, Chair elect and President & CEO of Moore Engineering, accepted the award on behalf of the Board.

Jeffry Volk

Startup of the Year Award

The Startup of the Year is one that has experienced rapid growth and is building in North Dakota. This year that went to CoSchedule, the Bismarck-based startup that creates a scheduling software for WordPress. The company recently tripled in size and has offices in Fargo.

Justin Walsh and Garrett Moon were there to accept the award, and had a lot of bragging to do about Fargo. They challenged the audience to think bigger than what North Dakota culture might tell you.

“If you had asked a few years ago, if I thought I could start a company with 50% of customers outside of North Dakota, I would have said no,” Walsh said. “But now here we are. Don’t listen to what culture might tell you is possible. Think local for the community, but global for your business.”


Before and after the awards ceremony, guests enjoyed mussels, pistachio soup, chocolate mousse and other treats from Toasted Frog; beer from Fargo Brewing Co., and finished it off with what has become the 1 Million Thanks signature champagne toast – topped with gold flaked marshmallows from Wondermade.

“A toast, to this community, to creating products that can improve the human condition, and to increasing the amount of love in the world,” Tehven said. Glasses clinked.

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As the even came to a close, many commented on the “good energy” of the event. One excited attendee, a University of St. Mary’s student Liv Stromme, drove three hours to attend.

“I drove all this way because I believe in the Fargo community,” she said, brimming with excitement. “I love this event.”

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1 Million Thanks was created last year as the brainchild of Annika Nynas and Greg Tehven, and was rooted in a desire to say a big thank you to the community, they said.

“Emerging Prairie only exists because of these people,” Tehven said. “It’s the least we can do.”

This year Scott Brusven, Emerging Prairies Director of Partnerships and Events, designed and organized the event. Livewire produced the lighting, and folksy live music was provided by Fargo band, Boots. The Fargo Jet Center, the GFMEDC and Warner Insurance all contributed to make the event possible.

Next year’s event is already in the books. The third 1 Million Thanks event will take place January 19, 2017. You can sign up here.

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Marisa Jackels