Everyone recognizes the name – maybe because it’s a whopping 6-word long mouthful. Its people are familiar too, heavily involved in the community, with some even garnering community nicknames*. But the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, better known as the EDC, does much of its work behind-the-scenes.
Jim Gartin, EDC President, illuminated a bit of the work being done over the past year and plans for 2015-2016 in their recent annual meeting. He describes their work like a three-legged stool:
Business development: Part of the EDC mission to build up primary sector companies, larger manufacturers, and corporate headquarters. Don’t be fooled by the F-M area’s small size; Gartin says there are about 300 of these businesses in the Cass/ Clay County.
Workforce development: We’ve all heard it; the biggest problem with the F-M area, especially for startups, is finding talent. Gartin recognizes that in order to sustain growth, businesses must have access to workforce. Over the past year, the EDC team conducted “a major workforce study,” Gartin said, which will be released on June 18.
Entrepreneurial development: As part of the solution to the workforce problem, Gartin and his team at the EDC hope to boost the region through entrepreneurial activity. “The biggest way that we can help our community and help our region grow is by nurturing what we call native technology,” he said. “New thought, new development, and getting that thought commercialized.”
Let the treps be treps
This last leg of the stool is what Gartin and his team are most pumped about. Their tactic, he said, is to do this by supporting entrepreneurs (or, treps) through organizations like ours here at Emerging Prairie, as well as the entrepreneurs themselves. Basically, the EDC wants to let you do your thing, and they’ll be there to support you along the way.
“That type of growth [entrepreneurial] is really paramount for long-term success of the community,” he said. “That is a real key for what we’re doing.”
They do this through financial support, as well as personal support.
Take a look around at the next 1 Million Cups; EDC’s Vice President of Market and Public Relations, Lisa Gulland-Nelson, is one of the four leaders that makes the event possible and manages Twitter and Facebook activity for the weekly event.
John Machacek, the one and only, is heavily involved with planning the annual Startup Weekend, as well as just spreading general good vibes and helpfulness for the startup community. He’s like the human embodiment of a Match.com for entrepreneurs – as with his recent Tech Problem-Solver meet-up, wherein he invited local techies together who may have never met, but had similar problem-solving skills.
Fargo’s still a baby, but we’re growing up
What Gartin personally is aiming to do through the EDC platform, is to connect entrepreneurs to the existing business community. The big dogs.
“I have contacts within the existing business community, banks or manufacturers or financial institutions – we want to make sure that they are becoming mentors of this entrepreneurial spirit that is being developed,” he said. “Bringing those two groups together in a harmonious way, that’s beneficial for both entrepreneurs and big businesses.”
Gartin emphasized that this is a vital component to growing an entrepreneurial community.
“Long term, an entrepreneurial community is not created in 2-3 years,” he said. “It’s created over a 5-20 year period. We’re in our infancy stage, we have to make sure that the community is supporting what the entrepreneurs are doing.”
If Fargo’s an infant, we’re definitely getting close to the first words and potty-trained stage. Gartin reflected on how, 3 years ago, the rest of North Dakota (and the world, really) was skeptical of the growth happening here. It wasn’t until there was some tangible results that people began to take notice.
Much of that, Gartin said, is credited to the popular weekly event 1 Million Cups.
“The tipping point was really the start of 1 Million Cups, and to see that build, and that people are there Wednesday after Wednesday,” he said. “That was the final point that in the community helped establish the entrepreneurial activity as something real and that was really making a difference.”
As for this year, and the next? Gartin and the team are looking to maintain and sustain – particularly when it comes to money.
“Our biggest goal is to determine and find a way to provide sustainable funding for organizations that foster entrepreneurial growth,” he said.
To contact Jim Gartin on how the EDC can help you, e-mail him at jgartin
*Nicknames go to John Machacek: Johnny Mach, or – in the full – Johnny Mach Speed.