Written by: Austin Sandmeyer

It was a blistery cool spring day in Fargo, but that couldn’t put a damper on the energy radiating from the Stage at Island Park. As many may know, Norwegian heritage isn’t uncommon across North Dakota, and as luck would have it, the Statewide 1 Million Cups fell on Norwegian Independence day. As expected, over 280 people found their way to Island Park to celebrate with lefse and Norweigian sweaters. These folks weren’t just But these people gathering in Fargo and the hundreds joining via Livestream around the state and country didn’t just come together to celebrate Norway’s Independence, they came together to hear about the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the state and what the future has in store for it.

As the crowd, full of lefse and coffee began to find their seats, the real excitement began.

Uff-Da (Image from Annie via twitter)

North Dakota is Bridging the Gaps

Eric Hardmeyer, the President and CEO of the Bank of North Dakota, immediately addressed the crowd with a big announcement. Their team took a long look into the small business and startup ecosystem of North Dakota and recognized the gaps that businesses are encountering and the need to diversify as a state. Diversifying the economy is exactly the buffer North Dakota needs to ride through the “rollercoaster of commodities” that our state and economy has felt. Fortunately, The Bank of North Dakota has developed a plan to help the entrepreneurs and small businesses progress through their businesses stages with a comprehensive financing continuum.

They recognized the gaps in the ecosystem from over 40 meetings and have developed their economic roadmap to move not just the North Dakota economy forward but the businesses that call North Dakota home. From increasing seed funding to modifying the Accelerated Growth Loan Program the Bank of North Dakota is

Image via Screenshot of Livestream

addressing the diversification and economic opportunities arising.

Coming Together Matters

What makes a entrepreneurial ecosystem viable and flourish? This question is slowly but surely being pieced together, and North Dakota is leading the way. Jay Schuler, the Commisioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, addressed this instantly as he stepped on stage. He drove home the power that coming together has. From a bar to a coffee shop, coming together matters. From the sharing of ideas and best brews to discussing a new business idea, all of this is put-up with tentpoles of coming together for shared moments in time.

As Jay shared, budget cuts aren’t always easy. He should know as his department just got cut over 40%. But as Jay said, “We’ll figure it out.” This hardiness and moving forward positivity is something shared around the region and the entire state, which makes the ideas and programs the Department of Commerce creates, like the Development Fund, even more enriching!

As Jay said, “entrepreneurs attract entrepreneurs.” So whether it’s over a hot cup of coffee or a ice-cold beer, the sharing of time and ideas is the fuel for innovation and economic growth in our world. So come together.

Image I took.

The Last Piece of Lefse

As the last piece of lefse was grabbed up, the last question of 1 Million Cups was asked:

“How can the entrepreneurs of North Dakota move the Bank of North Dakota and Department of Commerce’s programs forward and help them succeed?”

“Use Them”

That’s right. It’s as easy as that. There is capital and resources in plenty in North Dakota. The talent is growing, the skills are mature, and the capital is available. Use the programs and opportunities available. Success breeds success, and the Bank of North Dakota and the North Dakota Department of Commerce are here to move you, your idea, and your business forward.

Emerging Prairie