Startup Community Pillars: The GFMEDC is “all about Jobs”

Emerging Prairie brought guest writer Conner Scott back for another round today. Conner met with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation’s (GFMEDC) president, James Gartin, to learn about this organization Emerging Prairie has deemed as its first of many Startup Community Pillars.

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The foundation of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Area economy is being laid, maintained, and supported by the experts at the GFMEDC. The GFMEDC aims to grow and diversify the FM economy by attracting, retaining, and expanding primary sector employers. This formula develops a rich ecosystem of good jobs, a healthier economy, quality community, and happier living.

These primary sector companies are among the most influential, and they employ the most people. They range from Internet and Embedded Technology to Healthcare companies and corporate headquarters. When those industries do well, the community is strengthened.

James GartinEmerging Prairie connected with James Gartin, president of the GFMEDC and ardent supporter of Fargo’s entrepreneurial activities, to gather some insights on this organization that directly impacts the area’s entrepreneurial system.

James explained that the FM economy, although previously grounded in agricultural business, is currently being balanced by organizations in information technology, embedded technology, healthcare processes, and other industries. This is a boon for the region. James claimed “right now, for the first time in ten years, the agricultural sector is down, but it won’t have as great an economically negative impact because the other companies are growing. It balances itself off.”

The GFMEDC also helps to grow the FM community and works to attract new businesses and people. The organization’s website has incredible amounts of information on the FM community, including statistics about the business ecosystem, living environment, and faith life. Workforce development is another one of their primary concerns. Gartin argued that “workforce development really goes all the way down to K-12 education.” He looks to education representatives and finds ways to develop outreach programs in order to bring talented people to North Dakota.

Gartin and the GFMEDC are also looking to build this region by establishing a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem through providing financial support, staffing, and even by keeping a few office spaces open in their building on Broadway. Once new start-ups are established, they will go on to feed themselves and the economy.

“Entrepreneurial development is basically the feeder system for the future,” Gartin said. “The more robust and strong entrepreneurial environment one can have in the community, the stronger the future will be. Fargo-Moorhead is the perfect example of that.”

Gartin and his 8-person team have been working diligently. Last year, their Executive Vice President and Business Development Director, Mark Vaux, made over 150 business development calls to the highest levels of primary sector industries. Those calls are vital to the FM economy. By talking to these key employers, the GFMEDC has found that businesses are having problems hiring competent, highly educated, and trained people.

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“The biggest issue facing this community for the next five years will be workforce,” Gartin confessed. “If we do not figure out how to attract net adds from the outside, we won’t continue to see growth. We have to devise a way to overcome false negative stereotypes that the country has about Fargo. We are trying to get people to see that working and living in Fargo-Moorhead is a great opportunity.”

Currently, the GFMEDC is immersed in “the Study Year,” the 2014 year oriented toward research and community direction. With a strategic planning study for the next five years kicking off on May 1st and a major workforce development study for Fargo-Moorhead starting around the same time, the GFMEDC should soon have insight and vision for what the future holds. Also, look for the results of the Valley Prosperity Partnership Strategic Study, a plan that is funded and put together by business leaders from the Red River Valley. It will be finished and released within the next 30 days.

How can Emerging Prairie and the startup community help the GFMEDC with its mission to better Fargo-Moorhead? Gartin’s answer was simple:

“Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep building a community that you want to live in. If you keep doing that, and other people grab on to that idea, you will be unstoppable.”