Earlier this month, Emerging Prairie sent out a request to North Dakota’s gubernatorial candidates — Democratic candidate Marvin Nelson and Republican candidates Doug Burgum and Wayne Stenehjem. As an organization that focuses on tech-based entrepreneurs, we asked each candidate the following questions:

Q: 1) How do you view the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in North Dakota? 2) As Governor, how would you respond to the rising startup culture across the state? 3) What is your background or experience in working with or leading tech entrepreneurs in our state?

We are publishing the candidate responses in the order they are received. Here is our response from Republican candidate Wayne Stenehjem:

Wayne Stenehjem on entrepreneurship in North Dakota

Entrepreneurship comes in all sizes and all types. It can be technology-based, it can be industrial, it can be local, and it can be solo. Fortunately, North Dakota has the need and opportunity for all types of entrepreneurs.

The role of the governor is to allow individuals and communities to work towards their own destiny. Innovators create jobs and grow the economy and the governor must respect their freedom to start, succeed, and fail. They vividly illustrate the nature of freedom and the private sector, and the governor can neither predict nor handpick the winners. We must create an environment that fosters all these types and encourages communities of experts to grow, share information, and work together to achieve their personal and business goals.

As governor, I will be responsible for working with legislators and other elected officials to set policies and tax rates that allow entrepreneurs to start and grow. We must ensure that North Dakota remains a place that is easy to register a business, hire employees, and expand. The work to ensure regulatory predictability and low tax rates may not be as exciting as creating the next startup, but this work ensures that entrepreneurs are not burdened by unnecessary government rules. Furthermore, we need to create and maintain a tax policy that doesn’t take away the capital needed to invest and hire just when entrepreneurs need it most.

More is needed to create a culture and community of entrepreneurship. State government must do its job in maintaining investments in proper infrastructure while maintaining affordable energy. We must make investments that allow our state and its communities to be part of the global economy. This requires the easy and swift movement of people, goods and ideas. All of this must be affordable whether we move a truck or gigabyte.

However, people remain the greatest challenge to entrepreneurial and economic growth in North Dakota. Our schools, trade colleges, and universities must efficiently and effectively educate students to become part of our communities and our workforce. It will take strong leadership to protect education funding in our next budget cycle.

Undoubtedly, creating successful communities and a culture of entrepreneurship relies on individuals to step up and lead. Government can support them by removing barriers and encouraging ideas and conversation. The state Commerce Commission, the centers for innovation at our universities, state and local Chambers of Commerce and local economic development offices are key partners in assisting new businesses start and grow. Likewise, the Bank of North Dakota is a strong partner in assisting with financing new and growing businesses.

Emerging Prairie and its community deserve a great deal of commendation for the remarkable impact they have made in setting the future of Fargo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. It should serve as a model for bringing people together and encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit. The state can foster more efforts like it that unleash individuals and communities without a heavy hand or handout from government.

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Thank you Wayne Stenehjem for your response!

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Marisa Jackels