Category Archives: General

The Next Chapter

Alas, my time here is ending as a resident. Much sooner than I could have imagined. Two plus years ago, I took a shot on a challenge to run the Chamber of Commerce in the fastest growing city in the U.S. And likewise, the Chamber’s Board and the business community took a chance on me, a born and raised cheesehead. This NoDak Badger learned a fewNoDakBadger things and take with me lasting friendships and experiences. I try to explain to others “you don’t know Williston, until you’ve lived in Williston.”  So as I pack my fly rods and guitar and move to Bismarck next week, here’s my last take as a Willistonian.

  1. I learned that North Dakota IS a political Grand Canyon of the Plains, and that East v West isn’t just a name for the NBA All-Star game. It’s hard to ignore that Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck get the vast majority of the state and nation’s attention, including federal program funding.It will be up to the leadership of the state AND of the western political subdivisions to continue to build a bridge across that canyon. The way it shapes up now, not even Evel Knievel could jump that thing.
  2. I learned that an economy that relies heavily on one commodity (ag, energy) is going to have to learn to ride the waves. The tsunami of people and activity that crashed on the shores of the Little Muddy a few years ago has subsided. Only the strongest remain stout and tall as the wave recedes back into the hills. And those that remain are even stronger still when the next wave comes (and it will).
  3. I learned that in a state of 730,000 people, one group or community or strong voice CAN affect the direction of policy and sentiment.
  4. I learned that some of what the national media portrays of Williston is true and self inflicted. Some of what has been said about the area is only to sell headlines and sensationalize. ABC’s Blood and Oil, the short-lived TV series is among the worst offenses in recent memory.If you want the picture to look different or the story to sound different, you must take control of the message.

I suppose this is also the space where  I lay out the “what Williston needs” list. Rather than going there, because everyone thinks Williston needs something different, let’s use four key community qualitative metrics as a measuring stick. You be the judge on how Williston’s doing in each of these areas.

I’m referencing a presentation I heard in Sioux Falls last week from Mac Holladay, a community image guru and keynote speaker for the event. Mac says you need to identify four things for a community to be successfully competitive in today’s battle to attract and retain America’s best workforce talent.  America’s got talent, but definitely not enough for every community. Read this section with the idea of attracting city administrator candidates to Williston (for instance).

A. Education & Workforce Sustainability. What sort of education and workforce to you want in the community? Do you understand the generational differences and embrace them when it comes to education and workforce needs? What innovative ways can the community help fill that workforce shortage? How much emphasis will be placed on those issues to compete with the Minots, the Bismarcks, Grand Forks’ and Fargos?

B. Place. The ‘place’ is inseparable from your workforce attractiveness. Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist said:

“Economic development today, more than ever before, is about talent management. Regions that are successful in economic development are creating and maintaining a community that is attractive for creative workers.”

There are three’qualitative’ community questions:

  1. Can people easily access the place using a variety of transportation options?
  2. Does the community make a good first impression? Do you feel safe? Is it free of litter? Does it ‘feel’ inviting?
  3. How many different types of activities are occurring? Do people use the community space, or does it sit empty? Are there choices of things to do?

C. Diversity. Embracing diversity to ensure economic growth and stability over the long term. Many studies point to the statistics that half of all children in America today, under the age of 5, are non-white. The term diversity also applies to religious, lifestyle, business, culture, etc, and not just skin color.

D. Regionalism. This concept is the direct opposite to ‘silo-ism’ or taking care of ourselves. Fewer resources mean either a cutthroat mentality, whereby only the large and political survive; or it means banding together for the longer, prosperous road ahead. Think beyond the city limits, and beyond the next budget cycle.


The potential for Williston to be the true ‘western star’ of North Dakota is real. The biggest challenge for the city is to proactively define what it will be; five, ten or twenty years from now, and not let the outside critics and media define the image.

Embracing change is difficult. Those companies and leaders who understand the need to adapt to changing economic conditions will survive. Those that fight change may win once in a while, but in the long run, will be left behind. In the end, it’s not about winning. It’s about doing what is right.

My parting thoughts are a simple and humble thank you. To the Chamber Board for their support the past two plus years and the trust they had in my guiding the Chamber ship through these wild waters. To the staff, without whom nothing would have been possible. To the community leadership for supporting the businesses in Williston as they improve the quality of life here for everyone and spur economic growth; both in and out of the oil and gas industry.

Finally, to the Williston community: Don’t lament the loss of another drilling rig. Embrace what you do have already – talented, caring people who when they work together, can accomplish great things.

Besides, I’m not really leaving. Just moving.

Thanks.
Scott Signature-small.jpeg

 

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Fight or flight?

Back in my homeland, a significant drop in the price of milk can throw a damp, wool blanket over an entire town, making it difficult for many local businesses supported by the dairy industry to turn profits in a market controlled by outsiders. Now where have I seen this scenario before?

You can do one of two things. Complain about the drop per hundred weight, which if you properly execute a tonsil-clearing farmer snort while saying it, “hunnert-wate”; everyone will nod in agreement, kick the dirt, and then go about their chores. Or, if you are a generational farmer, in it for the long haul, you adjust your projections, cinch up your overalls, dig in for the bumpy ride and diversify your revenue streams.

The nice lady who cuts my hair over the past two years is a pretty good example of that attitude and gave me some insights into her small business recently. She opened up her salon in Williston (although I prefer to call it a barber shop) a few years back after having successfully operated a similar business in Wisconsin.

During 2013 and 2014, customers were lined up, some waiting for an hour or more to get trimmed and gussied up for another day on the oil rig. She and her sister and aunt couldn’t keep up with demand. Which is pretty good, since they are tucked off the main thoroughfares, and didn’t spend much on advertising. They would close promptly at 5:00 pm, and Mondays just to get a break and sleep. But things are different now. Things are different everywhere. The salon owner told me:

“I know a lot of folks closing up. It’s not as busy as it was in 2014. I could go back to Wisconsin, too,” she said. “Is my business down? Yep. Is it slower? Yep. Am I going anywhere? Nope. I just signed another three year lease. I’ll be here to take care of customers that others leave behind.”

She tells me she’s working harder than ever to be available for her customers when they need a trim, and working past 8:00 pm some nights. It’s not all about just opening the door and hoping to survive the crush of customers day after day. That was before 2015. Now she’s marketing more, encouraging word of mouth networking, and even contributed a small sponsorship to a local race driver.

This is one example of what’s happening all over the region and in our community. We can’t control the effect that a global market hiccup in oil prices will have on our economy in Northwest North Dakota. But we can control how we react. Just like our farmers who have to adjust to the price of milk every so often.

Greek philosopher Epictetus said:

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I suspect this is harder for some than others. Some businesses will adjust, some will not be able to do so as easily. But with so much of our infrastructure investments now in place, diversifying our economy, adjusting our expectations and riding this period out is more plausible than it was in the 1990’s.

Just because the rate of economic growth is slower, doesn’t mean Williston isn’t growing at all. We’re adjusting to this pace and adapting to the ‘new normal’ just fine, thank you.


 

Quick Chamber Update:
Jump over to our new website, www.willistonchamber.com to stay up to date on events, new members, and sign up for the weekly newsletter.

Business directories are available – Members get one free, otherwise they are $10.

ShamRockin’ the Bakken – Taste of Williston event on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Check out Facebook to keep tabs on which Williston restaurants will be featured, and where to get tickets ($20 each), and follow our Taste of Williston mascot, Fergus, as he visits local businesses before March 17.

Level UP 2016 Chamber Business Conference – The premier business event of 2016 in Williston, May 11 at The Well at Williston State College. Come hear Inc Magazine columnist, entrepreneur and author Norman Brodsky as the keynote as he highlights his career and talks about ‘Street Smarts’ his book. Interact with key business leaders and network with like-minded individuals to learn sales techniques, media tactics for your business, fitness in the office and business tech applications to help you grow your business AND your career. Sign up now!

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New year, new goals, new focus

It was easy as a National Guard photojournalist. Once per month, get an assignment, take some pics, write the story and by 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, hand it over to the editor. Taking on a writing project (like a blog, for instance) on your own brings an entirely new level of responsibility. Like actually doing it.

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Most of the last twenty entries came out of this keyboard with flowing grace, seemingly appearing effortlessly on my screen, like snow flakes floating down late some calm December afternoon.  The new year has brought on a flurry of new intensity, and focus on our Chamber’s core missions. So let’s get to it.

Banquet wrap up
The Programs & Services Committee started to work in earnest last summer planning the 2016 Annual Banquet, which culminated on January 22 in roaring fashion. We tweaked the event slightly untitled-50from 2015 including:

  • Separated the ‘business meeting’ portion from the banquet. This gave an opportunity to hear from staff and committee chairs about their efforts.
  • Incorporating a theme, encouraging attendees and sponsors to ‘dress up’ for the night. We heard most of our positive feedback surrounding this detail.
  • Reduced our sponsorship opportunities to create more value for those Members who partnered with us.
  • Re-arranged the room to fit more people in seats.
  • Pulled off a limited live auction to raise funds for The Friends and Veterans of The Old Armory.

In all, we could not be more pleased with the support, partnership with Red River Supply our presenting sponsor, and everyone who attended the wonderful evening. Standing ovation goes to the Chamber staff, June, Bekka and Shawna; and of course the Chamber’s Programs and Services Committee. Which by the way has already been scheming about next year’s annual festivities!

New website, new opportunities
As we promised last year, we delivered a Williston business directory for the first time; and launched the 2016 version of http://www.willistonchamber.com. With the help of DAWA Solutions Group, the Chamber’s website is now able to be mentioned in the same drop down menu as Williston Economic Development, Williston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Williams County and the the City of Williston.

The best part is that we’ll be able to have ALL events listed for members and non-members, making our website THE resource for tons of events, organizations and information. We look forward to working on fleshing that website out as we move forward.

Next week we’ll explore the political and issues of 2016 we’ll be following and influencing.

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Behind these walls

So much Chamber activity occurs behind the 58 year old walls of this building during the month, I thought I’d take some time to bring you up to speed on the things we are focusing on, the challenges we are tackling, and the direction we are heading.

Structure:
While I am a bit bummed about not being able to move into new office space with the City, we are turning our attention to this building, the Armory. We hope to become a downtown welcome and information center for the City, given our prime location. The Armory is a tremendous asset for the community and has an interesting history. My goal is to renovate the public spaces here to become another option for community meetings and gatherings, in the next 12-18 months.

The Chamber committees are showing a few cracks in their membership. Some of our volunteer leaders have stepped down, some have moved out of town, and we hope to replenish those important cogs in our chamber machinery. Additionally, there are some Board seats that have opened up, and filling them also takes some effort on our part to make sure we have the right mixture of leadership on our governing body.

Programs and Services:
The 2016 Business Directory project is heading into production phase. We’ve completely sold out of our allotted ad spaces thanks to June and the staff for an unbelievable effort for the first time. We’ve contracted with a local designer to help layout and print the publication. The book should be available by January to Members (it’s included with your membership), and purchase by non-members or the general public.

The 2016 Annual Banquet has been scheduled for January 22 at the Grand Williston. A standing ovation goes out to Red Red River Oilfield Services OvalRiver Oilfield Services for partnering with us as the Banquet’s presenting sponsor. We can’t think of a stronger local business to work with to kick off our new year. The staff and program committee is busy working on details of the banquet, including some 1920’s theme and appropriate music, chamber awards and other surprises. We made a formal invitation to Governor Jack Dalrymple to join us as the keynote speaker as he begins his final year in office. We won’t be able to confirm his attendance until about four weeks out from the event, but we are hopeful his office will think our event is the right venue for the Governor in January.

Another standing ovation goes out to KLJ Engineering, who along with DAWA Solutions Group will help theklj Chamber produce the 2016 Level UP Business Conference. The keynote speaker will be Norman Brodsky, noted Inc. Magazine columnist and author of the business savvy book “Street Smarts.” The program lined up will knock your socks off, as we continue to bring quality business programming to our community and our membership.


Random musings:

  • Major props to the veterans service office from Williston and Minot as they host the 2nd Williston Veterans Standdown today at the Armory. So many vets, homeless, a bit lost since returning or moving to Williston, unemployed, under cared for – need our attention and assistance. Thanks to everyone for this valuable service. God bless our vets.
  • Main Street is officially opening next week. It’s been a long two years, and we look forward to a vibrant, active, safe downtown Williston.
  • I hope the City, Hula Grill and its Main Street neighbors can come to a reasonable solution to the ordinance/venting flare up. Williston’s enforcing their code. Hula Grill is trying to run a business. Seems like there’s some room to make it work for everyone somehow.
  • The fall pheasant hunt is well underway, and ol’ dead eye here happened to thin a few birds out near Regent and Mott. Getting outdoors this time of year is good for the soul.

Enjoy the fall weather.

– Sjm

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Off season advocacy

The Greater North Dakota Chamber (state chamber of commerce) held its annual policy summit last week in Bismarck. It’s Greater North Dakota Chambervital we have a voice not only with state chamber advocacy efforts, but to demonstrate to legislative leaders our resolve to represent commerce in western North Dakota. From what I’ve been observing the past 18 months, the business community can help our elected officials in their efforts – if we step up and be counted. That’s where the Chamber can make an impact.

The event was organized into five issue panels, each one moderated by either Chris Berg, Valley News Life host, or Joel Heitkamp, KFGO “News & Views” radio host; and brother of current North Dakota US Senator, Heidi Heitkamp. The panels covered:

  • Corporate farming laws; how they affect family farms in ND;
  • Priorities of the Legacy Fund;
  • Political discussion from the Republican and Democrat viewpoints (mainly campaigns);
  • Higher education, aimed at accountability and cooperation among campuses, relationship with legislature; and
  • Taxes; focused on tax relief policies, property taxes, income taxes.

As voters across North Dakota roll their eyes facing another big election year in 2016, we in the chamber business must begin to prepare for how we will influence the process the next 18 months; in anticipation of the 2017 state legislative and congressional sessions. That behind the scenes work begins now.

Where does the Chamber play a role in this process?

While you are busy working on your business, our Government Affairs Committee is hard at work to make the Williston area relevant in our local, state and federal matters. The Chamber Eggs & Issues Policy Forums will bring state level policymakers and issues to you, the business community. Make sure you reserve a seat now.

The GAC will conduct another set of Eggs & Issues forums in the spring, and conduct the 2016 Candidate Forums in the fall of 2016. Initial planning has begun for a Washington DC fly-in in the spring, and potentially another Legislative Day in Bismarck. Believe me, it doesn’t happen by itself and not without Member input and participation.

Are you interested in making an impact with your fellow Chamber Members and the community? Step up and be an active member of the Government Affairs Committee. If you need more info, call or email the Chamber office.

2016 Business Directory Update

Draft coverThe intent with this project is to be a community resource, not just a Chamber directory. However, Chamber Members get first crack at the prime ad spots, and they are going fast. We have sought out local printers to do the job, and we’ve already had one drop out because they physically cannot print the product. Our aim is to go local on this awesome project, so we are hopeful one of the local print houses can accomplish the mission.

All Chamber members will be listed as part of their membership investment. We’re doing our best to reach non-Members to get them listed as well. Call June if you want to discuss your options to get in this great Chamber project.

2016 Annual Chamber Banquet

Image result for Roaring 20sMark your calendars for the 2016 “Roaring 20’s” Chamber Banquet for Friday, January 22, 2016. Programs and Services Committee member and KUMV-TV sales superman, Tim Pulliam is spearheading this project. We can always use some more input and hands to help, so call June here at the Chamber office to jump in on this short term project. Who knows who you will meet that will help your business?


Today’s random Chamber pic comes from Purity Oilfield Services 2nd Annual Truck Rodeo held in the heat and wind last Saturday. Truck drivers get a bad rap sometimes, but they are a very skilled and proud profession. Six teams competed in different events demonstrating just how hard it is to maneuver one of those 10 ton rigs. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Williston 4-H and the North Dakota Teen Challenge. Great Chamber Members doing great things in the community.

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

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The Race for Relevance

Last week we formally announced our 2016 Williston Area Business Directory project. The objective is to produce a directory of local businesses whether a Chamber Member or not; do some strategic advertising, and make it a relevant tool for the community. In the first four days of announcingDraft cover it, doing a little radio spot, and meeting with some businesses, our inboxes and phones have blown up! I think we might be on to something.

2015 Membership web badgeThe race for relevance is a phrase coined by nonprofit gurus and memorialized in print. That relevance is in the eye of the member. For some, Chamber membership is a stamp of loyalty and support of the business community – telling your customers and employees that you are here and part of the community. For other members it’s more of ‘what do I get for my investment’ mentality. Yet, for some they view their membership from a standpoint of ‘what can I accomplish by partnering with the Chamber, and how does that help my business.’ We’re looking to move our mindset more toward the latter.

The 2016 Business Directory is allowing us to partner with Chamber members by giving them exposure in a resource that everyone will want to have on their desk or in their truck. The project is also giving the Chamber exposure to non-Members (called future members) and demonstrating our relevance to the city and to the business community.

We’ve finally gotten on the road to relevance and are rapidly gaining ground; now we’re looking to win the race.

Today’s random pic comes from the 2015 Chokecherry Festival at Harmon Park last Friday.

North Dakota's own Tigirlily perform at Harmon Park for fans under a breezy Williston evening.

North Dakota’s own Tigirlily perform at Harmon Park for fans under a breezy Williston evening.

 

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With wind filling our sails, Chamber continues moving forward

Following our successful Rockin’ Ribfest community event, the Chamber has taken the past three weeks to reassess our program offerings for Members; both revenue generating events and educational programs that may or may not benefit the bottom line.

Successful event momentum is like a warm shower; it feels good for a while, but at some point you have to get dressed and get back to work. Eventually you have to decide to either cruise for a while in the humid summer breeze, or grab an oar and start rowing. For the Chamber, we’ve studied the charts and adjusted our heading a bit as we look to the last half of 2015.

Beginning in August the Chamber will begin to assemble the first ever (I’ve used that term a lot this year) Williston Area Business Directory. Using our staff, the Chamber’s position as a resource for businesses in the area, and our momentum we’ve built up the past seven months, we’ll be able to produce a community resource that’s sorely needed. While all Williston area businesses will be invited to be listed, the advertising spots and most visible placements will be offered to Chamber members first. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Several local printers are bidding on the project, so I’m confident it will be a valuable local business guide. The goal is to expand the Chamber’s reach and visibility while providing a needed service and product for the business community in the area. Watch for more news and information about the directory in the next week.

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In September, we are launching the Chamber’s Eggs & Issues policy forums. A common program offering by chambers around the country, our Chamber is just picking up the pace in the public advocacy arena. This members-only event will be held the morning after the Chamber Business After Hours – enticing some high level state officials to make a two day visit to Williston. We’ll run three of these in the fall and three next spring.

The LevelUP Leadership Series will kick off in November and feature the hottest topics from our LevelUP 2015 Business Conference last May. The three part lunch series will feature one of our presenters from the May conference, exploring in depth one of the session topics like sales and marketing, human resources issues, or personal growth and development. All of this leads up to the LevelUP 2016 Conference in May 2016, which is already shaping up nicely.

Our monthly Business After Hours events, which traditionally garner between 80-110 attendees, have continued to be quality opportunities for Chamber Members to network, learn, and market to grow their business. Many of the 2016 hosting slots are filling up already.

Please take 30 seconds to take our one minute issue survey this week. The Board of Directors and the Government Affairs Committee thanks you as we start to shape our advocacy action plan for 2016.

The 21st Century (now 15 years old) technology revolution driven by the “millennial” workforce has forced nonprofit organizations such as chambers Image result for millennials technologyof commerce, trade associations and professional societies to rethink their business model and strategic plans. No longer are they the sole source of information, networking, marketing, support and advocacy for their members. It’s crucial to review programs and services, communications and advocacy plans and to ask and listen to members’ issues and interests.

As we continue in our own ‘race for relevance’ with our Members, in the community and in our region, I marvel in the fact that it’s already (or only) been 17 months since I’ve taken the helm at the Williston Chamber. As we chart our course and continue to crew this Chamber ship through both calm and choppy waters, I hope the wind continues to fill our sails and push us forward.

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Summertime is about community

Some observers say Williston is seven months of winter and one month of summer sandwiched in the middle of four months of construction season. Be that as it may, there is a real possibility of snow in late April or early May, so many of the city’s summertime events and activities take a while to get going. I sort of feel like this guy in the Kingsford spot…

There isn’t enough space to list all the community events and activities, groups and organizations that make Williston a great city. For anyone to say ‘there’s nothing to do in Williston’ is just pure balderdash. But one day last week felt a little different to me. A feeling I hadn’t experienced since I landed sixteen months ago.

Ribfest and Summer Nights on Main kicked off July in a way that gave me a familiar sensation; even though it was technically a ‘new event’ and aRibfest departure from the previous two decades of summer celebrations in Williston. Maybe it was the weather, where it rose to 90, then downpoured for 15 minutes and then was 90 degrees again. Maybe it was the heritage downtown businesses who opened up their doors and held welcoming sidewalk sales to eager shoppers who dodged the construction cages (anyone heard of Maxwell Street Days?). Maybe it was the smells, the smiles, the families gathered around the picnic tables talking to each other without the distraction of XBox controllers. Maybe it was the band and the flowing beverages after the last ribs were scarfed down, I’m really not sure.

Looking over the parking lot scene of summer fun, watching the band unload gear, seeing the interaction between the rib teams, sponsors, volunteers and families, I got the sense that I don’t just work in Williston – I live in Williston.

It felt like a community ought to feel on a downtown July summer day. If felt like…home.

I’m not trying to be over dramatic, but there was a true sense of coming together that day between organizations, people, businesses and families. The best part is that there are more of these types of opportunities every weekend and even on weeknights to learn, grow, share, work and play in more ways that anyone thought would happen in Williston. All you have to do is ask, or look around.

The small agriculture hub of Western North Dakota is turning into a thriving economic engine of the energy industry. While those changes are sometimes difficult to swallow, there is no denying that we are in the front row to history. But it’s also nice to know that we can maintain that sense of small-town-ishness when friends and neighbors come together in the summertime.

Just like any hometown should.

 

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Ribfest is about more than ribs

It’s not quite as bad as Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce makes it out to be in the classic M*A*S*H* episode “Adam’s Ribs.” But we all look for ‘something else’ in one form or another.

This week you might find that ‘something else’ as we celebrate our Phillips & Jordan Rockin’ Ribfest and the Summer Nights on Main Concert Series kickoff in downtown Williston. The combination of food and bragging rights draws secret chefs to the smoker for a chance at fame. Professional culinary experts are quick to dismiss backyard barbecue brethren with a swift wave of the spatula. Someone at your family reunion throws down the oven mitt and proclaims she makes the best potato salad in the family, while the crazy uncle from Hurley says his rib sauce should be bottled and marketed. A co-worker brings in a dessert dish that brings grown roustabouts to their knees. There is something about food that brings out a little extra in all of us.

The Chamber’s Ribfest is about more than bragging rights. These community events help bring our business community, residents and organizations together to share, laugh, network, compete, shop and relax. The Chamber is very proud to work with the Downtowners Association and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to make Independence Day weekend a place for us to come together – as a community.

Enjoy the food, the fun, the music, family and friends this weekend and be smart and safe when celebrating America’s birthday.

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What did you do last weekend?

When I signed up for this tour of duty, I understood exactly what it meant. Dinner meetings, evening speaking engagements, late night business socials, official Chamber Business After Hours events, day long community activities, and working some weekend days. Running a Chamber of Commerce means you are never quite “off duty” in your community. I get that. And I love it.

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This past weekend began on Thursday evening with our monthly Business After Hours, which was not a normal BAH event. The Chamber Member had a street closed, hired a motorcycle stunt team and had a major cookout. Networking, business cards exchanged, introductions of new members, handshaking, taking pictures and raffle drawings make a brief 2.5 hour after work event seem like a full day.

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Saturday we kicked off Lemonade Day 2015, with the best tasting contest as part of the Miss North Dakota social event at the local art museum.  Blue sky June weather always makes a Chamber event better. The Miss ND contestants sampled and interacted with our young, budding business owners, and a great time was had by all. It was truly a treat to have the 2014 Miss ND Jacky Arness visit, along with her southern colleague, Miss South Dakota, Meredith Gould.

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I did manage some ‘non-chamber’ time by helping a friend, Jeff, learn to fly cast. On the spur of the moment, he asked if I would like to go for a ride before the Miss North Dakota pageant. I said, “Sure, who will drive?” He replied, “No, not drive…a ride…in my plane.” So the newest licensed pilot in Williston, ND skillfully treated me a spectacular plane ride over Teddy Roosevelt National Park and part of the North Dakota badlands. My new Nikon D7000 got quite a workout at 3,500 feet above the Bakken. Congrats to Jeff on your accomplishment, and thanks for allowing me to tag along.

After a pinpoint landing in a cross-wind, I had a quick bite to eat, put on a jacket and slid into Row L, Seat 5 for the next 3 plus hours to take in the Miss North Dakota Pageant final evening of competition. I was a bit forlorn about missing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (those who have read me before, know I’m a hockey junkie) while sitting in the Williston High School auditorium on Saturday night. Last year, as a new Chamber President I attended the social, the breakfast for the contestants, and we hosted a VIP reception to help raise money for the scholarship organization when Miss ND 2014 Jacky Arness, spoke at our 2015 Annual Banquet in January. The Chamber’s ties to the organization are solid, but I still had not attended the actual pageant, so Saturday night was my first.

I left the auditorium around 10:40 pm very much inspired and encouraged, and convinced that of the 24 women who came to Williston to vie for the title of Miss North Dakota, there are future business and political leaders among them.  The evening was a very humbling and warming experience.

Sunday came sooner than I expected, but right on time by the clock. After five plus months of planning, we launched Williston Lemonade Day 2015. It was a  new program, with new volunteers, the first one in North Dakota, and major sponsors looking to us for their return on investment. The day went spectacular, with more than 150 youth entrepreneurs signed up, likely more than 50 lemonade stands in town, and yellow volunteer tee shirts everywhere. We called it a success after the awards ceremony and a great picnic cookout by the Williston Community Builders. Media, local officials and sponsors had big smiles as the lemonade stand owners came forward to get their certificates, or to be recognized with an achievement medal.

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Newly crowned Miss North Dakota 2015 Delanie Weidrich, made her first official public appearance at the picnic and enjoyed the interaction with the young business owners and their families.

By 7:15 pm Sunday evening I think I had only driven about 6 miles all weekend (not counting those nautical knots in the air!) but I felt like I drove across the country. Wiped and sun beaten, I enjoyed a cold beverage at home. And while my weekend could have been considered ‘work’ by some, I view it as just doing our job. Being a volunteer or a staff member of a nonprofit organization like a Chamber of Commerce brings some extra commitments, and certainly can’t be viewed as a ‘normal’ job by any stretch.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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