My Favorite Chamber Function

‘You can keep going long after you think you can’t.’  I’ve been saying this to myself so long I don’t remember if this is my own quote or not.  But it is most certainly a lesson I learned in high school sports.  I can still recall: after a three hour (hard) practice you think it’s the last time and you push with all your might to finish, then exhausted, you fall to the ground.  Coach says good job…. now DO IT AGAIN! You feel like you want to give up or that you physically just can’t.

But then you do.  And you do that several times a week.  You keep going and you keep getting better.   In high school, I had a fantastic coach who spent so much of her own time to get us to where we could win championships.  I didn’t realize the impact this had on me or how much of a life lesson it turned out to be for me until later in life.  It was a priceless experience.

I try to keep this in mind as it has such practical applications for life both personally and professionally.   So often, life tries to throw things at you especially in business – technical issues, loss of employees, vendor rate increases, etc. that you can often feel like you just can’t do it.  But you can.  The more you keep going, the more you succeed.  “Success doesn’t always require getting things done right, but it does require always getting things done”.  This quote isn’t my own, but it’s up there with the other one as something I remind myself of often.

Once I realized how much that lesson stuck with me, I reached back out to my old coach years after college just to thank her.  We all have people in our lives that help us out at one stage or another.  In our businesses, it’s no different.   The connections we make through the Chamber and this business community are critically important, especially for those times that you feel like you can’t.  We are here as a united business community to help ourselves but to help each other.  It’s one of my favorite functions of the Chamber.

Remember: you can keep going…and if you need help – call us!  We’re here for you!



2017 Rockin’ Ribfest – classic, yet new and improved

Rockin'_Ribfest_logo_CMIK_gorOur Ribfest, just like the Chamber itself, has seen many transitions.  It started as a Blast and was located downtown, then due to various reasons the location and even the event itself has changed over the years.  This year will be no different.  The programs and services committee and staff took feedback from both rib teams and attendees of the past years to really determine the best way to execute this event for all.  But I assure you the changes will be welcomed.

First, we decided to switch it back to a Saturday.  This will allow for more rib teams and for more attendees than during the work week.  Second, we decided to look back to our Blast Era days to really make it a community wide event and one for the whole family.   Third, we collaborated with a fellow chamber member business, Patriot Productions, to help us take the event to the next level.  We are proud to say that this event will be Rockin’ for two days – located at another chamber member business – Black Magic Harley-Davidson!  There will be a Monster Truck show, a car & bike exhibition the Friday night before (July 7th) and live music.  Then early morning, Saturday, July 8th the rib teams will begin cooking.  Shortly after that plan to come by with the whole family and stay for all the activities.  The car & bike exhibition will still be there, along with a pit party and a chance for Monster Truck ride alongs, kid’s activities and more.  The Rib tasting and judging will be late afternoon, then monster truck show, and more live music from Slamabama!

More information will be forthcoming as the committee continues to work on details…but rest assured it will be a Ribfest to remember!  Contact the chamber today to have a rib team or to be a sponsor.  There will literally be something for everyone:  every business, every community member.  It illustrates our strengths as a united business community.   Businesses coming together for a great way to network with your fellow employees but also for anyone and everyone to taste the ribs and spend a day enjoying family friendly entertainment.

So mark July 7th/8th on your calendars as a must not miss event!



Registration is Open!

Yesterday, the Lemonade Day flyer came home in my son’s backpack. Although I knew it was coming, it was still fun to see my son so excited about it…even more so because it happens to transpire on his birthday!  I guess we will have to plan his party for the weekend before.

Two months ago, I blogged about the Lemonade Day program and fostering the young entrepreneur and more recently, DAWA Solutions blogged about it as well.  If you follow our Facebook page, you’ll see that Mayor Klug proclaimed June 17th, 2017 as Williston Lemonade Day this past month.  This national program brought to our area for the 3rd year in a row offers opportunities for families and businesses – the whole community in fact – to foster the kind of foundation our youth need to become successful citizens.  It is a fantastic, hands-on educational program and I am truly excited to be involved this year.

This week marked opening of registration – it is free!!  It can be done online or in person at the Chamber or any of the following registration events:

April 22nd at the Raymond Center – Kids Day out (10am-2pm)

May 6th at the Arc (10am-2pm)

May 13th at Band Day (10 am-4pm)

June 3rd at the Arc (10am-2pm)

If you register online, you can simply pick up your backpacks at the chamber or the above events.

Lemonade Day Backpack for blog

Thanks to the generosity of many area businesses even the backpacks and materials are free.  Some businesses can help by offering their business as a safe stand location (we are still looking for more – contact Bekka  if you are interested).   The event is also fueled by the many volunteers on our Leadership and Education committee, the Williston Young Professionals and of course our chamber staff.    Like the old saying goes, it takes a whole village to raise a child:  join in on the community fun this summer.  There is a way for all to be involved – especially taste testing lemonade.

We already signed Dean up!  Come by the Chamber on June 17th to see us!


The Way Things Are Done

“We’ve always done it that way” is like nails on a chalkboard for me. Some people consider this phrase dangerous, I just think it’s nonsensical.  There are many other ways to admit why you are doing something a certain way.  You could say ‘this is the way I was shown’, or ‘this is how I think it should be done’ or ‘I’m comfortable this way’ or even ‘it’s easier this way’.  But just be honest.

Why do people consider the phrase dangerous?  Maybe because if you aren’t thinking about WHY you are doing something you are missing out on a chance to improve.  Why would you be doing something without thinking anyway?  Just because something is done one way, does not mean it HAS to be done that way.  Maybe there is a better way?  Maybe it doesn’t need to be done at all.  Like my 5-year-old I like to ask the question: why?  Why ARE you doing what you are doing?

Life is fast paced and people are busy.  If there is a better, faster way of doing things, I try to find it, because honestly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all that could be done.  I like efficiency.  I like honesty.  I like improvement.  So, I think we need to be picky.  And I need to be open to changing the way we do things.  We need to improve.  I know, I just blogged last week about change.  People resist change.  Granted, sometimes things don’t need to change.  There are some very time tested things that work.  I find myself quoting my parents to my children: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” (thanks mom!).  She probably got those same quotes from their parents.  They hold true and work.  Which is why we use them.  But we still need to ask the why question.  Because if we don’t and if we and our employees go through our work days with the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude we will not achieve anything.  We will not improve.

Winston Churchill said “the Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity.  The Optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  I consider myself an optimist.  And I consider most days provide an opportunity to improve.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Even mistakes help teach you a lesson if you are open to seeing it.

Stay Positive.  Work Hard.  Make it (whatever that it is for you) happen.  Your business will thank you.



It’s been a little over half a year since I started at the Chamber.  Some days it seems like just yesterday and some days it feels like forever ago.  My first few months on the job were a blur – that happens with most new jobs I suppose.  But it seems like every time I feel like I have my feet firmly underneath me and am ready to take that next step forward, something gives me a pause.

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin was credited as writing “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.  I would add change.  Eight months in now and all I can say is that my one constant at the Chamber is that it is always changing.  As creatures of habit, we resist change.  But if you think about it, even nature teaches us change.  The warm weather has allowed my kids to play outside at length (notwithstanding a little mud!).  Change of seasons, change of leadership, change in laws, change in staff, change in volunteers, change, change, change!

But for all this change, all the things that seem to just pop up, I almost kind of expect it now.  Or at the very least I am not surprised anymore.  Life has a way of teaching you.  And now, every time something changes, I just have to smile.  Sometimes I even chuckle to myself.  As predictable as the seasons, things change.  I see change all around – and not just because it’s spring.  This week, the sun warms my face and lifts my mood.  It reminds me that change, while sometimes unwelcomed, is good –like spring weather after a long winter.

Change your perspective. Embrace the change or at least learn to smile at it.

The only permanent thing is change.  I’m glad I can count on it.


Workforce Needed!

Increasingly, we are looking at a workforce shortage.  Particularly with skilled labor and in the energy industry.  It has been suggested that we look to bring others to Western North Dakota.  To market our area and to let others know what we already know:  that it is a great place to live and work.  And perhaps we will need to.  But, right here in our own backyard is a pool of potential candidates – or should I say will be within a few short years!  The growing school district enrollment and birth rates in the Williston Area in the past few years is proof of it.  Those being born here and going to school here will be one of our best workforce supply options in the future.  Even now, though, Williston State College and TrainND has an integral hand in shaping, educating, and training our next generation of employees.

The WSC Alumni Association is being revamped and it couldn’t be better timing in my opinion.   Their new director, Hunter Berg, is kicking off Alumni Week this year April 24th– 28th.   What better way to keep students connected to the community than to bring them back!  Showing them the vast opportunities right here in Teton Territory.  The Alumni Association helps support academic areas of the college (the Math and Science Department and student scholarships each year for example) and this helps attract and keep good quality students who can turn into good quality employees.

Like I said, good timing – just a month after a multi-industry job fair – Alumni Week may be able to tout not only fun events but also showcase the community and the ample job opportunities.  The WSC Alumni week’s final event will be a ‘Lucky Duck Race’ which they plan to make an annual event.  Everyone has a chance to be involved.  Businesses, adults, and kids alike.   Rules and information and entry forms for the race can be found here.  It will be on April 28th at 2pm at the ARC’s Lazy River.

I have already written and blogged about the opportunity for skilled jobs and the importance of a skilled and educated workforce for our businesses.  Our new member benefit, the Chamber Business Academy, (the partnership with TrainND and the Chamber) works to advance and keep our workforce current.  WSC does as well.  I look forward to the duck race next month.  I also look forward to seeing how the WSC Alumni Association unfolds to support our workforce.  You may want to check it out yourself – you might just get ‘lucky’ and win a race!


Jobs and Activity

I feel like the blizzard yesterday took a little wind out of my sails which is kind of ironic considering the 50-60 mph winds.   Actually, it was a refreshing pause to the non-stop action I’ve felt here at the Chamber.  We barely had our Annual Banquet under our belt, when the momentum of January 20th roared us all the way into March.   Reflecting back, I didn’t get to see much of President Trump’s inauguration that day.  We were busy making sure we had all the details taken care of for our Annual Banquet.  As I remember the inspiring speaker, the well-deserved awards, and the cooperation of the weather that day, I can tell that it was a turning point for our area.  I doubt it had as much to do with our speaker or the weather as it did with the changing of the guards in administrations.  Maybe it was just good timing.

Since then, the federal support of the energy industry sparked the confidence our area businesses needed to invest again in our growth.  Job Service of ND shows clear evidence of this.  In the month of February, four different energy companies hosted their own job fairs locally.  People who may have been laid off are being called back to work.  On March 22nd, Job Services’ Multi-Industry Job Fair will host over 60 companies (booths have sold out this year way in advance than any other year).   These companies, plus those on the wait list are looking for more than an estimated 1500 jobs.  Right now, the energy industry comprises over 35 % of the employers at the job fair who were looking to fill the majority of the available jobs.   Jobs in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and service are also among those sought after as well.  Skilled labor is in high demand and employers are looking for quality people.

It seemed like a whirlwind of activity the last month and a half and the blizzard offered me a chance to breathe (which reminds me of a new app, by the way, that a friend told me about).  We should all remember to breathe.  Because as our area continues its inevitable growth, businesses and employers will continue to face workforce challenges along the way.  Even if you are not one of the booths at the job fair on March 22nd, no doubt you will at some point have a need for new employees.  It’s as predictable as the seasons.   And even if you have full staff for the foreseeable future, there may be employee issues on the horizon waiting to come your way.  As employers, you need to constantly be improving the way you do business, particularly when it comes to human resources.  That is why the Chamber along with The Dakotan Motel are sponsoring the lunch offered to employers at the job fair.  We are opening up limited seating for our members who can benefit from the information and Q&A session provided by the panel.  Hear from experts in Workforce and Safety & Insurance, Department of Labor, Unemployment Insurance, and Job Service.

I was just getting used to the weekend without having to wear a jacket and making travel plans without consulting the weather channel.  But the deep breath and the change in plans the blizzard afforded me was just what I needed to gear up to be flexible and busy again.  Our regional economy is energized and poised for the growth and activity that we know is here and will be here for our children’s children.  But it won’t be without challenges.  At the Chamber, we will stay busy supporting the businesses and encouraging a workforce that benefits the various industries that make Northwest North Dakota a great place to live and work.   Williston was once called the ‘city of opportunity’.  Joseph W. Jackson, one of Williston’s first mayors wrote “Williston has arrived and her future is brighter and far more certain than ever”.  This statement couldn’t be more true today considering that the whole region continues to be a place of opportunity…without an end in sight.


Free Secrets

Small business owners represent the majority of our members and I know first-hand how busy you can be!  Investing in your business can be tough and investing your time even tougher!  Your time is valuable…. who has an extra 5 minutes let alone 90?  But investing in your business, whether it is in your employees (by taking advantage of the Chamber Business Academy discounts) or revamping how you’ve always done things, is critical to really growing your business.

When was the last time you were able to do something to really affect and grow your business?  Perhaps it was attending our LevelUp last year and taking back some professional and business development ideas and putting them into place.

What about your marketing plan?  We all know that we need to market our business, but are we doing it the most effective and affordable way to maximize results?  With social media, digital media, websites, magazines, papers, television, billboards, radio…there are almost too many ways out there to advertise.  What is the best for your business?

The Chamber and the Williston Herald have collaborated to bring in acclaimed author Mike Blinder for a 90-minute workshop.  Mike is a leading multimedia expert who specializes in helping local businesses find local customers cost effectively.   The workshop will reveal his multimedia marketing secrets so you can apply it to grow your business.  Learn how to successfully advertise regardless of the media used.

I don’t know about you but I like to hear the words ‘affordable’ and ‘cost effective’.  I like even more to hear the word “free”.  Plan to come to one of the two FREE workshops – choose what’s best for you and your business:  March 13th over the lunch hour or March 15th over breakfast at the ARC.  Even the food is FREE.  Click here  to get details on registration.

The workshop and food may be complimentary, but you do need to invest your valuable time.  Nothing is ever really free, but consider the ROI for your 90 minutes – just imagine want you could accomplish over the next year.


Bismarck Capitol Bus Tour

I am a morning person, but getting to the back of the WSC parking lot by 5:15am on a -22 degree day was not my ideal way to begin a day.  But that’s what I did last Wednesday.  A few dozen of us did the same and boarded a bus headed to Bismarck.

I was a little nervous when we stopped for a bathroom break and coffee. After all, we didn’t have the buddy system where everyone was responsible for their partner – I think I did a head count like 10 times.  But we managed to not leave anyone behind and saw the sun rise as we continued on to Bismarck.  We arrived at the Capitol building mid-morning as some committee hearings were going on.  Some of us got to tour the building and if you have never been I highly recommend the tour. photo-1

Cindy, our tour guide, knew so much information about ND, the building, and the way our government is run unique to our state!  Stories about the fire that destroyed the first building in just 4 hours, or how the very rare wood that was accidentally shipped to the capitol was incorporated into the art deco design.   Local building materials that were used and how everything had a purpose in its design.  The 19-story building that at one time needed a trolley from town is one of only a handful in the country with the skyscraper design and tallest building in North Dakota.  Each floor has different departments or agencies and the senate and house floors are designed and illuminated to look like the sun and moon.  It’s a beautiful building rich in history and a government steeped in tradition.   We even got to view Bismarck from the observation deck and sit in where the ND Supreme Court meets.  Not to mention the heritage center next door – but that is for another blog.

Over lunch at the Capitol Café, our District 1 representatives carved out time for us and presented a quick update on bills coming through and what they are working on.  Senator Bekkedahl, and Representatives Sukut and Hatlestad do an amazing job – and I would be remiss without thanking them for all that they do for our district.  Our new Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford joined us for lunch and gave us an update on his and Governor Burgum’s focus and priorities. photo-2 We also got to hear from Greater North Dakota Chamber President Andy Peterson on their focus at the state level supporting businesses across the state.

Next, we got to sit in on the house and senate sessions.  A select few even sat on the floor with our representatives as they voted. photo-3 There are many moving parts to the Legislative Assembly and seeing it first hand is a great way to feel comfortable in getting involved.  While I can’t thank our representatives enough, we also hope to fostering new ones who will eventually take their place.   And while often times, we attempt to bring our representatives to us – like we did with Congressman Cramer on Friday – it’s altogether different to see them in action!

After the session, we boarded the bus again to head back.  I was still just as nervous that someone would be left behind at the truck stop, but we all made it back to Williston at the same dark it was when we left.  It was a long day but the 2017 Williston Legislative Day was worth it!  Both the Chamber’s leadership and education committee and the government affairs committee support this trip every two years when the legislature is in session.  Trekking to Bismarck is never easy, but it is important in keeping Northwest North Dakota top of mind at the state level.  Maybe you can join us in 2019!


Fostering the Entrepreneur

Three years ago, the Chamber’s Leadership and Education committee and the Leadership Williston class along with a bunch of individuals and numerous business sponsors brought a national youth entrepreneurship program to the Williston Area.  We were the first city in North Dakota to have Lemonade Day – a free community-wide program that teaches our youth how to start, own and operate their own business through the time-tested activity: a lemonade stand!

I remember trying to sell lemonade on my cul-de-sac as a kid.  I didn’t get much traffic – perhaps just my 7 neighbors who humored me with a few quarters.  I didn’t quite know what I was doing.  What’s great about the Lemonade Day program is that it teaches kids…not only important life skills such as setting goals and carrying their plans out to completion.  But it also teaches very useful business skills like creating a budget, writing a business plan (considering advertising, location, supplies, etc.), and giving back to the community.   The Lemonade Day philosophy of ‘Spend, Save and Share’ is instilled in those participating.  The program offers opportunities for families and businesses – the whole community in fact – to foster the kind of foundation our youth need to become successful citizens.

Thanks to free materials and support from local sponsors and various volunteers this has been a successful day and growing two years in a row.  In 2015 we had 125 kids registered and about 40 lemonade stands around the Williston area.  In 2016 we registered 158 kids and had about 70 lemonade stands around the Williston area.  This year, the Chamber is partnering with the Williston Young Professionals to help execute our 3rd Annual Willison Lemonade Day!  You may have already gotten a letter asking for your support as a sponsor or business location – please consider being involved in this great educational event.  This year also marks the spreading of the program to other North Dakota cities.

I look forward to participating in Lemonade Day this year with my son – and I hope that you will also have a role in making the 3rd Annual Williston Lemonade Day successful – if for nothing less than buying and tasting several glasses of lemonade around town on June 17th and make a kid smile!


If you have any questions or would like to volunteer or sponsor please call the Chamber (701-577-6000), Chelsea (714-235-6467) or Jaden (719-659-4750).

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