I am a big fan of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.  Not because America ever ceased to be great, but because it recognizes a divided county and moreover recognizes that with unified Americans working together we can certainly become greater.  The thing to realize is that if we put in the daily effort, each of us can learn, grow, and become greater.  Asking what else can I do; how can I improve myself and my community will take you to places beyond what you imagined.

One real tangible way to accomplish this is through the Chamber’s Leadership Williston Program.  I briefly mentioned it in my last column but it’s long history is noteworthy enough to warrant more explanation.  For over 20 years, it has shaped not only those who joined the program, but our community and region as well.  Over 170 individuals have been affected by this program and in turn affected countless others.   In a historically ag driven economy, Williston knows how to plan, nurture, and harvest a crop.  The Leadership program proves we can do this with more than wheat.  Most alumni of the program now hold leadership positions in their jobs and in the community.  Many are active on important boards.  They are doing their part to shape our influential part of the world.  Leadership graduates understand when you help others, you better yourself.

There is nothing worth achieving without sacrifice and the Leadership Williston program requires a significant commitment from not only themselves but their employers as well.  The really good news is that Williston employers have consistently shown they understand the bottom line value to dealership development.  The program, open to all, consists of 13 sessions from October through April, as participants learn the ins and outs of our community in a hands-on way.  Each participant is required to complete a service project.  Past projects such as Downtown Beautification, Frisbee Golf course and Dog park at Spring Lake Park, and Marketplace for Kids are still being utilized today!  It’s like the pay it forward concept.  It can’t help but breed progress.  It’s a fantastic program – I encourage you to consider it or if you are an alumnus of the program – encourage someone around you to apply.  Don’t just take my word for it – it’s fairly easy to find a graduate of the program to ask them how they were impacted.  You can always contact the Chamber with any questions.  Applications for the program will be available next month.  My only regret is that we cannot allow more people in each year.

“Good Leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”  John D. Rockefeller

Our community is what we make of it.  Let’s make our community not just great – but superior.



Evolving Community, Regional Front-Runner

The perception of Western North Dakota from outsiders is vastly different from reality.  Even from our ND neighbors in the East.  I wrote about this before how people don’t really understand this until you are here.  The inaccurate national news media frenzy of the boom fueled this misunderstanding.  Once you are here, however, you meet the people who have made this their home.  They are hardworking, caring, and survivors.  Harsh winters and summer mosquitoes are not easy to live with, yet, we are stronger for it.

The activity level is on the rise.  The change is palpable.  Not just structurally with all the infrastructure projects around the area but with the anticipation of the future.  This past Wednesday the city hosted the second public meeting regarding the new airport project and the Sloulin Field redevelopment.  Both of these projects are crucially significant to our regional economy moving forward.

The new airport will be a not just be a nice convenience for travel – able to offer the region closer and easier options to people visiting here and for visit others.  It will open up a wide variety of economic options that up until now, have not even been imagined.   The Sloulin Field site offers prime space in town that will be available to provide amenities, services, commerce to meet the growing demand.

Thanks to the leadership at the city, county, and state level all working hard on our behalf, this is now a reality…coming to fruition within a few years.  At the same time, it is a model for a growing community for the next several generations.  The engagement of our youth and different leaders now is critical to help ensure the community continues to grow and thrive.

To this end, the Chamber’s Leadership and Education committee provides opportunities for both youth and people in this community intended to form leaders in our community.  You may not be involved directly with the Lemonade Day program, Leadership Williston, and others but in your own small way you can be:

  • Come out around town on June 17th and visit some lemonade stands to support our budding entrepreneurs.
  • Learn about all the great work being done around this community at our non-profit expo in July. Perhaps your or your business wants to give back or support them with your time as a volunteer.
  • Think twice before you order something online and see if you can get it here at a local business. Support those businesses that support our economy and our community.
  • Consider your friend, neighbor, kids or grandkids that have the potential and drive to become our next group of leaders. Maybe they could benefit from either Lemonade Day or Leadership Williston and encourage them to get involved to shape our future.

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s still true:  This is an exciting time to be living and working in the Williston Area.  This is a fantastic community and I am grateful to be involved!


Road Construction – unavoidable this summer

It seems almost everywhere you go around town you will run into some detour or construction.  Reconstructing roads and changing infrastructure may be a necessity considering not only the past growth of the area but future growth as well.   It doesn’t make life any easier in the short term, however.  Especially for business owners.  Local businesses have local people as employees and help the local economy which is vital to providing the quality of life in our community that we are used to.

The US 2 closure earlier this month has made it more difficult for people to get to the businesses they are used to driving by.  Now it takes more work for the consumer to get to them.  Working with the construction and project managers, the Chamber and business owners have asked for more signage to help direct people.  Still, some people would rather avoid the trouble altogether.  And that affects business.  Taking the 11th detour at the roundabout on 32nd you can still access Mattress Firm, Riddles Jewelry, Sakura Steakhouse, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Starboard.  On the south side of US 2 the frontage road offers access to member businesses Agri Industries, American Welding & Gas, and OK Tire.

Particularly difficult is the way for those trying to get to the chamber member businesses on Reiger Dr.: Jiffy Lube, Culver’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, BeMobile, Batteries Plus.  Those businesses are still open and eager for your business!

And if downtown Main Street hasn’t seen enough of a disruption a few years ago, they are now facing another one beginning next week.  From 6th Street to Front street, one block at a time going south, there will be disruptions to Main Street.  Sometimes even closing some of the intersections for a few days at a time.  But again, you will still be able to access Chamber member businesses like American State Bank & Trust, Basin Brokers, Books on Broadway, Castle Framing, Cedar Chest, Cooks on Main, Cugini Italian Bistro, Gate City Bank, Hedderich’s Art and Trade Center, Jackie’s Therapeutic Massage, Little Muddy Gifts, North Dakota Guaranty & Title Co., Mode, Maurice’s, The Renaissance Companies, Ritter Brothers, Salvation Army, the Senior Center, and US Bank…just not necessarily how you are used to.

Other projects have affected how you get to Dakota Prints, Duane’s Radiator Shop and Dawa as another example.

Hopefully, it is something that you can be understanding of – that although it may be a little bit of a hassle, you can still get there.  I urge everyone to be a little more tolerant and cautious while driving through.  Support the businesses as best you can.  I also encourage you to make it a point to visit them and see how they are doing.  This is our community and supporting each other is the right thing to do.  It will make us an even stronger community.

This too shall pass.

My mom used to say that to me often as a child.  And it will.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates and they can finish the road construction projects on time.  No doubt, new projects will pop up somewhere else next summer or even later this summer.  But keeping in mind that ‘this too shall pass’ and supporting each other during the difficult times is the best way to get through it…for everyone.


Veteran’s Assistance Funds

One of the long-standing committees of the chamber has been the Military Affairs Committee (MAC).  This committee works to assist local military and veterans’ organizations to recognize and respect our military heritage in Northwest North Dakota.  The MAC actively supports local veterans, military, their families, the businesses that employ them, and the communities in which they live and work.  Yearly, they host events and projects throughout the year:  golf tournament, Patriot Award at our Annual Banquet, the Avenue of Flags, Veteran’s Day programs and more.

Like those who serve or have served in the military, the committee (consisting mostly of veterans themselves) labor to assist those who have selflessly served this country.  One of these lesser known ways is through the Veteran’s Assistance Funds.  Thanks to generous sponsors like the Williston Basin Chapter API and Red River Supply, veterans in need of help can come to the Williams County office and request gift cards for meals, gas, and other needs.  The committee works to ensure there is much support for our veterans – especially the homeless vets.  MAC has seen a downturn in requests for funds, but that does not mean the need has gone down.  There are many people out there that do not know what is available to them.  Like Red River Supply, there are also many veteran friendly businesses and veteran owned businesses in this community.  Thanks to Jim Swartout, owner of ND Flagpole Guy, each Lemonade Stand this year will proudly display the American flag.  This is just one example.   To all those businesses, to the committee members, and to all veterans – a sincere Thank You.  You make the world and our community a safer and better place and for that we are grateful.

Please help us spread the word on what the Military Affairs Committee is doing and contact the Chamber to contribute to the cause.


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!


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