November Update

One of the questions asked during the early stages of the BMDA / Chamber Restructure was, “How would a restructure impact the community’s efforts to grow existing businesses and attract new ones?”

The answer is, positively.

Since 2004, the BMDA has facilitated a formal Business Retention & Expansion (BRE) Program dedicated to pro-actively identifying issues, barriers, etc. affecting our existing businesses through a series of one-on-one visits. That information is then used to assist individual businesses and/or shape our BRE efforts going forward. Along those same lines, each year the Chamber conducts a survey of its members to identify issues, barriers, etc. they foresee in the coming year as part of the Economic Outlook Forum. By restructuring, we have the ability to continue visits with individual businesses via the BRE Program while leveraging the expanded reach of the Economic Outlook Forum’s survey to gather even more information regarding the issues impacting our businesses that we can use to tailor initiatives, programming and more.

What’s more is that we can further leverage that expanded reach to amplify our business attraction efforts. Currently, the primary targets of our business attraction efforts are value-added energy, value-added agriculture and equipment manufacturing. However, there is limited staff time and resources to market in those areas. By utilizing a greater social media presence, publications like the Chamber Connection and other means, we hope our volunteers and members will help our staff spread the message that this is the ideal location for businesses in these industries. In addition, it is possible to reallocate existing resources gained through efficiency to a part or full-time staff person with economic development marketing responsibilities. 

Update on the Restructure Process
Since the affirmative vote from both the BMDA and Chamber membership and approval from the Attorney General’s Office, articles of merger have been filed with the Secretary of State with the intention of the merger becoming official on January 1, 2019. At that point, the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC will begin operations. Until then however, both the BMDA and Chamber will operate ‘as is’ for the balance of 2018.



October Update

One of the core tenets of economic development is entrepreneurial development and both the BMDA and Chamber’s Strategic Plans identify the support of our community’s entrepreneurs as a priority. 

The BMDA’s approach to entrepreneurial development has been to serve as a feeder rather than a leader meaning we support entrepreneurs in their efforts their businesses rather than dictate to them how they should do so. We do so by first supporting & sponsoring events that bring entrepreneurs together such as those organized by Start Bismarck or Mandan’s Economic Opportunity & Prosperity (EOP) Committee Business StartUp 101 in hopes those events will spur economic activity. If an entrepreneur has a specific need, perhaps finance or real estate related, that is when we’ll step in and actively assist.

The Chamber’s approach has been to both supporting and encouraging has been broader. Most notably, the Chamber facilitates the Lemonade Day Program by which we attempt to encourage entrepreneurship in our community’s youth by setting up and operating their first business; a lemonade stand. That program has seen tremendous growth going from 360 participants in 2017 to 556 this year. Additionally, the Chamber uses it’s wider reach and multiple communication channels to promote those entrepreneurial members growing their businesses right here in Bismarck-Mandan.

However, there are still barriers to entrepreneurial development such as an unorganized resource network and a general lack of support in the community. As one organization, we believe that we can address those concerns better than we have in the past. More specifically, we aim to do that by the following:

1. Continue to support events that bring together our community’s entrepreneurs in hopes that will spur even more entrepreneurial activity.
2. Reduce the confusion of knowing where to seek entrepreneurial support by having one business community organization instead of two.
3. Utilize the larger, combined reach and means of communications of one organization to promote our community’s entrepreneurs.  

Update on the Restructure Process 
In a recent vote, both BMDA and Chamber Memberships voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposed merger. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office has approved the merger as well and it appears as though we are on our way to fulfilling all the legal requirements of the proposed merger. Finally, we continue working with KK BOLD to develop the restructured organization’s new logo and brand in support of the name “Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC” which was approved by both Boards.



September Update

According to the latest statistics from Job Service North Dakota, there a combined 2,177 job openings between Burleigh and Morton Counties. That coupled with an unemployment rate below 3.0% means that one of our business community’s biggest challenges remains workforce. As organizations, we believe that we have two ways to approach this issue:

  • Short term: we can attract new talent to our community. We are currently doing this via online talent attraction campaigns targeted to those most in-demand occupations and where we believe that talent to be located. We’ll touch on how the proposed restructure can help us augment those efforts in a future edition of this series.
  • Long term: we can also seek to retain the talent we already have in our community. It may surprise some to know that between our public and private K12 and Higher Education institutions, there are approximately 25,000 full and part-time students here in Bismarck-Mandan. 

So how do we start by retaining the talent we already have? We can start by trying to create meaningful work experiences for those students so that they become engrained in our workforce and our area employers. One effort that is helping us do that is the BMDA’s Job Shadow Week where each February, we seek to place as many high school and college students in two and four-hour job shadows to give them a glimpse of what that occupation and employer are really like. It is our hope that a job shadow can not only help focus that student’s career path, but potentially lead to a longer-term internship and ultimately, a full-time job here in Bismarck-Mandan. We’re also trying to educate those educators who are with those students every day via our Educators Summer Workshop. This is a week-long program where we place a group of area educators in various places of employment to learn directly from those employers the skills, education, etc. they’re looking for and then take those lessons back into the classroom. 

To coordinate these efforts however, we need a full-time focus and we don’t have that ability at the BMDA as those workforce-related duties have traditionally been assigned to a position also responsible for the organization’s marketing and publications. Furthermore, the Chamber has not traditionally facilitated workforce development efforts like those mentioned above. However, by leveraging the resources of both the BMDA and Chamber, those marketing and publication responsibilities can be reallocated to other Staff or potentially a new position. This would then allow the existing workforce and marketing position to be focused full-time to workforce-related efforts, developing relationships with our partners in education and developing even more workforce development programming. By having a position dedicated solely to workforce-related efforts, we are in a position to better meet the needs of our business community and that’s just one more example of why we believe the BMDA / Chamber Restructure is in the best interests of all involved.

Update on the Restructure Process 
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be presented to both organizations’ Board of Directors at their September meetings. Should the MOU be approved, it would be forwarded along with a Plan of Merger to the Attorney General’s office to start the legal process of merging the two organizations. That same Plan of Merger will also be sent to all BMDA & Chamber members along with additional information regarding next steps. We also continue to work on developing the new organization’s name, logo and brand with the help of KK BOLD who recently conducted an electronic survey and series of focus groups. The results of those efforts will now be taken into account as KK BOLD begins the creative process of developing that name, logo and brand.  



August Update

The purpose of these monthly messages regarding the pending BMDA / Chamber Restructure is two-fold; to inform you of the various aspects of the restructured organization’s value proposition and to update you on the progress being made to that end. Regarding the value proposition, this month we’ll focus on the strengthened business community voice and the more efficient use of resources that will result from the Restructure. Both of which result from having one, unified business development organization as opposed to two.

In reviewing both the BMDA and Chamber’s 2017 – 2019 Strategic Plans (separate plans, mind you), there are five areas of overlap: infrastructure & transportation planning, workforce development, entrepreneurship, local advocacy and community engagement. These are areas which both organizations, separately, identified as being important enough to address as part of their efforts and followed through. For example, both the BMDA and Chamber had Staff and/or Volunteers serve on the City of Bismarck’s Joint Task Force, the City of Mandan’s West End Redevelopment Committee and the TEDx Bismarck Planning Committee.

It is our intent that as a result of the restructure, we can serve all those groups as a stronger voice representative of even more of the business community.

What’s more is that if we do so as one organization, we can conceivably take the same number of staff and volunteers and be involved with even more groups, efforts and initiatives. Think about it; if there were two staff or volunteers on one committee representing the BMDA and Chamber, one organization could have one of those representatives involved with that effort and then re-direct the other representative to another effort that we might not otherwise have been able to previously.

The same logic can be applied to the use of financial resources. Both organizations have traditionally had their own marketing & administrative staff whereas once the restructure is complete, we could take the same resources previously dedicated to those four staff members and keep one administrative position, two marketing positions and then re-direct existing resources to create a new workforce-focused position that we need in order to address what is the business community’s most pressing issue.

That’s just one example of how we plan to more efficiently utilize the same amount of resources to accomplish even more.

As to where we’re at in the restructure process, despite what you may have heard, it is not done. We are working with legal counsel to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the approval of both Boards which would ‘set the table’ for what we need to accomplish yet, legally. We have also engaged an area marketing firm to help us develop the organization’s new name, logo and brand for which they are seeking input from the membership.

If you ever have any questions, please do not hesitate to get ahold of me directly at or (701) 223-5660.




July Update
The value proposition for a restructured BMDA and Chamber has many facets and we’ll touch on all of them over the coming months as part of this series of communications. While some of the value proposition includes things that are new or different, one thing that will not change is the quality programming and events that you’ve come to expect from both organizations.

For instance, each year the Chamber facilitates the Leadership Bismarck-Mandan Program which seeks to develop local leaders who actively participate in and support community progress. Neither that program nor others such as Lemonade Day or the Outstanding Teacher of the Year will go away as a result of the restructure. The same can be said for our signature events like the Workforce Development Summit or Celebrate Bismarck-Mandan. We’re simply looking to build on them. Take for example the Economic Outlook Forum. A restructured organization is in a position to: host an event like the Economic Outlook Forum, analyze the results of the event & accompanying survey and then address or implement programming based upon those results whether they’re specific to economic development or advocacy. One organization can do all of that and that’s advantageous for not only the organization, but the entire community as well.

And while the Chamber may be better known for hosting the aforementioned events, the BMDA has also developed programming that can be strengthened by the restructure. This includes the organization’s annual Job Shadow Week where area high school and college students are encouraged to participate in two and four-hour job shadows in an effort to learn more about a specific profession. While the program has been incredibly successful in its three years of existence, the BMDA has only 240 private sector investors to whom the program is primarily marketed. By comparison, a restructured organization could have over 1,300 private sector investors to whom we could market and ultimately grow the program. In doing so, we can better address one of our membership and community’s most pressing needs.

Once again, it’s important to note that by restructuring, we’re not looking to do less with the resources that we’ve been entrusted with. In fact, we’re looking to do just the opposite; take those same resources, leverage them and do even more. The examples above are just a few ways we expect to do so as a unified business development organization.  

As to what’s currently being done to complete the restructure, each organization has engaged independent counsel to review their bylaws in an effort to ensure proper compliance throughout the process. In addition, the organizations have developed and solicited responses to a request for proposal (RFP) for a marketing firm to develop the restructured organization’s new name, logo and brand.

Should you ever have any questions, comments or concerns during this process, you can always get a hold of me directly at or (701) 223-5660 / (701) 222-5530.




June Update
Throughout the process of considering whether or not to restructure the BMDA and Chamber, a common question has been, “What is This Going to Cost?” More specifically, what would a restructure of our two organizations mean in terms of membership investment? 

It’s a reasonable question and one that we answered by first determining that this restructure is about providing the most robust, efficient services for our members; not a way to arbitrarily cut costs. The leadership of our organizations believes very firmly that if we are going to restructure, the motivation for doing so cannot be financial. It must be about doing what is best for the BMDA Members, Chamber Members and most importantly, our community.

With that in mind, we developed a value proposition that quantifies what more we can do as one organization for approximately the same amount being used to support two. To support that value proposition, we then developed an investment structure by simplifying the Chamber’s existing membership schedule and combining it with four community partnership levels based upon the BMDA’s tiered investment schedule. Under this investment structure, all members will first determine their base investment by using the simplified membership schedule before considering at what level you might invest additional funds in return for recognition as a community partner. It’s important to note however that your investment, no matter the amount, will all go into one budget for one organization governed by one leadership.

The investment structure is still being finalized, but when it is complete you will be able to insert your own company to determine your investment under the restructured organization. What you’ll see in doing so that is whether you’re currently a member of the Chamber, the BMDA or both, your investment will only change significantly if you want them to.

Over the coming months, we will spotlight the specific aspects of the value proposition that will justify and be supported by this investment structure. Should you have any questions, comments or concerns during this process, you can always get a hold of me directly at or (701) 223-5660.   


Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t the Restructure Already Done?
No, the BMDA / Chamber Restructure is not yet complete. Both organizations continue to operate separately while working towards a restructure that would be complete by January 1, 2019.

What Will the Restructured Organization be Called?
The restructured organization will be known as the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC.

Where Will the Organization’s Office Be?
In the existing Chamber building at 1640 Burnt Boat Drive.  

Will Anyone Be ‘Laid Off’ as a Result of the Restructure?
No. The only Staff change expected as a result of the Restructure is for the position of BMDA Office Manager, currently held by a temporary employee, to be redirected or reassigned elsewhere in the organization.

What Will Happen to My Dues?
Members of the BMDA & Chamber will continue to pay separate dues for the rest of 2018. Effective January 1, 2019, a new dues schedule will come into effect that has been designed to allow our members to keep their dues at a level consistent with what they’ve paid previously or invest more if they so choose.

I Just Paid My BMDA and/or Chamber Membership Dues. Will I Have to Pay Right Away to Join the New Organization?
No. Current Chamber Members will keep paying their dues the same month they always have while current BMDA Investors will continue to pay their dues the same month they always have. For those who are members of both organizations, we expect to invoice them in the later of the two renewal months.

Why Would I Choose to Continue to be a Member or Even Invest More?
The value proposition for a restructured organization is multi-faceted and can be found below. As you will see, no programming currently offered by either the BMDA or Chamber will be eliminated and we expect to enhance certain areas of programing.

  • More Efficient Utilization of Existing Resources: A restructure of the BMDA and Chamber will allow us to leverage existing resources to accomplish even more for the community as a unified business development organization working for Bismarck-Mandan and the surrounding area.
  • Simplified Governance & Dues Structure: Currently, more than 200 area businesses are members of both the BMDA and Chamber. As a result of being members of both, they pay two invoices at two different times that go to two different locations. A single, restructured organization offers the ability for all businesses to support economic development, advocacy and more with one investment.
  • A Strengthened Business Community Voice: Between the BMDA and Chamber’s 2017 – 2019 Strategic Plans, at least five areas of overlap exist that present opportunities for a restructured organization to better serve the community. They include: infrastructure planning, transportation planning & permitting, workforce development, entrepreneurship, local advocacy, community engagement. A restructured organization offers the potential for a larger, stronger business community voice on these issues and more.  
  • Increased Focus on Workforce Development: The BMDA has been responsible for the implantation of workforce development programs while the Chamber recently introduced a new event; the Workforce Summit. By shifting duties within a restructured organization, we can dedicate a staff person to both workforce development and talent attraction who in turn could utilize a larger membership base to expand the reach of those efforts.
  • Supporting our Community’s Entrepreneurs: A small group of entrepreneurs and resource providers indicated earlier this year that the two most pressing issues facing entrepreneurs in Bismarck-Mandan are an unorganized resource network and a general lack of support in the community. A larger organization could both aid in organizing a continuum of entrepreneurial resources and develop community-wide support for entrepreneurs in Bismarck-Mandan.
  • Expanded Business Retention & Expansion Efforts: The BMDA has facilitated a formal BRE Program since 2004 while the Chamber represents approximately 1,300 businesses, many of them small businesses. By combining resources, it’s possible to dedicate additional staff time and resources to expand the reach of the BRE Program while incorporating more small businesses to ensure that their voice is being heard.
  • Enhancements to Business & Talent Attraction: The BMDA has traditionally led the community’s efforts in both business and talent attraction. Combining resources may allow for increased staff focus on business attraction efforts and a dedicated staff person to talent attraction and workforce development. In addition, both areas of focus may benefit from the increased visibility & reach of a larger, combined membership base.
  • Continued Rural Engagement: Economic development in the rural areas of Burleigh and Morton Counties have long been a focus of the BMDA and those efforts will remain in place. Those contacts could also be used to enhance the Chamber’s advocacy efforts in areas such as tax reform, agriculture policy, etc. and vice versa.
  • Excellence in Programming, Events and More: And those events and programs that the Chamber has come to be known for like the Economic Outlook Forum, Leadership Bismarck-Mandan and more will still exist. Only now, there will be a direct tie to economic development which directly impact those events and more.



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