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RobertHovland.jpgRobert Hovland is the President of Center Mutual Insurance Company, a home, auto, and farm insurer based in Rugby. After practicing law for nine years in Minot, ND, he took the helm of Center Mutual in 1997, and has grown the company to serve over 30,000 policyholders in North and South Dakota. Rob currently serves as the chairman of the North Dakota Insurance Guarantee Association, and the Association of North Dakota Insurers. He also is a board member of the South Dakota Insurance Guarantee Association, the Heart of America Medical Center Foundation, the HMO of Rugby, and Merchants Bank. He is the past chairman of the Heart of America Medical Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and the North Dakota Amateur Baseball Association.

Danita ByeDanita Bye is the Founder of Dakota Leadership, a leadership development and management consulting firm, bringing 30 years of success in S.T.E.M. industries. Those successes range from new product launches with Xerox Corporation to a medical device company turnaround to entrepreneurial ventures in S.A.S. and wearable consumer electronics. Danita’s a frequent speaker at entrepreneurial events, including Carlson’s School of Management and the nationally recognized, Project Skyway. Danita is on the Board of Trustees at University of Sioux Fall and has a Masters in Transformational Leadership from Bethel University. She’s written a number of books: Leadership Shift, How to Hire Superior Sales DNA, The Sales Management High Performance Series, and Letters from the King. 

LindaButts.jpgLinda Butts is the past director of Economic Development and Finance at the ND Department of Commerce. She served in that capacity during the creation of the Department of Commerce and was instrumental in creating the ND Ambassador’s program. She worked collaborative to create the ND Trade Office, and developed InnovateND with University partners. She was appointed by President Bush to serve on the Strengthen American’s Communities Initiative, an effort to review all federal economic development programs with the goal of increasing efficiencies and eliminating redundancies. She moved to the NDDOT and served as the head of North Dakota’s Driver and Vehicle Services. While there, she served a 3-year term as treasurer of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, an international organization of state executives. Linda is a CPA and former business owner. She was named ND Women in Business Champion of the Year by the SBA, co-chaired the state’s delegation to the White House Conference on Small Business, and was twice named ND’s Outstanding Woman-Owned Business. She has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Higher Education Roundtable, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, and the ND Trade Office.

ErikDiederich.jpgErik Diederich is the Director of Business Development for Industrial Builders Inc., a third generation, family owned, general contracting company located in West Fargo that focuses on heavy civil construction. While attending North Dakota State University earning his bachelor’s degree in construction management, Erik had the opportunity to work at the Kilbourne Group in downtown Fargo. He currently sits on the NDSCS Building Construction Technology Industry Advisory Board and “Team ND”, a group of business leaders and representatives from the state, who are working with the Global Pathways Institute to increase workforce development in the state of North Dakota. Erik also sits on the YoungLife of Fargo/Moorhead Board of Directors.


TimHennessy.jpgTim Hennessy is Regional President for U.S. Bank in Western North Dakota. Tim began his banking career in 1977 with the State Bank of Burleigh County in Bismarck. Hennessy serves on boards for numerous organizations in Bismarck including Bismarck Industries, Bismarck Mandan Development Association, Missouri Valley YMCA, and the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation. He currently serves on the ND Centers of Excellence Commission, and is currently serving as chairman of the North Dakota Bankers Association.


Chuck HogeChuck Hoge serves at the Executive Director for the NDSU Research & Technology Park overseeing the management of the park including cultivating an environment for start-up and emerging technologies, advancing partnerships with North Dakota State University and key colleges on campus along with the private sector and directing the strategic planning process for the park to ensure its growth is consistent with academic and community values.  Chuck earned his master’s degree in Business Administration from Andrews University and has participated in the Notre Dame University Graduate Studies-Executive Program.  Chuck serves on the Growth Initiative Fund Board.


LynJames.jpgLyn James is co-owner of Flowers and Cappuccino by Lasting Visions in Bowman, ND. She is committed to her community and is currently serving her third term as President of the Bowman City Commission, after serving two terms as a City Commissioner. Lyn also serves on the Bowman County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and proudly represents North Dakota as a member of the ND Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, and as a member of the ND Energy Impact and Infrastructure Advisory Committee. She is a member of the Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce and Bowman Rotary Club. Lyn is the past President of the ND League of Cities Executive Board, and served as a member of the Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, along with various other local and regional boards, committees and advisory positions.


TommyKenvillePhoto2.jpgTommy Kenville is the Founder and President of Tglobal Inc. He is also a consultant with
Center for Innovation as Rainmaker and VP of Development. Kenville established T-Kort LLC and founded Unmanned Applications Institute International. He serves as Managing Member for University Hotel Development LLC and chairs the Valley Angels investment fund. Kenville serves as a mentor and business plan judge, and on Innovate ND and Idea Fest in Northwest Minnesota. He graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing.  


Lambrecht_Craig_MUG_RGB.JPGCraig Lambrecht, MD, is President of the Western region of Sanford Health, which includes a medical center in Bismarck, three long-term care facilities in Bismarck-Mandan and clinic locations in Bismarck-Mandan, Dickinson and Minot. He is board-certified in Emergency Medicine.  A native of Wishek, ND, Dr. Lambrecht served as a member of the North Dakota National Guard for 30 years, serving two wartime deployments, and recently retired as a colonel. He is previous chair of the North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners and the Bismarck Mandan Development Association. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Valley Family YMCA, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Sanford Health Plan. He is chair-elect of the North Dakota Hospital Association, assuming the position in October 2015.

Jared Melville is the former Vice President of Governmental Relations for the North Dakota Student Assocation. A third-year student studying Business Administration and Political Science at North Dakota State University, Melville now serves as the Chief Justice of the NDSU Student Government's Student Court. He has received awards on the regional and national level for competing in collegiate forensics as the President of the NDSU Lincoln Speech & Debate Society. 


PerryMillerPhoto.pngPerry Miller works with the purchase, renovation and management of apartments, hotels and other commercial properties. Miller has served as a township supervisor and Richland County commissioner and is a current member of the Wahpeton City Council. In addition, he is a board member for the Wahpeton Community Development Corporation, Richland-Wilkin United Way, Wahpeton Recreation Committee and ND Farmers Union Policy Committee. Miller is a past board member of the Wahpeton-Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce and NDSCS Alumni Foundation.


1KariNess.jpgKari Ness is the President and CEO of Newman Signs, Inc.  Kari worked in public accounting in her early career and has been with Newman Signs for 20 years.  Kari is a graduate of Concordia College and a Certified Public Accountant.  Ness sits on the Job Service North Dakota Advisory Board, the State's Judicial Nominating Committee, Inquiry Committee Southeast, and the University of Jamestown Board of Trustees.


MarkNisbet.jpgMark Nisbet is the North Dakota Principal Manager for Xcel Energy, the fourth-largest combination natural gas and electricity company in the nation, serving 3.3 million electricity customers and 1.8 million natural gas customers in eight Western and Midwestern states. Mark serves on the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation executive board. He is on the EmPower North Dakota Commission and a member of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce. He serves as chairman of the Governor's Centers of Excellence Commission.


Dr Kelly A RuschDr. Kelly A. Rusch was hired as vice president for research and creative activity at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in June 2013.  Rusch began work at NDSU in late September.  Rusch’s role is to foster, facilitate, coordinate and advance research and economic development at NDSU.  In addition, Dr. Rusch is the Co-Chair for North Dakota EPSCoR. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and her master’s and doctorate in civil engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU).  Rusch joined NDSU from Louisiana State University, where she was on the Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty since 1993.  She also served in numerous leadership roles, including Associate Dean for Research and Diversity in the College of Engineering, Interim Department Chair of Construction management and Industrial Engineering, Co-Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and Director of the Institute for Ecological Infrastructure Engineering.  While at LSU, Rusch secured more than $15 million in research as a principal or co-principal investigator for research in the areas of microorganism system design, surface water quality, industrial waste stabilization and re-use, decentralized wastewater treatment and engineering education.  Her current research focuses on microalgal-cyanobacterial biofuels and bioproducts.  Her work in the microorganism realm has led to two pending patents, and her overall research has resulted in over 120 refereed and technical papers and more than 165 conference and invited talks.  She is a current member of the board of directors and past president of the Aquacultural Engineering Society.


PamSchmidt.jpgPamela Schmidt is COO of The SIA Companies, a Long Term Care Insurance brokerage, administration, and marketing company. A ND-based company, with its national headquarters in Bismarck, SIA has insurance agents/brokers working in all 50 states. A past Chair and current member of the Foundation, Pamela also serves on the Executive Committee of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, the BSC Foundation Board, and the Strategic Planning Committee to the Board of Directors of St. Alexius Medical Center. In addition, Pamela serves on the Small Business and Labor Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.


Mike SeminaryMike Seminary is the Mayor of Bismarck and Business Development Manager for Houston Engineering, Inc. bringing 30 years of Business Development & Client Relations Management experience. During his two-terms as Bismarck City Commissioner, he served in the roles of Commission Vice-Chair and Chairman of MEDAG. Mike’s portfolio assignments include Economic Development, Administration, Community Development, Planning and Zoning Commission, County Planning Commission, Intergovernmental Relations/MBBM. He has served as President of Missouri Valley YMCA, and board member for the United Way, Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce and Marketplace for Kids. Mike continues to serve the community with his involvement as church worship leader as well a board member for the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association and Civic Arena Productions.
(701) 751-6279

JonSimmers.jpgJon Simmers serves as the Chief Executive Officer for Bismarck Aero Center (BAC), a full service Fixed Base Operator (FBO)located in Bismarck, ND. As the region's largest aircraft maintenance facility, BAC also specializes in providing aircraft refueling services, avionics, flight instruction, contract pilot services, charter brokerage, aircraft interiors and hangar storage. With roots in Bismarck and Jamestown, ND, Jon earned his Master's in Business Administration from the University of North Dakota and has been honored by the Business Watch "40 under 40" and the Bisman Chamber Mike Fink award for steady growth and profitability. Jon currently serves on the North Dakota Aviation Council, North Dakota Business Aviation Association, BisMan Chamber JA Board, Vistage International, and the Prairie Family Business Association.


BruceThom.jpgBruce Thom is a former Senior Vice President of Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ: OTTR) and headed up a diversity effort in which yearly revenues went from zero to $400,000,000 during his 15 years at the helm. Mr. Thom currently serves as President of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, an independent minor league baseball club that plays in the Northern League of Professional Baseball. He purchased the RedHawks from Otter Tail Corporation in 2004.

JimTraynor.jpgJim Traynor is the Director of Integration Partnerships at Intelligent InSites - the market and technology leader in providing real-time enterprise visibility and automation solutions that transform healthcare. In his role at Intelligent InSites, Jim is responsible for developing business partnerships with healthcare technology companies across North America. His professional history includes various management positions at Microsoft, Great Plains Software, Apple Computer, Inc., and Compaq. He holds an Economics degree from the University of ND and a Masters in Management from the University of Mary.


EricTrueblood.jpgEric Trueblood is an owner of Aircorps Aviation, a WWII aircraft restoration facility. Aircorps, which specializes in fighter aircraft, uses its rebuilding and fabrication expertise to serve a worldwide customer base. Trueblood grew up in Minot, studied Marketing and Economics at the University of North Dakota and graduated in 2006. Eric currently serves on the Bush Foundation, the North Dakota Young Professionals Board, Varsity Bachelor's Club, NDSCS Foundation and is a member of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce. He has a commitment to providing positive growth and opportunities for young people in  North Dakota.


0GeneVeederPhoto.jpgGene Veeder is a Commissioner for McKenzie County, North Dakota. He served as the    
Executive Director of McKenzie County Job Development Authority and Tourism Bureau for
over 24 years. Veeder serves as President of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway and is on the Board of Directors for McKenzie County Water Resource District and the Western Area Water Supply and is a Past President of Economic Development Association of North
Dakota. He has an MS in Administration from Central Michigan University and a BS from the University of North Dakota. Veeder has been recognized as the Governor's Choice Economic Developer of the Year and for Outstanding Achievement in County Government from the North Dakota Association of County Government. Veeder manages the family ranch in McKenzie County where he lives with his wife Beth.



JaySchulerFormal.jpgGovernor Doug Burgum appointed Jay Schuler as the Commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce in January 2017. 
A native of Wahpeton, N.D., and neighboring Breckenridge, Minn., Schuler started his first company in college. He is a founding investor in both GIANT Sunflower Seeds, the largest sunflower confection retailer in the Upper Midwest, and Richland IFC, a dominant supplier of organic blue corn. Schuler also is an original investor in Ag America Network, which is carried by more than 30 radio stations in North Dakota and South Dakota.
Schuler has served on numerous boards; is active in his community’s local angel investment fund; has been a judge for Innovate North Dakota for the past three years; and, was recognized by the NDSU Agribusiness Club as the 2003 recipient of the John Lee Coulter Award.  This award honors a person who has made outstanding contributions in the agricultural industry.  In 2012, Mr. Schuler was named by the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation as its first Holaday Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Schuler is a 1970 graduate of Breckenridge High School and holds an Ag Economics degree from North Dakota State University (NDSU) with minors in Agronomy and Genetics. 
Schuler succeeds former Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson, who retired Dec. 31, 2016. 


Sandy McMerty 
Deputy Commissioner

Foundation Members
Foundation Members
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