We hope that you have been well and enjoying the hot summer weather that has come to North Dakota!
Near the end of May, the ND SBDC Network held our Fifth Annual Primary Stakeholders Summit via Zoom. Beyond our staff and lead center, many other groups were present and represented, including the Small Business Administration (SBA), our Sub-Award Program Host Organizations, the University of North Dakota, Certified Development Corporations, our State Advisory Board members, and the Department of Commerce.
The goal of this annual summit is to bring our partners together to share their unique perspectives on the state of small business. This sharing of information and ideas helps the ND SBDC to focus our efforts and energize our program and network for the future. Now, more than ever before, such collaboration is imperative for helping North Dakota’s small business ecosystem “grow out of COVID.”
We were honored to have the newly appointed Commissioner of the Department of Commerce, James Leiman, speak with us about the partnership between the ND SBDC and the Department of Commerce and some of Commerce’s long-term goals.
When asked about the importance of small business to Commerce’s mission, Commissioner Leiman responded, “When we look at businesses across the state, 80% or so of companies have nine or fewer employees. So, in effect, 4/5 of our customers are small businesses.” He went on to explain some strides the state entity is taking to further support small businesses. “Commerce is trying to structure its posture, resource tool-set, and its programs to more effectively respond to the needs of small business and to be more proactive.” He was also very positive about the recent legislative session and the strides made by Commerce and the legislature to invest in small business.
Commissioner Leiman also emphasized the importance of the Department of Commerce, the SBDC, and other organizations across the state working together to support small business and advance the state of North Dakota. “You guys play an integral role, right? When I look at SBDC across the state, you’re the augmentation tool because Commerce isn’t structured that way. People have a perception that Commerce can be that frontline concierge, but if you don’t represent a primary sector, you’re going to have a major challenge because we don’t have the resources to help you. Same thing with people who have new ideas that are brilliant and just need some business savvy and mentorship,” said Commissioner Leiman, who then pointed out other specialized business support organizations that Commerce and the SBDC can partner with such as Entrepreneurship Centers.
His point? No organization in North Dakota can support and move small business forward all alone, and the SBDC couldn’t agree more.
Other key highlights from this year’s summit included a summary of CARES Act funded activities and a presentation about North Dakota’s new small business e-commerce platform, shopND.com, where local North Dakota businesses can easily market and sell their goods online. Attendees also received updates on the network’s core activities, heard about the merging of our Fargo and SE region offices and a staffing transition in our Bismarck office, and saw an updated timeline of the ND SBDC’s current and future strategic plan. The current plan has been extended to 2022 and our strategic planning consultants begin executive interviews this June as a first step in developing our next strategic plan.
We thoroughly enjoyed hearing updates about North Dakota’s small business ecosystem from our Advisory Board members and our local business advisors. It was wonderful to reconnect with our stakeholders and we are excited to get together in person once again in the near future.
Lastly, we look forward to having more routine conversations with commerce to reinforce our synergies and find solutions that address concerns of ND small businesses. Commissioner Leiman was clear about the intentions of Commerce to work collaboratively when he said, “This is our invitation to you, as the Department of Commerce, to work with us more effectively, more closely, and to consistently educate us on the challenges you’re experiencing within all of your respective realms.”
It was inspiring and insightful to reconnect with our stakeholders and speak about what the future of small business in North Dakota holds. We can’t wait to continue collaborating, creating synergies, and moving our state and its small businesses forward, together.
Tiffany Ford, State Director
And all the Staff of the ND Small Business Development Network