These People Care About Bis-Man!

17 mins read
Bis Man Inc Magazine Chamber
Bis Man Inc Magazine Chamber

The Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC exists to serve the business interests and needs of its business members in the community. Let’s get to know the leadership team steering this great community into the future!

Brian Ritter
President & CEO – Bismark Mandan Chamber EDC

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Brian Ritter has been with the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC and its predecessors since 2003, starting as an intern. Ritter eventually worked his way up the ladder at the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, becoming the organization’s president in 2013. In 2017, Ritter added duties as the President of the BismarckMandan Chamber of Commerce. Two years later, in 2019, he oversaw the merger that formed the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC and has been the organizations only President & CEO since. In his position, Ritter leads the organization’s advocacy efforts, oversees the organization’s day-to-day operations and helps implement the 2020-2022 Strategic Plan.

Ritter is a lifelong Bismarck Mandan native and a two-time graduate of the University of Mary as well as the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. He is married to his wife, Kim, and has two daughters named Claire and Eve.

Why does your role matter to members?

Simply put, our organization and our community are all about relationships. As leaders, it’s critical that we all spend time building relationships throughout Bismarck-Mandan so that we’re in the best position possible to help our members. Fortunately, I’ve been able to spend the last 19 years doing just that.

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

Whether it’s me or any member of our team, each week everyone here is responsible for contacting two Chamber EDC Members to simply check-in, thank them for their membership and find out if there’s anything that we can do to help.

What is something you want new Chamber EDC prospects to know?

We need to earn your membership each and every year. There’s no law requiring that organizations like ours exist, so we have to earn your support with everything that we do. And if we’re not doing that, we want to know about it.

What else do you want people to know?

The true strength of the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC is our members. The more members we have, the stronger our voice becomes. The more members we have, the more partners we gain. And the more members we have, the more connections we make.

Nathan Schneider
Vice President – Bismark Mandan Chamber EDC

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Nathan Schneider, a graduate of North Dakota State and the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, grew up in Harvey, ND and moved to Bismarck-Mandan in 2005.

Over the course of his career, Schneider has spent time in private banking, worked for the North Dakota Department of Commerce and since 2019, has worked as the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC’s Vice President where he “leads the organization’s economic development efforts.”

At home, Schneider is husband to his wife Emily and father to his “fun-loving and kind-spirited” 7-year-old son Hudson.

Why does your role matter to members?

My role is not always the most visible role within the Chamber EDC. A lot of times this organization and the economic development team specifically are having conversations with businesses or prospects before they become public. We are also typically working with businesses that aren’t going to be the lead news story when they do expand or put down roots in Bismarck Mandan. But whether we are helping a local small manufacturer finance a new facility or working with Cloverdale Foods on a major expansion, the projects we are working on are very important. These are the projects that are creating new wealth in our community and adding good-paying jobs. If we succeed in our economic development efforts, it helps the community as a whole.

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

We work to grow not only Bismarck Mandan but the surrounding rural areas as well! We are not just the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC but also the Burleigh and Morton County Chamber EDC. This means that we serve the entire two-county region. Within the last year we have assisted in the startup of a new daycare and an expansion of an existing manufacturing facility in Hebron, helped a bar and restaurant in Glen Ullin switch ownership, and provided funding to help a meat processing plant in New Salem expand its capacity. In the past, we have also assisted to locate a large-scale manufacturing facility in rural Burleigh County. Providing economic development to those rural areas of the county is very important to us as well.

What is something you want new Chamber EDC prospects to know? There are really so many things I would like a new Chamber EDC prospect to know like what an amazing team here at the Chamber EDC they have working on their behalf. I also want them to know that everything we do is to benefit the membership I’d also like to talk to them about the ways they can get involved in the organization.

But if I was to have to let them know only one thing, it would be this organization is truly a sum-of-all parts organization. What I mean by that is all of our members’ support together allows us to do what we do. We couldn’t do what we do if just one business or a handful of businesses supported us, we need all of you. If you don’t think there is value in joining the Chamber EDC I promise you there is, we just maybe haven’t identified it yet. However, your support combined with all the other support we receive will just create more opportunities to produce value for you.

Elliot Rust
CPA Chief Financial Officer – Bismark Mandan Chamber EDC

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Elliot Rust grew up in Casselton, North Dakota and graduated from the University of Mary with degrees in Accounting and Computer Science. He has called Bismarck Mandan home since 2007 and is a Mandan resident.

“My beautiful wife is a proud owner of a mortgage brokerage in Bismarck and we enjoy the chaos in our house created by our three dogs, three cats, and foster cats. We both enjoy spending time outdoors, on the river and camping.”

Why does your role matter to members?

As the Chief Financial Officer, my main duties are focused on the financial health of our organization. As a business leader for our community and our membership, it’s important that we are using the monetary support given by our members and partners through dues and events to ensure we are not only providing the advocacy, economic development and networking support to our membership but also taking care of our internal finances. One of our core strategic goals is organizational excellence and I work hard to ensure we are financially healthy not only today but as we grow to support our growing community.

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

About one-third of our revenue is received from our membership through annual dues, and ensuring we are recruiting and retaining our membership is another of our core strategic goals. I lead our membership team which consists of Ross Frohlich, Membership Director, who has done an amazing job in the past four years we’ve worked together to grow our new members with a record-breaking 130 new members last year, and Katelyn Corrigan, Small Business Outreach Coordinator, who is our newest employee and focuses on membership retention by visiting with our small business members. Membership retention is a big focus in my leadership of this terrific team and we work hard to reach out to our membership. One fun way we do this is through an effort I began during the beginning of COVID-19 in 2020 where each staff member is given two members to call each week to check in with them. This has been a wonderful way to connect with our membership and see if there are ways we can support them with resources. We’ve called each and every one of our 1,200 members at least once throughout the year through this process! Our retention rate went from about 88% in 2020 to over 93% in 2021 and a large part of this increase can be attributed to this additional outreach effort.

What is something you want new Chamber EDC prospects to know?

Two things. First, we have a benefit for any sized business, whether you are a sole proprietor just getting started with your company or a long-established 300+ employee business. We have resources and opportunities to assist, advocate and help your company grow and thrive in the Bismarck Mandan area. Second, we have built our team to be a resource for you! Each and every one of our employees have a heart of service and we will work hard to help you and your company, whether that is by connecting you to a resource or connecting you to someone that can help you. Without our members, we wouldn’t exist!

Christine Nelson
Events & Sales Manager – Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC

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Christine Nelson is a Bismarck native and graduate of the University of North Dakota. At UND, Nelson earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Political Science. After graduation, Nelson traveled the country because of her job, making stops in Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, and Missouri, “but I always knew that I wanted to come back to Bismarck.” Today, Nelson and her husband are heavily involved in the fitness world and enjoy traveling, especially to tropical destinations.

Nelson has been with the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC for three years. Currently, she is the lead Chamber EDC representative for the Local Issue Committee. She also serves on the Bismarck State College BILT Marketing Committee and is part of the Women’s Leadership Program through NDWBC.

Why does your role matter to members?

Event and Sales are very classic “Chamber” functions. However, overseeing these two jobs takes switching hats often! Without sales, we do not have events and visa vera. Events give our membership not only knowledge but the opportunity to network and learn from one another—this is truly invaluable!

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

I am always looking for partnerships within events and always trying to find ways for the partnership to work rather then ways for it not to work. For example, Vitalant Blood Donation and the Chamber EDC are partnering together in September to make the Battle of the Badges and the Brats with the Brave event bigger and better. STAY TUNED!

What is something you want new chamber prospects to know?

We are here for our members! Our members are the sole reason we even exist. There is never a problem or question too small-just give us a call!

Wendy Van Duyne
Principal & Business Center – Practice Leader at Stantec

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In 2020, Van Duyne was recognized by the Engineering News Record (ENR) as one of the top 40 under 40 young professionals in the Mountain States Region. The year prior, she was included in the 2019 class of 40 under 40 business professionals by Prairie Business Magazine.

Wendy Van Duyne and her family moved to Bismarck from Lawrence, Kansas seven years ago and have fallen in love with the metro. She has a degree in Landscape Architecture from Kansas State University and has been working in the community planning field for more than 16 years. Van Duyne is actively involved in the community and has served as a former board member of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, and current vice-chair of the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC. Additionally, Wendy serves on the Bismarck Planning and Zoning Commission, the North Dakota Capitol Grounds Planning Commission and the Missouri Valley YMCA Board of Directors. She currently works as a Principal and Business Center Practice Lead for Stantec Consulting; a professional consulting company for planning, engineering, architecture, interior design landscape architecture, surveying, environmental sciences, project management and project economics in Bismarck.

Why does your role matter to members?

I have a strong commitment to community engagement and, when it comes to discussing issues that affect our business and economic development communities, I actively seek out multiple perspectives and points of view. I think Bismarck-Mandan has a lot to offer transplants from other areas, and I’m one of the most enthusiastic ambassadors for our region.

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

My current role at Stantec provides me with an opportunity to work on projects in similarly-sized communities across the United States. I always enjoy learning what others are doing, as it relates to community and economic development, and sharing these experiences with others here in BismarckMandan.

What is something you want new Chamber EDC prospects to know?

Don’t be afraid to get involved! The Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC offers so many opportunities to connect with the business community and elected leaders throughout our region. Public/private collaboration is integral to the work of the Chamber EDC and we rely on active participation from our members to make progress on issues that are important to our communities.

Matt Sagaser
Director Innovation Accelerated at Doosan Bobcat

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Matt Sagaser was a key leader in the design and construction of the Acceleration Center in Bismarck.

Matt Sagaser is a long-time member of the Bismarck Mandan community. Since 2008 he has worked with both the Bismarck Mandan Development Association and the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC as a board member. In addition to his work with the Chamber, Sagaser has worked for Bobcat Company for 27 years where he has held many different leadership positions

Why does your role matter to members?

I represent members as a resident of the community, a member of the business community, and a voice as a board member of the Chamber EDC.

What is something you do in your role that people may not know?

In addition to my work as a Chamber EDC Board member and member of the Executive Committee, I’m the Director of the Bobcat Acceleration Center as well as the Director of Innovation Accelerated at Bobcat.

What is something you want new chamber prospects to know?

Bismarck Mandan is a wonderful place to own and operate a business and the Chamber EDC has the potential to be a great strategic asset.

Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC

What is something that always makes your members say “I didn’t know that?!”

Brian Ritter – That the majority of Chamber EDC Members are small businesses with less than 10 employees.

Nathan Schneider – We get asked often what the “EDC” in Chamber EDC stands for— which is Economic Development Corporation. When the Chamber of Commerce and Bismarck Mandan Development Association merged to form the Chamber EDC back in 2019, the leadership of both organizations felt it was important for the name to “say” what we are, thus the Chamber Economic Development Corporation or Chamber EDC name.

Elliot Rust – We hear that every day! We are always looking to provide benefits for our members and have something for everyone! Since workforce is a large need of many of our members we’ve offered the ability to post job openings for FREE on our website. Please reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about how to take advantage of this free resource!

Christine Nelson – There are so many ways to get involved! There is a wide range…. Sponsorships, joining a committee, attending an event, or placing an ad—just reach out!

Wendy Van Duyne – The Chamber EDC regularly facilitates discussions with North Dakota Legislators to connect with membership, both during session and outside of session. It’s a great opportunity for elected officials and constituents to have a dialogue about the issues that are coming up in the Capitol and how they may affect our local business community.

Matt Sagaser – There are many levels of support that are optional from the Chamber EDC.

What is a benefit that the Chamber EDC has for members that isn’t something common?

Brian Ritter – As a ‘merged’ organization that has both business advocacy and economic development missions, we’re not only providing services to those businesses, employees, etc. that are already here in BismarckMandan, but we’re leading efforts to keep this community growing as well.

Nathan Schneider – Diversity in our event offerings. Maybe sitting at an info-based event like State of the Cities isn’t your thing. Maybe you would enjoy hitting some golf balls at our indoor golf event in January or our outdoor event in the summer, or maybe our Sporting Clay Shoot event could be for you. We also have evening events like our monthly mixers and lunch events like our Thursdays on the Patio.

Elliot Rust – Networking! We hold free monthly membership mixers that are hosted at various members’ locations and I can almost guarantee you will meet someone new at these mixers that might become a new customer or business partner! We are constantly gaining new members each month so if you haven’t been to one in a while or ever, you are not alone!

Christine Nelson – Our versatility! We are a young group who are ready and willing to make changes for the benefit of our members!

Matt Sagaser – After the merger happened between the BMDA and the Chamber, the Chamber EDC automatically gained an economic development arm that didn’t exist before. Having a focus on economic development gives the Chamber EDC an additional tool to help both members and the overall community

What is something new at the Chamber EDC in the past year?

Brian Ritter LOTS! In January, we unveiled our Professional Development tracks. In February, we rolled out our new Deals & Discounts promotion. In March, we held our first-ever ‘Focus on Bismarck-Mandan’ event. And in April, we launched our inaugural ’20 Under 40’ recognition program.

Nathan Schneider – In the last year, the Chamber EDC rolled out two brand new events, added professional development opportunities for our members with our Professional Development Tracks, added new value-add opportunities to the Chamber EDC website with our Deals and Discounts webpage, and are working on new workforce development programming including the recent addition of a workforce newsletter.

Elliot Rust – We now record all our informational events and have them posted on our members-only side of our website for consumption on-demand. We have also worked with the University of Mary and Bismarck State College to offer their adult professional development courses and programs at a discount to our membership.

Christine Nelson –Two brand new events! Focus on Bismarck Mandan (March) and 12 Tastes of Christmas (December).

Wendy Van Duyne – Our internship networking program is something new for 2022, and will offer a great opportunity for all of our businesses to connect their interns with others from throughout the area. The idea is that these increased connections will strengthen their sense of community in BismarckMandan and, in turn, will help retain these interns in our workforce, for the long term.

Matt Sagaser – The Chamber has several new staff members with renewed focus on the membership. The ultimate goal is engaging local businesses in whatever means is necessary and beneficial to the community.

What resource at the Chamber do you think is a hidden gem?

Brian Ritter – Our staff. There are 13 full-time members of our team, all of whom (no matter the title or role) are here to help make connections, answer questions and be a resource for our members.

Nathan Schneider – There are a number of business assistance programs available to new or expanding businesses in BismarckMandan and the rural portions of Burleigh and Morton Counties. I tell businesses all the time that most of the time there is an assistance program that will work for the situation and the business.

Elliot Rust – Our Staff! We have a staff of 13 people that are here to serve our members. If there are ways we can help you or your employees develop and connections you’d like to make, please reach out to any one of us and we will work to help get you the resources you are after!

Christine Nelson – The yearly membership survey! The results ultimately tell us where to make changes and how to plan out our next year. We always want to hear what we can do more or better for our members.

Wendy Van Duyne – Our Local Issues Committee is a great group for many of our engaged members to learn more about the topics that are emerging in our communities. Monthly meetings generally highlight 3 or 4 topics from across the spectrum, and offer an opportunity for collaborative discussion and learning.

Matt Sagaser – Our economic development.

What’s your best advice for someone looking to use the Chamber more?

Brian Ritter – Just ask. Too often, we’ll hear from members that they didn’t know where to turn or where to start. No matter the question or the issue is, just ask us because we’ve got a whole team of people willing to help. And if we can’t address the need directly, we’ve got more than 1,200 members who might be able to.

Nathan Schneider – The best advice I would have is simply reach out! Whether it is to a member of the Chamber EDC team or Board member, you simply have to ask. Finding ways to get a member more involved is easy if we know that they are interested. We will find a way to get you engaged if we know you are interested.

Elliot Rust – If your goal for 2022 was to get out of the office more and meet other business people, we have plenty of opportunities for you! I encourage all members to attend an event if they haven’t before. Growing your network and professionally growing your employees is how you grow your company

Christine Nelson – REACH OUT! Even if you don’t know what you are exactly looking for we will connect you with the right person inside or outside of the Chamber EDC.

Wendy Van Duyne – Volunteer to get involved. Attend a Chamber Mixer event to connect with others in the organization, volunteer for a committee, attend informational meetings to learn more about the issues facing our communities and to share your perspective.

Matt Sagaser – Don’t be shy about needing assistance or having questions. Attend the events that are available. Give the Chamber Staff feedback.

What’s a problem the Chamber has solved recently or is working on solving currently?

Brian Ritter – It’s not a problem, but I’m very excited about our increased engagement with the local Legislative Delegation. We’ve recently implemented a process to meet with them regularly in addition to the all the dialogue we have them just in our normal course of doing business.

Nathan Schneider – We are currently working to secure a consultant to perform a strategic plan for economic development. We are working on some solutions to help solve the problem that early stage or startup businesses have to find available funding. We will also be introducing new workforce development programs in the next 3-9 months.

Elliot Rust – We are helping workforce development with our Business Development Series, our Job Shadow week in February, Educator Experience which shows teachers what is needed in industries, to mock interviews in partnership with our human resources association in Bismarck.

Christine Nelson – Professional Development! We are now the area’s exclusive provider for the Dale Carnegie’s First Time Managers Training. This partnership was exactly what the membership was looking for and we saw great success in the quarter one training.

Wendy Van Duyne – The Chamber EDC is always actively involved in conversations between the public and private sectors to better understand the current funding mechanisms for development and identify improvements to the systems we have in place.

Matt Sagaser – A benefit of the diversity of the Chamber EDC is its focus on both political and local business issues. There are sub-committees that assist with these topics. Focus on assisting businesses with COVID questions was a focus recently.

What is your favorite event of the year and why?

Brian Ritter – The Annual Dinner. It’s our biggest event of the year and there’s always a level of excitement around it that’s tough to replicate.

Nathan Schneider – I really enjoy our summer outdoor events. There is our summer Golf Scramble, Sporting Clay Shoot, and Thursdays on the Patio. Anytime you can enjoy North Dakota summers outdoors and get paid to do it, all while interacting with our members, sign me up!

Elliot Rust – Thursdays on the Patio! This is our member recognition event where we grill burgers and brats on our patio behind our building. This event has grown to about 150 people coming to network and enjoy a lunch outside during the summer!

Christine Nelson – The Annual Dinner! This is our biggest event topping 800-1,000 people! It has everything-networking, entertainment, good food and drinks and Brian Ritter telling horrible jokes-it’s always a night to remember!

Wendy Van Duyne – Lemonade Day! Every June, a Saturday is dedicated to Lemonade Day which is an event to introduce entrepreneurship to the youngest residents of Bismarck-Mandan. I always enjoy visiting the stands and learning more about the business ideas from the kids who participate.

Matt Sagaser – It is difficult to choose a favorite because they have different focal points. The annual meeting is the big one because it is intended to bring so many members together. However, how can you beat Golf and Skeet Shooting?