FARGO-Kyle Anderson was nervous about moving to Fargo just as his software startup PHR Plus was becoming established in Mesa, Ariz., but his wife, Meagen, had just received a dream job offer from Sanford Medical Center here.
The couple is originally from the area. Anderson is a native of Grygla, Minn., and a graduate of North Dakota State University. His wife's family is from Grafton, N.D. She also attended NDSU. They moved to Mesa when she was accepted into a physician's assistant program there.
"We thought we'd end up staying down there," Anderson said. "We loved the weather, obviously, and loved being there, but we felt it was a good time to get back. We have a couple of kids and missed this area."
His friend, Andrew Christensen, director of Fargo-based Arthur Ventures, suggested Anderson reach out to John Machacek, senior vice president of finance and entrepreneurial development with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., for help establishing PHR Plus here.
Machacek provided him with information about the North Dakota Development Fund and other local programs designed to help startups.
Anderson said Machacek's help made the decision to move a lot easier.
"They (the GFMEDC) don't just have a mission statement on their website," Anderson said. "They're actually executing what they're trying to accomplish. It was kind of a scary decision for me to uproot our company, but they really helped to alleviate my concerns."
A mission to 'grow and diversify'
The mission of the GFMEDC is to "grow and diversify the economies in Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn., communities by attracting, retaining and expanding primary-sector businesses."
The organization is known for its efforts to attract new businesses to the area, Smart Move marketing and initiatives like the F-M Ambassador program. It's also responsible for the FM Welcome Parties where new residents can learn about what makes Fargo-Moorhead a great place to live.
What the economic development agency is probably less known for are the one-on-one behind-the-scenes interactions that occur every day.
For example, Machacek is also helping Andrew Scott and his wife, Alexis, move back to Fargo.
Scott, a native of West Fargo, was working for Goldman Sachs in New York City as its director of population health when he told his friend Greg Tehven he was interested in moving back.
Tehven, executive director and co-founder of Fargo-based Emerging Prairie, and Machacek shared Scott's resume with local employers. This led to Scott being hired as manager of Dakota Medical Foundation's new corporate wellness initiative.
Machacek has also been reaching out to organizations that may benefit from Alexis Scott's experience using her bilingual skills in social work settings.
He doesn't only devote his time to North Dakota and Minnesota natives. This fall, Machacek helped Callie Klinkmueller of Acton, Mass., find a job as the communications and program coordinator at NDSU's Research and Technology Park.
Klinkmueller, a graduate of High Point (N.C.) University, spent two summers in North Dakota as assistant volunteer coordinator for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. When she wanted to stay in North Dakota permanently, her supervisor directed her to Tehven, who once again enlisted Machacek's help.
When she met Machacek for coffee, he invited her to attend that evening's Business After Hours chamber event with him. There, he spent two hours introducing her to people who helped her land a job at NDSU.
A workforce study conducted by TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, in 2015 reported there were 6,700 open positions in Fargo-Moorhead and that a workforce shortage was likely to continue here over the next several years.
That's why it's important to be proactive in attracting people to live here, said Lisa Gulland Nelson, the GFMEDC's vice president of marketing and public relations.
She recently followed Machacek's example when she was impressed by several summer intern candidates. She was only able to hire one, so she asked others for permission to share their resumes with companies she thought would make a good fit.
It was something that required little time and effort. She hopes everyone will stop and think about how they can do something similar.
"We all have connections," she said. "We could all take the time to say, 'I'm going to devote 30 minutes to this person to see what they need and who I could connect them to.' "
Gulland Nelson said Fargo-Moorhead natives should also remember what makes this area so special: The economy is good. People have access to good schools and health care. The people are friendly.
"It's important to remember all the things we have to be proud of here," she said.