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Business Buzz: 'Shark Tank' star Kevin O' Leary makes first Wonder Fund ND investment, and more business news

Get caught up on the latest business headlines from around the Fargo-Moorhead area with our weekly Business Buzz column.

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From left, Gov. Doug Burgum; Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Chairman Mark Fox; and entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary, star of the reality show "Shark Tank," speak at a news conference in Fargo in June 2022 about Bitzero's North Dakota plans.
Contributed / North Dakota Governor's Office

FARGO — Wonder Fund North Dakota has chosen tech start-up LandTrust for its first investment.

Wonder Fund North Dakota is a North Dakota Development Fund investment program directed by "Sharktank" entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary and O'Leary Ventures.

LandTrust is an online land sharing marketplace connecting landowners with outdoor enthusiasts, creating income for the landowners and allowing access to private lands for recreational experiences.

According to a press release, the investment is expected to drive economic development in rural communities throughout the state by creating new jobs and new income streams for North Dakota farmers and ranchers.

Similar to other companies in the sharing economy, such as home sharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO, LandTrust is a land sharing site where landowners can earn income by hosting a full range of outdoor recreational experiences on their land including hunting, fishing, bird watching, RVing, and more. Landowners currently list over 1 million acres on LandTrust which can be searched by state, property name, or activity.

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The North Dakota Development Fund chose O'Leary Ventures to manage the $45 million Wonder Fund North Dakota program

This $1.25 million investment from Wonder Fund North Dakota comes with a commitment from LandTrust to establish a base in Fargo as the company expands in the Midwest.

“With LandTrust expanding into the Midwest we saw the need to establish a headquarters staffed with folks familiar with regional farming, outdoor recreation, and land management practices,” said Nic De Castro, founder and CEO of LandTrust, in a statement. “North Dakota has created such a phenomenal business environment for startups like LandTrust that it made it an easy decision for us to set up our next corporate office in Fargo.”

The financial impact of LandTrust’s business operations across North Dakota will span rural economic development, employees in the field, and full-time employees in a Fargo office. Initial direct and indirect financial projections of LandTrust operations in North Dakota for 2023 is between $1.2 million - $1.5 million growing to $20 million - $22 million by 2027.

“This investment will drive economic development in rural communities throughout the state by creating new jobs and income for North Dakota farmers and ranchers,” Commerce Commissioner Josh Teigen said in a statement. “Local businesses in surrounding communities will also benefit from an increase in tourism-consumer related activity from the expansion of agritourism operations in North Dakota. This deal is a premier example of how capital formation can help drive economic development, tourism development, and community development while simultaneously giving our landowners another revenue opportunity for their assets.”

“Our LandTrust investment marks the first among a strong pipeline of investments we will make in 2023,“ said Kevin O’Leary of O’Leary Ventures via statement. “We believe in Nic and his team and their ability to execute a bold vision to create jobs and impact in North Dakota while opening new revenue streams for the State’s land owners.”

Wonder Fund North Dakota's investment is part of the $6 million LandTrust Series A round of financing with lead investment by the Wilks’ Brothers, who are among the largest private landowners in the country.

To learn more, visit https://landtrust.com/ .

Unglued closes Broadway store in preparation for Brewhalla opening

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Founder Ashley Morken is pictured at the Unglued store on Broadway in downtown Fargo. The store closed this week to prepare for its new location in Drekker's Brewhalla.
Forum file photo

Unglued, a popular handmade gift shop, has closed its location at 408 Broadway in downtown Fargo in order to prepare for opening its new home at Drekker's Brewhalla.

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Founder Ashley Morken opened the store featuring goods from North Dakota and Minnesota makers, crafters and artists in 2012.

Morken told The Forum late last year that the COVID pandemic recently forced her to do some soul-searching about the future of the business. What to lean into? What to give up?

And then the Drekker offer came. And the decision became more of an all of the above proposition.

Morken says Unglued will have 2,000 square feet at Brewhalla. About 1,500 square feet will contain the store, while the party and craft room will take up 500 square feet on the mezzanine level.

Brewhalla is a massive expansion to Drekker Brewing Company’s complex at 1666 1st Ave. N. in Fargo. The project checks in at 100,000-square-feet and carries a $20 million price tag. It will feature a hotel, apartments, an events center and marketplace. Brewhalla will house several other businesses as well, including Blackbird Woodfire, Nichole’s Fine Pastry and Cafe, Mangata Wine and Raw Bar, Unicorn Park Fine Foodery and Luna Market . It’s been described as a “magic factory” for vendors.

To follow news about the projected opening date, visit brewhalla.co .

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Dozens line up outside the Moorhead Freez on a Saturday afternoon.
WDAY Photo

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The Freez aiming for March 25th opening date

Thanks to this week's snowstorm, The Freez, 410 19th St. S., Moorhead, is pushing back its opening to Saturday, March 25.

Built in 1963, the popular summer eatery doesn't operate well in heavy snow and freezing temperatures.

The announcement was made to the restaurant's Facebook page March 1.

"My least favorite post to make... The one where I have to tell you we are delaying our opening," read the post. "Due to the weather and other circumstances, we will be opening Saturday, March 25! See you then!"

For more updates, follow the "Moorhead Freez" Facebook page.

Angie Wieck is the business editor for The Forum. Email her at awieck@forumcomm.com
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