District Export Councils (DECs) are organizations of leaders from the local business community, appointed by successive Secretaries of Commerce, whose knowledge of international business provides a source of professional advice for local firms.
For 30 years, DECs have served the United States by assisting companies in their local communities export, thus promoting our country’s economic growth and creating new and higher-paying jobs for their communities. Closely affiliated with the Commerce Department’s U.S. Export Assistance Centers, the 58 DECs combine the energies of nearly 1,500 exporters and export service providers who support the U.S. Government’s export promotion efforts throughout the country.
DECs volunteer their time to sponsor and participate in numerous trade promotion activities. They also supply specialized expertise to small and medium sized businesses that are interested in exporting. Each DEC’s Executive Committee works with the membership to create an annual strategic plan that involves all members in mission fulfillment.
Jay Schuler – President / Richland IFC
Jay Schuler has been a founding member of 15 startups, several of them with international business dealings.
SIGCO Research became the largest supplier of sunflower planting seed company in the US. Jay spent one-third of his time working in international business, exporting planting seed and licensing lines. Annual trips to France, Chile and Argentina took place with trips less frequent to Italy, Sweden, Finland, South Africa, Uruguay and Australia.
SEEDS 2000 exported planting seed to mainly Eastern Europe, Argentina and China, with a winter breeding nursery in Chile. A subsidiary, SEEDS 2000 Argentina, was also established. Jay focused on international trade with annual trips to China and Argentina.
Richland IFC focuses on contracting and selling specialty soybeans for human consumption to Asia. It also develops, contracts, and processes colored corns for blue corn chips and natural food dyes. Jay does special projects for Richland.
GIANT Snacks sunflowers is mostly a domestic retail company. The company contracts specific hybrids with farmers. They are roasted and flavored and packaged in its blue retail packages. There is a minimal amount of retail seeds going to Mexico and Canada. Jay helps with strategy for GIANTS.
After the selling of SEEDS 2000, Jay donated time and became an Entrepreneur in Residence at UND in Grand Forks for 3 years, teaching and mentored at the Center for Innovation with students interested is starting their own businesses.
Governor Burgum tapped Jay to become Commerce Commissioner which he was for 21 months. During this time, the ND Trade office was restructured, and Commerce was streamlined to focus on projects that where more beneficial to the taxpayers of North Dakota. Jay has run at least one marathon on each continent, with the latest being Antarctica. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and hiked through the Himalayas. He also enjoys bow hunting and pheasant hunting each fall. Jay is a graduate of NDSU and has 5 children. Two are employed at GIANTS and one at RICHLAND.
Bruce Gjovig – Vice President / UND Center for Innovation
Bruce Gjovig is CEO Emeritus since May 2017 and was Founder, CEO and Entrepreneur Coach of the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation Foundation, a program focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, private investment and entrepreneur ecosystem. The Foundation was launched in 1984, under his leadership and became one of the premier venture development organizations in the nation. They received 18 national and international awards for excellence, and was one of just six entrepreneur centers nationwide featured for best practices and outstanding performance of venture development organizations. Since 2006, their two incubators were certified as a “Soft Landings International Incubator” from NBIA, one of just 25 incubators – and among the first six worldwide – for being friendly to international entrepreneurs entering a foreign market.
Gjovig is a champion for entrepreneur causes including fostering innovation, tech incubators, tech parks, venture development programs and seed and angel capital initiatives across the Upper Great Plains. He was instrumental in founding the Center for Innovation, its Foundation, the EB5 Regional Center for North Dakota & Minnesota, the Skalicky Tech Incubator, the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center, Innovate ND venture initiative, 12 Angel Funds, the Beginning Entrepreneur Loan Program, the 45% seed capital tax credit, the Great Plains Chapter of AUVSI, the Bioscience Association of ND (BioND), the UND Patent & Trademark Depository Library, the North Dakota Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, the North Dakota Business Innovator of the Year award, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in North Dakota – all vital infrastructure for innovation, entrepreneurship and private investment to flourish.
Since 2008, Gjovig has been a member of the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee to capitalize on diversification opportunities from the downsizing of the Grand Forks AFB with the new ISR mission. He led the efforts to secure $17.5 million of from North Dakota for several initiatives including securing the nation’s first UAS tech park – Grand Sky, the first use of DASR-11 for commercial Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) for UAS, and one first six FAA UAS Test Sites. He worked to secure Northrop Grumman and General Atomics as anchor tenants. His incubator was host to 26 UAS-related entrepreneur firms. In 2015, he was appointed to the USAF Civic Leader Program by Gen. Mark Welsh, a national committee to advise the Secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force Chief of Staff, and the Air Force Senior Leaders as well as be key communicators and advocates for the Air Force missions.
Gjovig holds leadership positions in several cultural, educational and business organizations, in 2008 Sir Gjovig was presented with the Knight of the First Class, Royal Norwegian Order of Merit by HM King Harald V of Norway for 25 years of educational and business exchanges with Norway. In 2014 he was presented the national Ronald Reagan Award by CPAC for his 30 years of promoting free enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurship. Gjovig has two degrees from the University of North Dakota and lives in Grand Forks.
John Hertsgaard – Treasurer / SpaceAge Synthetics
John Hertsgaard is the President &CEO of SpaceAge Synthetics, Ltd. and a partner in Hertsgaard Farms in Kindred, ND. SpaceAge Synthetics is the leading manufacturer of reinforced composite products used in transportation, marine, and building applications. Close to 40% of revenues are outside of the USA. Hertsgaard Farms has been successfully operated since 1871.
Prior to returning to the area John was Regional Director for Amphenol Corporation in Hong Kong. Duties included managing the Far East region for manufacturing and sales. Sales offices were located throughout the region with the manufacturing of electronic connectors and flat ribbon cable in Hong Kong.
A native of Kindred, John graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and spent a session at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway. He also obtained a Masters of International Management degree from the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, AZ.
John lives in Kindred with his wife Jean. They have three married children and five grandchildren. Volunteer activities include Chair of the Board of Trustees at Bethany Retirement Living, Kindred Lutheran, North Dakota Farm Bureau and other community activities.
Heather Ranck – Secretary / US Commercial Service
Heather Andrea Ranck covers North Dakota and northwest Minnesota as Director of the US Commercial Service / US Department of Commerce office in North Dakota. Stationed in Fargo since March 2005, Ranck helps North Dakota and Minnesota companies increase exports to overseas markets through market research, identifying top markets, finding overseas distributors, resolving export roadblocks and resolving any challenges companies are facing in exporting.
Heather is also active with the Fargo Rotary Club, and started a project in March 2011 to help refugees learn English using Rosetta Stone software, volunteers, and public access points.
Prior to moving to North Dakota, Ranck worked as Group Development Specialist for World Vision International in Zambezia Province, Mozambique. There, she assisted nearly 1,000 groups of small scale farmers to select profitable crops, market their crops domestically and internationally, and to form farmer associations. Ranck has also lived and worked in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she assisted industry and agricultural groups to improve business practices and access new markets. She grew up on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, PA, and was born in Recife, Brazil. Fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and French (and currently learning Russian), Ranck has traveled throughout Central and South America, Europe, and Africa. Ranck obtained her Master’s Degree in Peace & Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Her undergraduate degree is in International Business from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Kevin Christensen / Palmer Bit Co.
Kevin is currently owner and partner with his wife of Palmer Bit Co. A company specializing in manufacturing, design and repair of drill bits in the water well, mining, geothermal, geotechnical, HDD and oil field markets. Palmer Bit Company was established in 1957 to manufacture Red Devil bits for the local drilling companies during big seismic boom in the Williston basin.
Kevin started his employment at Palmer Bit in 1977. During that time, Kevin was responsible for production, quality control and general management. In 2005, Kevin and his wife purchased 50% of the company from Dick Palmer. In 2008, Kevin designed the revolutionary Diamond Devil PDC drill bit, and was responsible for marketing and sales of the new bit. Palmer Bit Co, grew from a small family owned business, selling bits in the Williston basin, to sales in every state in the union and exporting to 17 countries around the world. In 2012, Kevin and his wife, purchased the rest of the company, and presently run the company with our two sons.
Jon Engelstad / Superior Manufacturing
Jon Engelstad is currently the International Sales Manager for Superior Manufacturing LLC, a position he has held since April 2010. Based out of Kindred, ND, Superior is a manufacturing company specializing in the design and production of a wide range of farm and commercial grain bins as well continuous mixed flow grain dryers and grain handling equipment. In his position, as International Sales Manager, Jon has developed a substantial market in Western Canada and the company is now exporting into 10 different countries on 5 continents. As a result of his efforts to develop and expand into the global market place, Superior Manufacturing was named the 2014 North Dakota Exporter of the Year and prior to that was presented with the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Achievement award.
Prior to working for Superior Manufacturing LLC, Jon worked for 19 years as the Vice President / General Manager for Tire Depot, Inc. As one of the pioneers in the tire recycling industry, Jon was influential in developing technology for processing waste tires and for not only marketing the bi-products, but developing markets for this new product. The steel was sold as scrap and the rubber was used in the manufacture of other rubber products, play ground cover, mulch and rubberized asphalt, just to name a few.
A native of Moorhead, MN, Jon now spends a great deal of time traveling through Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe and is learning both Russian and Spanish.
Keith Finney / Tharaldson Ethanol
Keith Finney is a grain merchandiser for Tharaldson Ethanol and Clifford Farmer’s Cooperative. He began his career in the grain business in 1973. He learned the business from the ground up. Keith was exposed to every facet of the grain industry including grain handling, marketing and accounting. By 1979, he was managing his first facility in Minnesota. He managed multiple facilities located in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. Along with his duties as a facility manager, he also established himself as a commodities broker and risk manager. Keith knows what it takes to procure large volumes of grain and how logistics can enhance the procurement activities of a facility. While at Alton Grain Terminal, Keith coordinated all the shuttle freight needed to handle in excess of 1 million Metric Tons per year. He also managed all the hedging activities associated with the risk management of those purchases and sales.
As Commodities Manager at Red Trail Energy, Keith bought 750,000 metric tons of corn while managing the logistics of those bushels which were received by shuttle trains and truck. Red Trail Energy is situated in a corn deficit region in western North Dakota. Keith also managed all shipments of ethanol and distillers’ grains while at Red Trail Energy, giving him hands on experience of the various commodities flowing in and out of an ethanol facility. Keith started his current position at Tharaldson Ethanol in 2010.
Keith markets all the dried distillers grain rail shipments as well as some truck business. Sales are initiated to multiple destinations both domestic and foreign. Keith also markets the Distillers Corn Oil (DCO) for Tharaldson Ethanol. Mostly for bio-fuels and feed consumption. Keith has been involved with many organizations in the agriculture industry. Most recently served as an industry director with the ND Corn Council where he was honored to participate with the U.S Grains council to Asia and Turkey. The trade missions and conferences piqued his interest in international trade.
Roger Gussiaas / Healthy Oilseeds
Roger Gussiaas is president of Healthy Oilseeds, LLC of Carrington, North Dakota. Heathy Oilseeds markets flaxseed and 50 different flaxseed products both domestically and overseas. Currently Healthy Oilseeds markets to 12 separate countries throughout the world. Some of the flaxseed products marketed are flaxseed oil, roasted flaxseed and milled flaxseed along with many processing combinations. Roger feels it is a pleasure to be part of the District Export Council, “It is great to work with others to enhance their business and discuss problems”.
Olga Hall / RDO
Olga Hall is the Director of International Sales for RDO. RDO Equipment Co. remains a family owned and operated business with the next generation fulfilling executive leadership roles. Today the company owns and operates more than 75 dealerships in 10 states, focused on agriculture, construction, environmental, tree care, underground, and machine control, RDO Water, and sells quality brands such as John Deere, Vermeer, and Topcon. In addition, the company currently operates in several international partnerships, including multiple locations around the world – 15 dealerships in Russia, Ukraine, 14 dealerships Australia and 1 dealership Zambia.
Olga Hall started her career at Deere & Company in 1999. During that time, Olga was responsible for Territory Management and New Product Development and Release. In 2003 Olga Hall joined Titan Machinery as the Marketing Manager and she was responsible for developing and building the Titan Machinery brand and other marketing related tasks. In 2005 Olga was appointed as the International Business Manager for Titan Machinery. Under this position, Olga was managed every aspect of International sales, developed overseas marketing strategies for Titan Machinery. As a result of her efforts, Olga was appointed as the Director of the International Division for Titan Machinery in 2012. During that time, Olga managed 14-store, 4-country Titan Machinery European operation and supervised the transition to European “Shared Resource Center”. Also, utilized her leadership skills to manage and develop Titan Country Managers.
Olga Hall earned MBA – International Business/Marketing from Texas Tech University, BS -Economics from Irkutsk State University in Russia and BS-Management from University of Maryland in Irkusk, Russia.
Cherie Harms / Leonardite Products
Cherie Harms is President and part owner of Leonardite Products, a position she’s held since 2008. Leonardite Products, located in Williston, is a mining and processing facility serving the agricultural, foundry and oil industries. Leonardite Products also provides trans-loading services to the oil industry in the Bakken Oil Field.
Prior to working with Leonardite Products, Harms was instrumental in the development of the North Dakota Trade Office and Makoché Recording Company. Her career includes several management positions in marketing, advertising and broadcasting industries.
In addition to serving on the North Dakota District Export Council, Harms is a founder and the Secretary/Treasurer of an international trade association, Humic Products Trade Association. She serves on the North Dakota Judicial Conduct Commission, the North Dakota Rural Development Council and for the Center for Business and Technology at the University of North Dakota. A native of Dickinson, Harms boasts of having lived and worked in every corner of North Dakota. Currently, she splits her time between Bismarck and Williston.
Chris Harris / CH Trade
Chris Harris was born and educated in South Africa. He qualified from the University of Cape Town in early eighties with his Bachelor of Commerce, CTA (UCT) and FQE for Chartered Accountant (SA). Chris has spent much of his career in information technology helping companies like Computer Associates, Fujitsu, Great Plains and Microsoft establish and develop their international business. With many years spent in Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Asian markets Chris has established and managed several market-leading distribution channels for his principals and clients.
Today Chris leads the CH Trade group of companies based in Fargo, North Dakota. CH Trade is focused on helping local small to medium sized companies discover new international markets for their products, find and manage business partners that will facilitate the distribution. They also help their clients develop products and flex operations to accommodate the expanding international business.
CH Trade was awarded the prestigious President’s Award for Excellence in Exporting in 2014.
They have managed significant growth in international business for their principals based in North Dakota and Minnesota. CHT’s industries include agriculture, unmanned aircraft systems, water purification, industrial recycling and firearm manufacture. CH Trade works closely and worldwide with the US Commercial Service and North Dakota Trade Office. Chris volunteers his time as guest speaker and lecturer throughout the world to promote and advise on international business.
In his spare time, Chris plays golf, fly-fishes, enjoys metal work and is a competitive shooter on the US Benchrest Shooting team. Chris is a United States citizen living with his wife, Tara in Fargo.
Kristin Hedger / Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing
Kristin Hedger serves as the third generation of leadership with Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing (KMM). KMM is a manufacturing company founded to provide jobs in small communities in North Dakota. With a world-class customer base of commercial aerospace and defense systems, KMM has excelled in providing quality opportunities for farm and ranch families to supplement their incomes, and opportunities for young people to work in the most competitive manufacturing global supply chain.
Kristin worked for Senator Byron Dorgan and served North Dakotans in both his Washington D.C. and Bismarck offices. During her 6-year tenure working in several positions for the Senator, she worked on a wide range of issues, from agriculture and energy to trade. Kristin also worked for Senator Dorgan on the Democratic Policy Committee.
Kristin was born in Bismarck and grew up in Killdeer, North Dakota. She completed her high school education at Tivy High School in Kerrville, Texas. Having lived with her grandparents throughout the period that her grandfather was founding KMM, she received a deep appreciation for the business, and an appreciation for what small business can do for communities and families in North Dakota.
Kristin also saw, first-hand, how public policy decisions can either help or hinder the progress of small business. This fostered a passion for engaging our democratic process and policymakers for the benefit of small business and the common good. Kristin serves on the board of the National RFID Education Foundation.
Her passion for building better communities through economic development led Kristin to work with other North Dakota businesses to found the Dakota Defense Alliance (DDA). The alliance has grown to have more than 35 member companies and has been successful in networking companies and securing complementary contracts that allow more dollars to remain in our state. DDA’s vision is to reach beyond North Dakota’s borders to network in the global market and contribute to our defense manufacturing and high technology needs. Kristin received a bachelor of arts in political science from the American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., while playing tennis as a scholarship athlete. Kristin also holds a Masters in Arts and Religion with a concentration in ethics from Yale University, where she served in the Graduate and Professional School Senate and on the Yale Legislative Advocacy Group.
Dr. Joel Jorgenson / Blue Water Resolute
Dr. Joel Jorgenson is CEO & President of Blue Water Resolute (BWR)
innovations LLC of Fargo. Joel has been in design, research, and
engineering management for over 30 years, at universities, startup
companies, and Fortune 500 companies. At BWR Innovations. Joel is
leading product development and sales for telemetry and fuel cell
systems, targeting North American, Asian, and South African markets.
Tom Kenville / Founder of Roll-A-Ramp
Tom Kenville served 32 years in the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, retiring as a Colonel in 1995 after accumulating 5,000 military flight hours. Tom was the key driving force in securing federal funding for six armories in North Dakota. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, the highest award the ND National Guard bestows, for this effort.
From 1975 through 1985, Tom owned and operated GM automobile dealerships in both Grand Forks, North Dakota and Thief River Falls, Minnesota, managing over 45 employees.
The years 1985 through 1992 saw Tom providing consulting services to a variety of organizations in North Dakota. Largely because of Tom’s efforts, Marvin Windows located one of their new manufacturing facilities in Fargo, resulting in over 1,100 new jobs for this area. He also assisted the centers for the mentally and physically challenged in both Fargo and Valley City, North Dakota gaining numerous new industrial work contracts.
From 1992 to 2010, Tom was the President and CEO of Mid-America Aviation. This small business concern overhauls and repairs critical aircraft components for the United States Air Force, NASA, and 16 foreign countries. Mid-America Aviation was founded using assets purchased from SMS Instruments of Deer Park Long Island, NY with the assistance of local investors and the North Dakota Future fund. Under Tom’s leadership, Mid-America Aviation was awarded the Small Business Association’s “Prime Contractor of the Year” for Region VIII, the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nebraska, and Colorado. This award is emblematic of Mid-America Aviation’s commitment to quality, on time, high value products delivered to the customer.
Tom now owns Flock Buster, Skeet-R-Gone and Roll-a-Ramp and has most recently steered his efforts towards growing these companies.
Chad Kost / Spectrum Aeromed
Chad Kost serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Spectrum Aeromed, with responsibilities for Sales, Production, Engineering and Office Administration. Prior to joining the Spectrum Aeromed in early 2013, he aided the company briefly as a consultant. He also spent 17 years in the banking industries in various capacities. He holds a BS in Business Administration from Mayville (ND) State University and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from North Dakota State University.
Ron Martin / Midwest Motor Exporess
Ron Martin is a Licensed U.S. Customs Broker (#14238) operating in the Fargo, ND Port of Entry. As a Licensed U.S. Customs Broker, he “clears” international air, ocean, rail, and truck shipments through U.S. Customs.
Ron serves as Vice President of International Logistics for Midwest Motor Express, Inc. Midwest operates MME Global Lines which is an NVOCC (#020550NF) licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission. In this capacity, he works with companies across the US, Canada and off shore arranging comprehensive international logistics programs; both import and export.
Ron serves on the Board of Directors for Midwest Motor Express. He is also a Vice President for GHY Customs Brokerage Firm of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
He has served as Fargo’s representative on the statewide Regional Intermodal Co-Service Coordination Board working to enhance intermodal rail hub service between Minot, Fargo, and the region. Governor Hoeven presented Ron and MME Global Lines with the 2009 North Dakota Service to Exporters award.
He has also worked with the City of Fargo and U.S. Customs in developing the Foreign Trade Zone status within the city. Ron advises area businesses on the advantages of the FTZ.
Ron is a graduate of Valley City State University. He has been with Midwest Motor Express since 1971 starting in their Valley City, ND office, transferring to Thief River Falls, MN in 1977, and since 1987 in Fargo, ND.
He and his wife Barb have been married for over 36 years, and they have 4 grown daughters, and 4 grandchildren.
Barbara McConn / Dakota Air Parts
In 1994, Barbara and her husband, KC, co-founded AvSupport Inc., a global corporation specializing in the advertising and listing service of whole helicopter, aircraft and related spare parts. AvSupport (dba PartsLogistics.com) provides material history and information, and lists millions of parts for sale, bringing buyers and sellers of aviation equipment together in one forum.
In addition to her work with AvSupport Inc., in 1997, Barbara and KC co-founded Dakota Air Parts Int’l., Inc. Their customer base consists of the U.S. and Friendly Foreign Governments/Militaries, Municipalities, and Commercial Operators worldwide performing aerial surveillance, forestry, heavy lift and crime control work. They also supply helicopters and parts to Hollywood for movies.
Realizing the potential for growth in the industry, Barbara and her partners purchased Air Services International (ASI) in Phoenix, AZ. Founded in 1948, Air Services International is a leader in maintenance, overhaul and repair of rotor wing aircraft engines. Barbara and her partners also expanded overseas and founded ASI.ae in the United Arab Emirates at Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai World Central.
Barbara accepted an Export Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce for the outstanding success of Dakota Air Parts’ increase in international trade as a North Dakota based company. Barbara is a Licensed Private Pilot, a member of the Society for International Affairs, Helicopter Association International, Airborne Law Enforcement Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Prior to building their companies, Barbara worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and Dakota Aero Tech in Fargo. She managed South Padre Island Banner Company in South Padre Island, Texas, and was a Sales Representative then District Manager for H.J. Heinz in Minneapolis. Barbara graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Business Aviation. She was elected Business Student of the Year in her college studies. Residing in Fargo, ND and Scottsdale, AZ, Barbara and KC have two children.
John Novak / Bremer Bank
John Novak joined Bremer Bank N.A. as Vice President and Manager of the International Department in December of 2004. John currently has responsibility for sales, marketing, training and consulting of all International services. Bremer Financial Corporation is a privately held financial services company owned by its employees and the Otto Bremer Foundation. Founded in 1943 and headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Bremer Bank has nearly 100 locations across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The Otto Bremer Foundation uses its share of dividends to distribute charitable grants to Bremer Bank communities.
John’s more than 44 years of International finance and International banking experience includes working for Citibank in NYC, National City Bank, Cleveland, Ohio [now PNC] and U.S. Bank Minneapolis, MN. While at these banks, he managed and provided support for International operations and promoted sales. Before coming to Bremer, John also had nearly seven years of corporate experience at Polaris Industries Inc., managing a $35 million-dollar International portfolio for over 50 worldwide foreign distributors. John is a member of both the Minnesota District Export Council [MN DEC] and the North Dakota District Export Council [ND DEC]. John is currently serving as a Board of Director of the Midwest Global Trade Association [MGTA], where he is also serving on its Education and Special Events Committees. He is also a past President of the MGTA. John also serves as the Chair of the International Trade Advisory Council at St. Paul College, St. Paul, MN. This council supports curriculum and educational opportunities for its students.
Jim Richtsmeier / Ideal Aerosmith
Jim Richtsmeier is currently the Senior VP of Engineering & Technology at Ideal Aerosmith, Inc. Jim has been involved in different capacities for more than 25 years. His roles of ranged from product design, marketing & sales, to engineering management. He has been actively involved with Aerospace & Defense customers around the world helping them understand Ideal Aerosmith products and how they help solve problems in their design and manufacturing processes. Jim has worked with both end users and independent representatives in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia selling both ITAR and non-ITAR products.
Ashley Ritteman / Valor Victoria
Ashley Ritteman started Valor Victoria in 2016. Given Ms. Rittman’s unique background in logistics and forwarding, Ashley identified an unmet service in the industry and set out to offer forwarding services specific to international rail. Previous to starting Valor, Ashley served North Dakota Port Services (NDPS) as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Prior to her position with NDPS Ms. Ritteman led the start-up of both the Minot, ND and Minneapolis, MN offices for BNSF Logistics. Her role as General Manager at BNSF Logistics was to lead the Minot intermodal initiative as well as develop agricultural sales nationwide.
Ms. Ritteman has also worked with the following organizations: Dakota Prairie Organic Flour and Milling Company, the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, the North Dakota Trade Office, Woodward Consulting Partners (Singapore office), and the Japan External Trade Organization. Within these organizations, Ms. Ritteman worked closely in the development of export strategies specific to her home State of North Dakota; developed an expertise in agriculture exports; and worked in Singapore assisting the expansion of American and European businesses into Asian Markets.
Ms. Ritteman earned her M.S. Degree in Agribusiness and Applied Economics specializing in logistics, strategy, and market risk from North Dakota State University.
Thomas Shorma / WCCO Belting
Thomas D. Shorma is C.E.O. / President of WCCO Belting, Inc. located in Wahpeton, North Dakota. He has held that title since 2002. WCCO Belting, Inc. is a privately-owned manufacturer of agricultural and industrial rubber belting and conveyor products. During his short tenure with WCCO, the company has quadrupled its revenues with as much as 60% of its total annual revenues generated from customers located outside of the United States and because of that the company has received both local and national export excellence awards.
Prior to joining WCCO, Mr. Shorma was Founder and President of TEAM Marketing, Inc. Started in 1992 as a business consulting company that focused on helping clients become more profitable, the company worked with both large and small businesses, private and publicly traded companies in a wide variety of industries throughout the U.S. TEAM Marketing gained a strong national reputation by successfully increasing the sales and/or profits of more than 90% of its clients annually during its 10-years of operation.
Thomas is a business, marketing, advertising graduate of the University of North Dakota and the North Dakota State College of Science. Most recently, he has been involved in several national, state, and local organizations including: The North Dakota Regional Workforce Training Council (Past Chairman); The North Dakota District Export Council (Chairman); The North Dakota Trade Office board of directors; The Skills & Technology Training Center / Fargo (Past Vice-Chairman); A member of the North Dakota Roundtable for Higher Education; The North Dakota State College of Science Foundation Board (Past President); and most recently was named to the state advisory board of ND EPSCoR, an experimental program to stimulate competitive research.
Due to his considerable exporting experience, in 2007 Mr. Shorma was selected and served as one of only District Export Council members (out of more than 10,000 nationally) from the private sector to conduct performance evaluations on the Senior Foreign Service Officers serving in the U. S. Commercial Service throughout the world. He has also been invited to speak at many national and state business conferences including the National Kitchen and Bath President’s Only Conference; The Southern California Environmental Summit, and the North Dakota Market Place Conference. He is also a frequent guest speaker at various North Dakota university campuses.
Todd Sinner / Sinner Brothers and Bresnahan
Todd Sinner is currently a partner/owner of Sinner Brothers and Bresnahan (SB&B) based in Casselton, ND, a large-scale agribusiness specializing in the production, processing and marketing of safe, reliable food ingredients to markets around the world. Todd is both responsible for overall general management of the company as well as managing 30-40 domestic and international customers for SB&B Foods Inc.; SB&B’s marketing company.
Prior to joining SB&B, Todd spent 5 years from 2001-2006 with Bank of America in Chicago, IL. Todd was one of eight in the United States selected into the Global Treasury Management Program. The program led him into a Global Treasury Sales Analyst role supporting a client base of multi-national companies. He later became a VP in a Sales Officer role directly responsible for managing a $50 million portfolio of treasury and trade management clients.
Todd earned his bachelor’s degree in 2000 from the University of North Dakota in Business Management and International Business. Todd successfully completed an internship with the Export-Import Bank of the United States in the summer of 2000. He maintains an active involvement in regional and national organizations including Northern Food Grade Soybean Association (NFGSA), United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC), ND District Export Council and Junior Achievement of America.
Robert Warren / University of North Dakota and Mean Eyed Cat Venture Labs
Robert Warren is the Founder and Managing Director of Mean Eyed Cat Venture Labs (MECVL). MECVL works with early stage ventures to help accelerate their growth. It accomplishes this through both educational programs and providing access to capital. The company has worked with over 100 ventures in Canada and the US in sectors ranging from agricultural equipment to medical devices. Robert is also a marketing instructor at the University of North Dakota where he teaches negotiations, CRM, retail and sales.
Robert has extensive experience in the international arena through his previous projects for the National Research Council of Canada, Schwartz-Reisman Foundation, Canadian Armed Forces and University of Manitoba. These positions allowed him to work in such countries as Bosnia, Brazil, France, Israel, Mexico and Philippines. Robert also spent two years working for Thammasat University in Bangkok where he supervised the entrepreneurship module in the Master’s of International Marketing Program.
Robert was born in Winnipeg, Canada and holds dual US-Canada citizenship. This has allowed him to live and work in the US since his formative years. Prior to coming to North Dakota, Robert was at the University of Texas at Austin where he served as Assistant Director of the Jon Brumley Venture Labs. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from Syracuse University. Robert also holds an honorary accounting designation from the Society of Management Accountants.
Robert and his wife Cindy currently reside in Grand Forks. They are both active in UND and church activities.