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State commissioner impressed with Bemidji’s entrepreneurial spirit

Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED, enjoys a laugh while meeting with local business leaders Friday at Bemidji Brewing in downtown Bemidji. (Matt Cory | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji area is well known for its ecosystem of lakes, rivers and wildlife. But there’s another ecosystem that’s just as vital to the future of the area: The entrepreneurial ecosystem.

It is that ecosystem that brought Katie Clark Sieben to Bemidji on Friday. Clark Sieben is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED.

In defining an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Clark Sieben said it is all about connections among local business people, especially new business owners, and developing an environment for growth.

“It is about the support entrepreneurs give other entrepreneurs ... creating those network connections ” she said.

Clark Sieben said she is impressed with the local entrepreneurial spirit in and around Bemidji. After touring the city, she met with various local business and civic leaders at Bemidji Brewing, itself an entrepreneurial venture that opened in July 2013.

Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji, said Clark Sieben has wanted to visit Bemidji for some time, and the invitation was again extended during the Bemidji Day at the Capitol last month in St. Paul.

Hengel said Clark Sieben was especially interested in the local climate for new business ventures. Hengel said the Bemidji area has a strong base of young entrepreneurs, listing businesses such as AirCorps Aviation, Stittsworth Meats, LaValley Industries and of course Bemidji Brewery, to name just a few.

At the meeting with local business leaders, Clark Sieben also talked about certain programs DEED offers that can help new business ventures, such as the Angel Tax Credit, which gives a tax break to investors who help fund startup companies focused on high technology or new technologies.

How to best train workers and possibly help close the job skills gap was also discussed, as was the state’s broadband technology initiative and reducing some of the red tape businesses have to go through at the state level. Clark Sieben said Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has labeled this year’s legislative session as an “unsession,” where some of the outdated and more cumbersome aspects of government bureaucracy are hopefully eliminated.

Clark Sieben, who also visited Moorhead on Friday, said she was encouraged by the south shore development, highlighting the influence the Sanford Center has had on the area.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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