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EXB Solutions opening office in Bemidji

Shortly after May 1, EXB Solutions, a new engineering business, will open its doors in Bemidji. EXB focuses on systems and software testing for aerospace and defense industries. The company will locate in the Lakeside Center initially, but will l...

Shortly after May 1, EXB Solutions, a new engineering business, will open its doors in Bemidji.

EXB focuses on systems and software testing for aerospace and defense industries. The company will locate in the Lakeside Center initially, but will later be based at the Bemidji Regional Airport.

"The community really came together to land this company in Bemidji," said Larry Young, executive director of the Joint Economic Development Commission, in a press release. "It required the combined work of the JEDC, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Northwest Minnesota Foundation and the Bemidji Regional Airport Commission."

Young said the entities involved jointly provided a loan of $300,000 and the George W. Neilson Foundation approved a grant of $50,000 to the JEDC for EXB employee training.

"Everybody we met was very supportive and professional," said Jeff Thielen, COO of EXB, in a telephone interview from the Twin Cities. "The professionalism of the business development people of the area was just phenomenal."

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"They saw how this community works together to attract good companies," Young said.

Thielen said he met with representatives of Bemidji State University, Paul Bunyan Telephone, Airport Boards and financial institutions.

EXB is currently located in Wayzata, Minn., but Thielen said the plan is to make Bemidji the headquarters for the business. Current plans are for EXB to hire six or seven employees for the first year of operation and double that number by the end of the second year. Over a five-year period, he said he hopes to have 20-30 employees on board and an annual payroll of $1.5 million to $2.2 million.

He said the company has hired Paul Carpenter, asenior test specialist from Phoenix, Ariz., as director of engineering. Carpenter is a 20-year veteran of systems and software testing. He will help set up the Bemidji office and hire new employees. Thielen said Carpenter will also be in charge of training employees and managing testing programs in Bemidji.

"He and his wife are packing their bags this weekend," Thielen said. "Things are happening quickly."

High level communications technology available in Bemidji is part of the attraction to the area, he said. But Bemidji has other assets that made the company officials choose this city over several other communities they investigated as the headquarters for the new operation.

The city being the home of BSU, a four-year university with math, physics, applied engineering and other technological majors, was another factor in the decision to locate in Bemidji, Thielen said. He said his company plans to help develop some new aspects of curriculum at the university. BSU graduates available for recruitment is also a benefit, he said.

"This in turn will help stem the flow of talented people who graduate and leave our community each year," said Young.

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Thielen said he expects engineers from other parts of the Upper Midwest will also be interested in relocating to Bemidji because "it's a great place to live."

"We believe that staff turnover will be a lot lower in northern Minnesota than in a metro area," he said. "If I had to sum it up, the beauty of the area, the four-year college and the business development."

Thielen said he had participated in Bob Peters' hockey camp in the 1970s, but hadn't been back to Bemidji since then, until he arrived to check out the city as the potential EXB headquarters. He said he was impressed with the technological sophistication of the area, as well as the other attributes, which he described as "micropolitan."

According to the EXB Web site, the company was founded in 2000 and has been qualified by the Minnesota Office of Technology to be a State of Minnesota project solution provider. EXB has also been designated as a State of Minnesota Certified Independent Testing Laboratory.

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