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Family business forum, Main Street Summit join forces around theme of building resilient communities

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September 29, 2020

If any year called for resiliency, this is it.

But that’s been the theme of the last several years for Dickinson, N.D., which has navigated the boom of an oil-driven economy and has banded together to grow its business base and community even as the market changed.

Best practices in Dickinson combined with input from community development experts and family business leaders will create a program Oct. 6-7 that likely will be of value to those throughout North and South Dakota.

“That’s why we decided to combine our annual North Dakota Family Business Forum with North Dakota’s Annual Main Street Summit and create some incredibly valuable programming that can be accessed from anyone,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association.

Main Street – Dickinson, ND

“These family business leaders have a great story to tell. The state of North Dakota has connected this program with some outstanding community leadership experts, and the family business leaders we’re bringing in to speak have so much insight to share. We encourage businesses from across the region to join us for this program.”

For Suzi Sobolik, Dickinson is home to her third-generation family business as well as her passion project.

The family business, Steffes Companies, has firsthand experience with the resiliency needed to overcome challenging times. 

“We had become mainly an oil company,” Sobolik said. 

“We weren’t 15 years ago, but as oil grew in this region we worked to make the products that were needed. Now, our resiliency is in innovation and entrepreneurialism. We’re looking at which of our smaller markets we want to invest more into and are there emerging markets that might be beneficial to push toward and where do we see the next big thing.”

At the October event, however, she will speak more to the benefits of building partnerships between business and community. For the last 10 years she has run a program called Leadership Dickinson, connecting one dozen high school seniors for one day each month in a different area of the community.

“One day is leadership team building, one is ag day, one is manufacturing day, city government, economic development, tourism, we just dive into that area of the community for a day,” she said.

Leadership Dickinson Class

“We do tours, we meet with leaders and it just opens the eyes of our youth to see what we do in our community. As a kid, I saw what my parents did and what my three best friends’ parents did and who knows what anyone else does. So this is a way to show them what’s happening and it’s been great to see them learn so much about our community and network. It’s something any community can do if you’re willing to make the commitment.”

Leadership Dickinson Class

Sobolik’s father, Paul Steffes, also will speak at the event, partnering with Schwan Financial Group to discuss business philanthropy for resilient communities.

“Events such as this from the Prairie Family Business Association allowed our family business to interact with many other family businesses and transition specialists with a full ranges of experiences in generational succession,” Steffes said. “This literally saved our family business and has offered us the possibility of becoming a multi-century business.”

And Toni Sandin, managing partner of Sandin Law & second generation in family business Western Products, will join T.J. Russell, a fourth generation member of Cloverdale Foods, to share insight into succession planning in your organization.

“For more than 105 years, Cloverdale has been connected to family businesses in North Dakota and beyond. In the last five years, we have begun our journey of discovering the business of family,” Russell said.

“We are an old growth company, and we’re in our infancy of understanding succession planning and transitioning. We are ‘hungry.’”

Featured speakers as part of the Main Street Summit include:

  • Jeff Speck, a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for walkable cities and served as director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts
  • Dennis Fraise and Jason Hutcheson, economic developers and the hosts of the Develop This! podcast covering economic and community development. Fraise has led two economic development organizations to world records and Hutcheson helped lead the transformation of Burlington, Iowa, into a top “micropolitan” area.
  • Stephen Goldsmith, artist and founder of Artspace Utah, a nonprofit developing affordable live-work space for artists and other creators.
  • Jeffon Seely, a speaker and consultant and leading resource in the fields of diversity and inclusion, millennials, mindfulness and leadership.

“Last year, more than 1,400 North Dakotans joined us at the Main Street ND Summit to share best practices and engage in envisioning North Dakota’s future,” said deputy commerce commissioner, Shawn Kessel.

“This year we hope to welcome past and previous participants who all share the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for all and to help North Dakota compete in a 21st century economy. With the theme of Building Resilient Communities, the 2020 virtual summit will enrich all participants with inspiration and motivation to contribute to our communities and build a prosperous future.”


Governor Doug Burgum shared the following message about the event: