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Eric Hardmeyer

Bank of North Dakota aims at diversifying the state’s economy

As the only state-owned bank in the country, Bank of North Dakota provides a unique competitive advantage for our state. The bank’s mission statement has remained the same since 1919 when it was established: “To provide sound, quality financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota.”

BND is a banker’s bank. Individuals apply to their local financial institution for an agricultural or business loan. If the local institution wants to spread risk, they contact BND, and we participate in the loan. This lets the local institution maintain its customer base and grow the local economy. It also means we have statewide connections to make exciting things happen.

An educated workforce is an essential component to a thriving economy, so in addition to these loan programs, BND provides student loans. When federal student loans and other funding sources don’t meet a student’s needs during college, our student loan program helps fulfill the need.

After they graduate, North Dakota residents can refinance all their student loans, including federal student loans, with BND. This has proven to be an excellent recruitment tool for the state.  

Several years ago, we challenged ourselves to rewrite our vision statement. We had no idea at the time how relevant this commitment would be in the very near future: “BND is an agile partner that creates financial solutions to current and emerging economic needs.”

North Dakota faces a new day of economic opportunity, one in which we choose to diversify rather than continue to rely solely on the roller coaster of agriculture and oil prices. While we are still recruiting companies from outside the state, we understand that economic development is more about talent attraction and retention, as well as finding ways to enhance both young and established businesses across the state.

At BND, we asked ourselves, “What role do we play? How can we make North Dakota better?”

Before we could answer those questions, we went on the road, coordinating 40 meetings with other state agencies, local and state government officials, economic developers and entrepreneurs. We asked four questions of the 300-plus participants:

▇ What are the challenges of the next decade in creating a more diversified economy?

▇ Is BND’s economic development programming positioned to meet the changing needs?

▇ How should BND participate in public-private economic development efforts?

▇ How can BND better integrate its financing options into those existing from other state agencies?

The input from these meetings let us identify three funding gaps in the economic development process. There was a greater need for early seed funding, a need to bridge between seed funding and early stage development and, finally, funding for companies with an opportunity for rapid growth but with limited assets for traditional bank financing.

I encourage readers to visit the bank’s website at bnd.nd.gov to learn more about our economic development efforts and loan programs. Three of the bank’s lending programs -- PACE, Flex PACE and Beginning Entrepreneur -- have been updated. BND also provides funding for the Venture Capital Fund, which is administered by the Department of Commerce. We’ve requested these funds to be directed more toward early seed funding.

Last but not least, we added an Accelerated Growth Loan for those companies with an amazing opportunity on their doorstep.

There is no doubt that the hard-working entrepreneurial spirit in our state is strong -- much the same as it was in the 1800s, when our forefathers first tilled the soil.

North Dakota is a place where you can chase your dream and it can become a reality because the state has the financing tools available to start, grow and expand businesses.

It is time we realize that we possess all the components needed to compete anywhere in the world. As new economic sectors take root and grow in North Dakota, not only will people stay, but others will come, to experience the superior quality of life.

People will recognize the beauty of the way people connect in our state to make great things happen. The entrepreneurial dynamic is strong in North Dakota and because of it, there is great promise in our economic future.

Eric Hardmeyer

President and CEO, Bank of North Dakota

Bismarck, N.D.

701.328.5778

ehardmeyer@nd.gov

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