The Grand Forks region is full of success stories. The Klaus Thiessen Impact Award represents our appreciation of these outstanding community members who make a positive impact on our economic growth and prosperity. Each year, the Grand Forks Region EDC board of directors recognizes an exceptional business or individual that represents these values. In 2017 the award was named in honor of Klaus Thiessen, who served as the organization’s president & CEO for 14 years.
Primary sector businesses are recognized for significant contribution to the economic health of the Grand Forks region. Factors may include jobs creation, capital investment, partnerships, relevance to the primary sector, and overall economic impact.
This honor recognizes a person who, by his or her actions, invests time and talent to improve and/or enhance the economic growth of the region.
Lonnie Laffen was posthumously honored for his passionate contributions to economic growth and development in the Grand Forks region. Laffen passed away suddenly in December 2020. Adam Davidson, JLG senior project manager, and Pam Laffen, Lonnie’s widow, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Lonnie loved Grand Forks and that came out in everything he did,” said Jonathan Holth, EDC board chair. “For his entire career, Lonnie advocated for investment in the Grand Forks region, and always encouraged our citizens and elected leaders to dream big and strive for progress and success.”
“Acme Tools is being recognized for their ongoing commitment to and investment in the Grand Forks region. They could have made their corporate headquarters and distribution center investments anywhere, but they chose to grow here, and for that, they are deserving recipients of this award,” said EDC President and CEO, Keith Lund, honoring the company’s commitment to and investment in Grand Forks. “As an existing business, the EDC has been a valuable partner for Acme Tools as we’ve expanded in Grand Forks,” said Steve Kuhlman, vice president of corporate operations at Acme Tools. “Keith Lund and his outstanding team do an excellent job driving economic development and recruiting new businesses and talent to the region. In our case, they have supported our growth plans to expand our facilities and employment in Grand Forks.”
Steve Burian was honored for his long history of community leadership in Grand Forks and across the state of North Dakota. “Steve is one of the most visible and effective community leaders we have here in Grand Forks,” said EDC President & CEO Keith Lund. Burian was the longest-serving EDC board chair. In total, he served the Board from 2008-2017, which included a term as Vice Chair, two terms as Chair, and a term as Past Chair. “I’ve had a lot of chances to be a volunteer in Grand Forks, the region, and throughout North Dakota. But I have to say, this was the most rewarding volunteer effort I ever had,” Burian said.
John Schmisek served the Grand Forks region for more than 40 years. As the city’s finance director he contributed to the region’s ability to attract new businesses and help existing companies recover quickly following the historic flood of 1997. As county commissioner, Schmisek was the voice of the region’s pursuit of an enhanced use lease with the Air Force to lease land at the Grand Forks Air Force Base to establish Grand Sky, the nation’s first UAS business park. “He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring a vision to reality,” Board Chair Tammy Peterson said.
Schmisek said, “There’s teamwork that goes into dreaming big. Grand Forks can be what it wants and it doesn’t have to be like anything else.”
PS Doors has worked with the EDC on a number of expansion projects since it first began in the mid 1970s with a few employees. Today, the company employs about 120 people and operates from more than 100,000 square feet. The company designs, engineers, and builds commercial products including flood protection barriers, safety gates, roof hatches and doors for residential and industrial clients. They have delivered products to all 50 states, nine Canadian provinces and 12 foreign countries. “We’re proud to be part of PS Doors’ success from Grand Forks,” Board Chair Dwight Thompson said.
Klaus Thiessen is the EDC’s longest-serving president & CEO, serving 14 years.
“He is the type of leader everyone wants to work alongside and an inspiration to many,” said EDC Board Chair Tammy Peterson. During Thiessen’s tenure, EDC client jobs increased by more than 60 percent and clients’ capital investment exceeded $750 million. He was instrumental in the retention and expansion of several clients, including LM Wind Power and Cirrus Aircraft.
To signify the impact Klaus made in the region and the importance of his legacy the impact award has been renamed the Klaus Thiessen Impact Award…
“We have called on him many times to meet with prospective companies, where he has championed the quality of our community, the caliber of our workforce, and the value of doing business from Grand Forks,” EDC Board of Directors Chairperson Dwight Thompson said. Burga has been a senior executive with LM Wind Power, assigned in 2008 to manage the Grand Forks plant, which is one of the state’s largest manufacturers. “It remains my finest career assignment,” Burga said. “I could talk about the value of living and working in this community all day long.” Bill Burga’s commitment to local procurement, corporate citizenship, and stewardship were factors in his selection.
“Hal has channeled his passion for Grand Forks into an investment of time and talent that has impacted many facts important to building a community that attracts business growth,” said EDC Board Chair Dwight Thompson. “I am very optimistic about the future of Grand Forks and would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity over the years to participate in the well-being and growth of one of America’s great small cities,” Gershman said.
“His investment in Grand Forks is shifting downtown development and is among the reasons for renewed excitement in spurring additional growth in the heart of our region,” said EDC Board Chair Steve Burian about 2015 honoree Phil Gisi. “I never expected to get an award for something I love to do,” Gisi said.
“Cirrus Aircraft’s investment and growth here positions our region for additional investment in this sector,” said EDC Board Chair Steve Burian as he presented CEO Dale Klapmeier with a corporate Impact Award, honoring the company’s commitment to and investment in Grand Forks. “I am here literally to thank Grand Forks for our survival. We wouldn’t be here without the help of this community,” Klapmeier said.
“There are many factors that lead to economic growth,” said EDC Board Chair Steve Burian. “Among them are people who are dedicated to building their businesses here, creating opportunities for employees to grow, and advocating for their communities.”
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