Come this summer, between 50 and 70 employees for new technology jobs are expected to have landed in Mandan as part of a software development company’s expansion.
Over the course of the past fiscal year, National Information Solutions Cooperative, which develops software for telephone and utility cooperatives, has been recruiting to fill 160 positions in its four Midwest offices as demand grows for its products.
CEO Vern Dosch said 30 percent of NISC’s revenue comes from products developed in the past five years.
To keep up, the company has hired 100 new employees to date.
“Last year we put 50 new positions in our budget, and then mid-year, our board authorized a ‘surge,’ which gave us the authority to hire an additional 50 positions beyond the already budgeted positions,” said communications manager Mary Miller.
And the company is still trying to recruit about 60 more. Dosch said their recruiters are frequenting about 18 college campuses this spring - securing commitments from about 39 graduates, as well as bringing on about 30 interns.
The majority of hiring has been for new product development, which means the company needs programmers, analysts, network engineers, project managers, and support positions too.
Ellen Huber, business development director for the city of Mandan, said she wasn’t certain on all the details of NISC’s expansion over the past year but any business expansion is a boon to the local economy, particularly when it comes to the technical and high-paying jobs often offered at NISC.
Dosch said they’re also building workforce capacity to better their product implementation timeline, which had a wait time growing longer than the company preferred with the influx of new business. As of a couple months ago, NISC has 860 customers across all 50 states, Palau and American Samoa.
When bringing on a new customer, NISC employees install hardware and workstations at a client's office and provide training on how to maintain the equipment. Next come the teams who install each bit of software in NISC's suite of products. They convert the customers data to the new system and also offer training.
“It’s quite a large process,” Dosch said. “We replace most of their software and processes.”
NISC has its fingers in each step of the hardware and software process, from design to development to implementation to maintaining it with new upgrades and features to running a service center when customers need help troubleshooting and fixing the system.
Dosch said while Bismarck-Mandan is no often associated with the idea of a tech hub, “some of the development we have going on here rivals any that’s going on (in Silicon Valley).” And NISC competes on the level of companies like SAP and Oracle.
A large portion of the staff at the Mandan campus has been built from small towns around North Dakota.
“We hire kids who grow up here and they stay,” Dosch said. “We create an environment that allows young people to pursue a fast-paced technical career where they live.”
In return, the community, state and national leaders have worked with NISC, whether it be through zoning changes during their facility buildout or legislative concerns, helping them be successful.
The past five years have brought about 15 new products to NISC’s line:
- Smarthub, NISC's billpay application
- Engineering software developed for the designing of the Smart Grid (Smart Grid is the updating and automation of the electric transmission grid to respond digitally to quickly changing electric demand.)
- data mining software
- cyber security
When the company got started 50 years ago all it did was calculate and process utility bills, Dosch said. Now its “innovations group” works to, “solve problems for members before they even know they have them.”
One example was the company’s early adoption of Cloud technology.
Dosch said now they’re working with drones; artificial intelligence and machine learning; and Blockchain for decentralized and more secure yet easily accessible data storage. He said much of what NISC does is new to or changing the industry it serves.