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Jamie Sabot, the new workforce development coordinator for the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce EDC, will be the first full-time employee hired by the EDC dedicated in that role. 

Wanted: full time delivery driver, field mechanic, electrical engineer, sales associate. Bonuses for registered nurses willing to take the night shift.

These are just a handful of about 2,000 area job openings, according to North Dakota Job Service.

“There really isn’t an industry that isn’t being touched right now,” said Nate Schneider, director of business development for the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber EDC.

Growing a local workforce has become one of the main jobs for economic development organizations across the country. Stepping up its efforts, Chamber EDC hired a full-time workforce development coordinator responsible for attracting talent to the area.

“We’ve not had a position dedicated solely to these efforts in the past, but given their increased importance to economic development and Bismarck-Mandan, it will be extremely valuable,” Chamber EDC President Brian Ritter said in introducing Jaime Sabot to the joint organizations’ membership.

Previously, the workforce-related Make Your Mark marketing campaign was only given a strong push a couple times a year and events were scattered, Schneider said. Sabot will be making those efforts more consistent.

To date, Make Your Mark has focused its marketing on occupations with high numbers of openings — trying to bring in nurses, the trades and engineers, like the Van Duynes.

Wendy Van Duyne and her husband Mike moved to Bismarck from Lawrence, Kan., with their two children four years ago. It was the height of the oil boom in western North Dakota and the engineering firm for which the couple worked needed someone with her husband’s skill set doing water distribution here. She came with him and put her landscape architecture experience to use in the state.

“I think what I like most about (Bismarck-Mandan) is the quality of life,” Van Duyne said.

With a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old, the family rated a good school system as important; the Van Duynes especially enjoy the parks system. They often can be found on the local bike trails or exploring one of the coulees behind their house. They also like making the 30-minute drive north to camp at Cross Ranch State Park.

“That first winter was a little bit of an eyeopener in terms of the cold,” said Van Duyne, adding, that with the thaw, they started hitting the trails.

Igoe Park on the corner of Century Avenue and Tyler Parkway, which the Van Duynes affectionately refer to as "Firetruck Park" is a family favorite, as is the sledding hill at Jaycee Park.

“As North Dakotans, we tend to downplay and underestimate the amenities we have. Bismarck always flies under the radar. Unless you're here and truly get to experience it, that's when you really see value in it," Van Duyne said. "We love it; it's a great place to live."

Van Duyne said she thinks the community could have more luck attracting potential employees if businesses could just get them here to see it.

"It's hard to market Bismarck on paper," she said.

That's part of why Sabot is focusing her first round of marketing efforts on those who grew up here but moved away.

"We're going to try something different and see what comes of it," she said.

Meanwhile, events, such as job shadowing, remain popular with more students and businesses signing up to participate each time, Schneider said. The next job shadow will be Feb. 25 through March 1. And there have been waiting lists for events that invite teachers into various workplaces to talk about the career opportunities available to their students.

Brian and Jami Benz, owners of local plumbing and HVAC company, have hosted both educators and students to talk about going into the skilled trades, a field Brian Benz said is becoming even more high skilled and technology based. 

Brian Benz said graduating HVAC classes at Bismarck State College used to have 25 to 30 students. He said now there have been as few as 15 between BSC and North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. Of those at BSC this year, four are from out of state and, "they usually go home."

But one of the couples success stories in attracting local talent, according to Jami Benz, is one of their crew leaders. The man had left for Arizona after school but returned when it didn't work out the way he had planned. With training from Advanced Mechanical, he worked his way up to crew leader by age 25.

With more than half the freshmen class at the University of Mary being from outside the state, the Chamber EDC says it's looking for ways to welcome them so they fall in love with community. Schneider said they want to close the gap between the education and business communities and reach parents, too, "so they're preaching to their kids about the opportunities here."

"Don't send them away to a faraway college where someone else gets them," he said.

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Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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