Prince Owusu chose March 9 — when 9 inches of snow fell — to open his wholesale bakery operation in Bismarck.
He and his family, including his wife, Vivian Owusu, and his mother, Jennifer Gyeniaw, originally from Ghana, had arranged for music, chairs and tables decorated for the occasion and, of course, bread: butter bread, tea bread, wheat bread, sweet bread and bread slathered with peanut butter and jelly or egg salad. There was, however, a scurry of activity to get driveways plowed as guests began to filter in.
Prince-Vee Bakery LLC opened to some fanfare, with bread in a large oven with a door that allowed guests to view items baking on racks that circulated, evenly spreading heat.
Owusu, who baked with his uncle for four years in New York and in Toledo, Ohio, moved to Bismarck two years ago and saw that there were few bakeries here.
"That is why the price is so high. When we get more bakeries in town, then that will force prices to come down. We are going to help this city," he said of his activities in a warehouse on 26th Avenue in Bismarck.
Owusu has joined the 24 percent of the Bismarck and Mandan companies conducting business with another business, according to survey data released by Karel Sovak, of the University of Mary, during the annual Economic Outlook Forum held at the Ramkota in Bismarck on Wednesday.
As Owusu begins his new enterprise, he has an instant workforce, who are members of his family. As companies aim to grow, employee retention often becomes a challenge in North Dakota.
"Retention is something business owners should focus on if they want to grow their businesses," Sovak said.
According to Sovak's survey, 38 percent of community businesses see attracting and retaining qualified employees as their biggest challenge in the next 12 months.
It is not a new challenge for Bismarck and Mandan business owners — or for those in Dickinson, or Williston or even Fargo. It takes a four-season type of person to embrace the North Dakota climate.
"We have to always deal with the weather, but we must also deal with the climate for a workforce," said Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, the state House minority leader.
During the Economic Outlook Forum, hosted by the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC, business leaders in agriculture, manufacturing, retail and health care, lamented the lack of available workers.
One state legislator pointed out that a national recession in 2020 — which is highly disputed — would benefit North Dakota as laid-off workers become willing to travel to find jobs.
"Sometimes, a national recession can help us get a bigger workforce," said House Speaker Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck. "Many would look to North Dakota for jobs."
Aside from recession, climate change or a loss in oil taxes, there is one thing that alarms many: Their kids going off to school and never returning because there are no jobs.
"We probably have a skills gap that needs to be addressed," Sovak said. "We need to educate these students and then keep them in the community."