Big Iron International Visitors Program 2022 in Review

Big Iron International Visitors Program 2022 in Review

Posted on September 20, 2022

The NDTO was excited to host the Big Iron International Visitors Program(IVP) this year with more than 60 delegates from 10 countries. All things agribusiness were discussed throughout the week with tours at Grand Farm, Northern Crops Institute, NDSU Agronomy Seed Farm, RDO, and Titan Machinery. Many NDTO Member companies joined the conversation and showed the delegates some of the many things that ND has to offer.

We could not have completed this successful event without the help of our NDTO members, partners, and business community, who came together to support and host interested professionals from all over the world.

Enjoy the photos from the week, and we hope to see you for Big Iron IVP in 2023!

Member Profile: Leonardite Products

Member Profile: Leonardite Products

Posted on August 31, 2022

Leonardite is not something familiar to most yet you will learn the story of Leonardite Products in Williston, ND, and their push to grow the state’s economy through exporting. Cherie Harms, President of Leonardite Product, has, as she puts it, “lived in every corner and the middle of North Dakota and.” Seeing the state from so many angles, she is passionate about exporting and finds it a quintessential way to grow the ND economy.

Harms came to Leonardite Products in 2008 after the previous owners decided to sell following an electrical fire that disabled the original processing facility. She jumped in with both feet, taking on the opportunity to grow a ND industry. With majority ownership of the company, she is always looking for ways to do things better and make improvements. The team at Leonardite Products has continued to fine-tune the operation, Harms says, “in 2018, we added strategic partners who added experience and efficiency. Our R&D committee is looking for value-added products,” and much more. Learning a lot along the way, Harms has had many positions in the past, including Development Director of the North Dakota Trade Office, president of a recording company, development director at a medical center. Experience in marketing and advertising have prepared her for new challenges. “It’s been an adventure, ” she says, “my jobs have changed, but we are always talking on the phone, writing correspondence, and going to meetings. All of those are transferable skills.”

Leonardite, abundant in Western ND contains an organic humate found in. It is also used as an oil drilling fluid additive. Leonardite, named after A.G. Leonard, a geologist from the University of North Dakota, is a naturally occurring oxidized lignite. It is found about 10-15 feet below the topsoil.  It is often used in soil to aid in crop production and healthier soils. There have been claims in the past about leonardite and similar humic products’ effectiveness and uses, yet Leonardite Products likes to let the data speak for itself.

With their data-focused approach, Harms says, “there are 23 different ways to test humic and fulvic acids, and consumers were comparing apples to oranges. So, we list several tests on our websites to help consumers understand how the test results vary.  It had been difficult with companies promoting results from unidentified methods so in 2010 Harms felt it necessary to help create the Humic Products Trade Association, which she continues to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer. The Association works closely with processors, distributors, researchers, and mines to advance the commercial use of humic products and provide a backbone of regulation and research.

The primary leonardite Products customer is a fertilizer or drilling fluids manufacturer. They export globally with export concentration going to the Mediterranean and the  Middle East.

Harms shares that “It has always been my goal throughout my career is to make North Dakota stronger by building a primary sector business. We can bring new money into the state, and help the economy and provide jobs.” She goes on to explain she feels as a small state,  exporting is a key component to success for ND.

Her advice for exporters is to use the many resources available in the state, explaining that “especially in North Dakota, we are a small nimble state and we can often navigate more effectively.”  She has had many positive experiences, but one that sticks out recently was with the US Commercial Service, which saved them from making a deal with a less-than-legitimate buyer. Even for seasoned exporters, there are still opportunities to utilize the services around you, do your research, and explore your options.

Leonardite Products, with Harms and her team at the helm, continues to make an impact in ND. The state has a geography rich in humic products, with a future that, can support and assist other uses in agriculture and beyond. What is next for Leonardite products? “Keep on improving,” says Harms, “we can always increase efficiencies and try to be open to new opportunities.”

For more information on Leonardite Products, visit their website here.

United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership

United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership

Posted on August 31, 2022

In mid-July, talks were underway between United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Kenya's Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary, Betty Maina, to launch the United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP). The agreement was signed on July 14, 2022, and aims to increase investment, promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, benefit workers, consumers, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and support regional economic integrations in Africa. 

A roadmap is underway for these key outcomes:

  • Agriculture
  • Anti-Corruption
  • Digital Trade
  • Environment and Climate Change Action
  • Good Regulatory Practices
  • Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME)
  • Promoting Workers' Rights and Protections
  • Supporting the participation of Women, Youth in Trade
  • Standards of Collaboration
  • Trade Facilitation and Customs Procedures

Overall, ND does have some trade with Kenya, totaling $1.4 million in 2021. Primarily in edible vegetables, roots & tubers,  non-railway vehicles/parts, and industrial machinery. ND does export more than $13.9 million throughout the African continent, with primary exports in cereals, edible vegetables & tubers, non-railway vehicles, and industrial machinery. Some language in this new agreement shows an intention to include East Africa, and with the Prosper Africa Initiative forthcoming, looking into Africa as a trading partner may become easier.

ND may see some impact in sustainability and technology upgrades for Kenya as the country strives for food security. With some increased inflow of technology and modernization of farming practices, there could be some great strides in these areas.

MSMEs will also be a focus from both sides to increase integration for these smaller businesses and help make it possible for them to participate on a global scale. In a similar vein, incorporating opportunities for women and youth into trade policy is being examined. Information sharing and best practices exchanges are being discussed to infuse new energy and ideas into these businesses.

Simplification of trade procedures is also being addressed to aid in the pandemic and supply chain recovery. Streamlining border procedures and accelerating WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement implementation are also up for discussion.

If you are interested in commenting on the United States-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP)  the comment docket is open until  September 16, 2022. To access the docket, visit the Federal Register. To comment and see all the areas that will be covered in negotiations, visit and search for "USTR_FRDOC_0001-0770".

This agreement with Kenya does align with the US's Prosper Africa Initiative and will be useful in furthering connections and relations for bilateral trade throughout the continent. Such agreements, as they come into fruition, will hopefully benefit both sides and create more opportunities for trade with their desired focus areas.

NDTO will monitor updates and keep you informed as they become available.


Office of US Trade Representative: United States and Kenya Announce the Launch of the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership

Federal Register: U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership

Global Compliance News: Kenya: Shared prosperity – the United States and Kenya sign Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership

Member Profile: PS Industries

Member Profile: PS Industries

Posted on July 6, 2022

PS Industries calls Grand Forks, ND home and has done so since 1974. This family-owned company has expanded and grown from the needs of its customers to have three primary initiatives: high-quality industrial doors, safety/fall-protection products, and flood barriers. Mark Haaland, Sales and Marketing Director, took some time to showcase many of the projects PS Industries is working on all over the globe. The far-reaching company currently sells into more than fifty countries, and with NASA contracts, the sky is certainly not the limit.

PS Industries is unique - Haaland explains, “we have a 200,000 sq foot facility in Grand Forks, we have 115 to120 employees. The company has shared a profit-share of $ 4.2 million with employees since 2007, and about 99.9% of PS Industries products go outside the state.” Very little of what they manufacture is used in ND due to the type of products for large-scale flooding, industrial doors, and other uses, but they are well-utilized along the coasts and slowly making more of an impact inland. “Each of these lines,” Haaland says, “all came to fruition because of a customer request… Even our stocked lines all started as custom-made products to solve a specific need.” The key to the company is its agility and ability to find creative well-engineered solutions for specialized problems.

PS Industries has a strong reputation for products designed to mitigate water issues such as hurricanes and flooding. Floodproofing products can be passive or active processes that need deployment. Many of their current US projects are infrastructure upgrades in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which swept across the eastern seaboard in October 2012. PS Industries estimates they are covering more than forty-one thousand openings as a result of extreme weather. Also, an increasing global need for flood mitigation is predicted due to a growing amount of severe weather incidents. PS Industries does not see a slow down in their protective products anytime soon.

Differentiating pressure doors in coal plants is one example of ingenuity for PS Industries, creating a safer working environment. Hatches and airlock chambers are also on the list of specialized manufactured products. “Much of our international business is project-based and includes hatches to Brunei, doors to treatment facilities in Sri Lanka and Qatar, safety ladders in the UK, along with flooding products to Australia and Oman. We even have our products on a deep water oil platform,” Haaland says. While they export regularly, PS Industries does not have a dealer overseas. Instead, their focus on project-based customers has been quintessential to their success. With a good reputation, they also continue to build safety products for industrial settings. They have worked with mining groups in Chile, South Africa, and Peru on safety equipment.

Custom design work that have increased safety and design requirements has been well-received in the UK market. In addition, PS Industries looks to many European countries for a variety of future projects.

Like many exporters, shipping and supply chains were an issue throughout the global pandemic, and they continue to impact day-to-day operations. From not being able to source a specific pigment, to lengthy shipping delays, PS Industries has not been untouched. “The timing delays are frustrating,” explains Haaland, “everything is delayed, and when you are working on flood protection products, everybody wanted their products yesterday.” They had some larger clients get creative with deploying their own shipping networks, but many simply have to wait until the congestion eases.

When talking about exports, Haaland had a few pieces of advice:

  • Know your shipping terms and regulations.
  • Become familiar with trade associations like the NDTO and US Commercial Services.
  • Make friends in the exporting business. They have great knowledge to share.

The manufacturing industry can be challenging, especially with the current labor market, but, Haaland says, that is why PS Industries is glad to be in ND,  “the people that work here are good people, they work hard and care out the product they put out. They give extra.”

With the future on the horizon, PS Industries continues to generate its best ideas from their customers and pass that knowledge on to others, securing the safety of people and property. So much of what PS Industries produces goes unseen to the naked eye, but their impact is great because of what doesn’t happen. And for a company that is always looking for new ideas and the next niche market, the future is bright and vast.

Learn more about PS Industries at

How the Newly Signed OSRA will Impact Exports

How the Newly Signed OSRA will Impact Exports

Posted on June 17, 2022

The S.3580: Ocen Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA)was signed into law by President Biden on June 16, 2022, after passing the US House of Representatives with a 369-42 vote. The law provides more oversight and investigatory authority to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), which seeks to reduce excessive pricing from ocean carriers, increase industry transparency, and may reduce the high inflation rates impacting the US. The new law marks the first change to US regulations on international shipping since 1984.

With increased authority to the FMC, they now have the ability to initiate investigations of unfair or unreasonable business practices hampering the movement of goods and price gouging by the ocean shipping industry. While many of these issues have been addressed before the global pandemic, COVID-19 amplified the weaknesses in supply chains and caused uncertainty worldwide.

The law aims to prevent ocean carriers from unreasonably refusing to fill containers with US exports and shipping empty containers back to Asia for a quick refill. This practice has greatly impacted  North Dakotaians, Minnesotians, and many more throughout the Midwest; agricultural producers and processors across the region have struggled to get their products moving beyond US borders. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition estimates that 22% of US agricultural exports in 2021 were not delivered because of unreasonable shipping practices.

Investigation of late fees will be carried out by the FMC. The law will prevent excessive detention and demurrage fees (charges to exporters and importers for the use of the containers when they are not moved or returned within a set timeframe or storage at ports). The burden of proof for reporting unreasonable fees shifts from the invoiced party to the ocean carriers themselves. This law states that carriers will not be allowed to retaliate against shippers who bring about formal complaints or vary their business across different ocean carriers.

The FMC will also require quarterly tonnage reporting from ocean carriers, including both import/exports per vessel. The key to this provision is that a detail of loaded imports/exports and empty containers must be provided. This requirement provides the FMC with awareness of the (now common) practice of shipping empty containers for a refill in Asia. Moreover, the FMC will be provided more transparency into the intermodal chassis pool and chassis supply.

The large shipping conglomerates have gone from twenty companies now to just nine, which have further siphoned into three alliances. This decrease in competition has been attributed to the rising costs of more than 1000% in international shipping fees and record profit postings by these large conglomerates in recent years. The Biden Administration hopes to curb inflation by reducing unreasonable, and inflated overseas shipping prices that they believe are passed along directly to consumers. Although this makes up only a small portion of the inflation issues across the US, it is seen as a step in the right direction.

As the FMC gains more authority to reign in some of the challenges at the ports, experts remind us that seaports are only part of the supply chain backlog issues. There is continued stress on the infrastructure, inland transportation, and storage capabilities in the US that need upgrades and attention.

The FMC and parties like the World Shipping Council will need to work together for the bill's implementation, and the WSC says they will do their best to minimize supply chain disruptions. Time will tell as the new regulations come into effect. Many say that progress will still be slow as the measures are adopted.

NDTO will continue to monitor and update on the latest news for the implementation of OSRA.

Additional Resources:

CNBC: How President Biden's Ocean Reform Act Could Impact Shipping and Inflation

Freight Waves: Will the Shipping Reform Act Help Rebalance Scales? The FMC chairman Thinks So

gCaptain: President Biden Signs The Ocean Shipping Reform Act Into Law

National Hog Farmer: Biden signs Ocean Shipping Reform Act

S.3580 - Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022

Pork Business: Pork At the Port: Industry Praises the Ocean Shipping Reform Act Approval

Reuters: Biden Signs Ocean Shipping Bill in Bid to Reduce Export Backlogs

Yahoo Finance: Fragrance Creators Applauds Passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act Into Law

What is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity?

What is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity?

Posted on June 14, 2022

The United States, Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have joined together in shared interest to create The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The goal is to cement relationships cross-culturally and advance regional economic connectivity. The framework, unveiled by the Biden administration on May 23, 2022, serves to reinvigorate interest in the Indo-Pacific region with increased commerce, trade, and investment between countries and emphasizes shared values.

The White House “acknowledge[s] the richness and the diversity of our vibrant regional economy. We share a commitment to a free, open, fair, inclusive, interconnected, resilient, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region that has the potential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”  They go on to highlight the importance of resiliency in securing supply chains and stimulating job growth, all of which were amplified by the global pandemic.

The IPEF’s key features include the broad topics of digital economies, supply chain resiliency, clean energy, and anti-corruption. Although wide-ranging, the framework represents the shared values and a way to start reconnecting with the Indo-Pacific region, which consists of 40% of the world's GDP. The framework includes these themes:

Connectivity and Cohesion: The framework hopes to achieve benefits in trade for free and fair trade commitments. They will adopt cross-border standards for the digital economy, e-commerce, and data integrity and utilization. Careful attention will be paid to small and medium-sized businesses to avoid being left out of the digital economy. Workers’ rights will also be scrutinized to impose higher environmental standards and corporate accountability.

Resiliency: A variety of commitments are being sought to prevent future disruptions in supply chains and support stability and resiliency. This notion is hoped to level price spikes by integrating technology mapping supply chains, traceability, and coordinated diversification. It is also set to ensure access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals, and clean energy technology.

Increasing Clean Energy: Aligning with the Paris Agreement, a targeted approach to tackle the climate crisis will include renewable energy, carbon removal, increased energy efficiency standards, and methods to remove methane emissions.

Fair Economic Practices: Increasing access and removing the barriers to unfair tax and money laundering provisions will be adopted. The IPEF participants hope to exchange information on taxes, have strict regulations on bribery, and an overall crackdown on corruption to level the playing field.

As this agreement solidifies, it is important to remember a few key points.

The IPEF is not a free trade agreement (FTA). Currently, no tariff reductions or market access regulations are outlined, but if talks like this continue, experts say an FTA may be more likely in the future.

It serves to solidify relationships in the Indo-Pacific region. Just a few years ago, the US pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and has not yet come back to the table for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that carried on after the US withdrawal. The IPEF is a cooperative framework that serves as a stepping stone to continue communication and solidifies interest in the Indo-Pacific region. The framework is based on shared values and a unified look toward the future. More to come as the IPEF progresses.


CNBC: The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: What it is — and why it matters

International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Political Significance of the New Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

The Hindu: Explained | What is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity?

The White House: FACT SHEET: In Asia, President Biden and a Dozen Indo-Pacific Partners Launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

The White House: Statement on Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity

Reconnecting at Global Business Connections

Reconnecting at Global Business Connections

Posted on June 14, 2022

Business Connections (GBC) was created as an opportunity to bring together ND's
exporters-- which can certainly be a challenge for this globe-trotting bunch!
The goal is to connect locally and expand globally, gaining insights as to what
others are doing right and how we can see our businesses through a different lens.
A culmination of over 100 ND exporters, government, business professionals, and
more joined the event.  

so much change in the global landscape, it was important to gather and connect
with old friends and develop some new ones. If you missed the event or want a
recap, here are some of the highlights..

opening keynote delivered by  Natsuyo
Lipschutz brought introspection as we learned about cultural missteps and the
spectrum of low to high-context situations. Throughout this session, her own
experience and blunders were peppered in to normalize the very real possibility
of making mistakes when communicating cross-culturally. She emphasized how to
take on the challenge of working with other cultures and observing our own
cultural tendencies and assumptions.   This session brought about many questions with
an audience full of engaged learners.

morning sessions brought topics on economics perspectives from Wells Fargo's
Sarah House, whose data-driven presentation sparked many great conversations on
the changing landscape of exports. A panel on Opportunities in Africa moderated
by NDTO's own Drew Combs, had an honest discussion with Heather Ranck of the US
Commercial Service, Delore Zimmerman of Praxis Africa, and Alex Cyusa of
Weather Modification, all of whom have worked extensively in Africa. Kermit
Nash and Sandy Bilus of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr hosted a conversation on
cybersecurity topics and how they impact business. Michale Hirou of Tractus
Aisa provided ND-specific market analysis on Asia.

Governor Sanford presented the 2021 Global Business Awards highlighting three
inspiring stories that exemplify what it is to be a top exporter in ND..
Congratulations to the 2021 ND Exporter of the Year, Adams Family Farms. Adams
Family Farm incorporates many new ideas and processes for the operation's
future. The leadership has 'a do more with less' mentality to increase
efficiency, safety, and yields. This model has helped them bridge the gap
between consumers and producers and become more creative with exporting and

2021 ND Service to Exporters award was presented to the Rural Export Center. More
often, it is challenging for rural companies to access resources to support trade,
and this program breaks down those barriers. Their signature research provides
a comprehensive look into market potential with a customized approach based on
the companies' objectives.

Shorma, President of WCCO Belting, was the proud recipient of the Global
Ambassador Award for his dedication to the North Dakota Trade Office and continued
efforts to push exporters forward. As a business leader in North Dakota, Shorma
and WCCO Belting are actively engaged in global pursuits, exporting to more
than 20 countries across the globe, and has been awarded both President of the
United States' E- Award for Excellence and E-Star Award.

afternoon continued with an engaging panel discussion on transportation moderated
by Bob Sinner of SB&B Foods. ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman,
Jonathan Lamb of Lake Superior Warehousing, and Amy McBeth of BNSF Railways all
provided their insights on the issues. This discussion brought light to many questions
and concerns that ND exporters are facing as a result of the current supply chain

the day off, Howard Dahl, President of Amity Technology, provided some
interesting context on doing business with Russia and Ukraine, integrated with
the complexities of exporting. Part history lesson, part how-to guide, Dahl,
with more than 40 years of exporting experience, laid out some honest truths
for the exporters in the room.

By the
end of the day, many were hesitant to leave as good conversation flowed with
new topics and new insights for exporters and beyond. It was an excellent opportunity
to reconnect with the many who came to GBC, and the NDTO team is grateful for
the continued discussion and how we can help support your global exports. Thank
you to the many who brought their insights, expertise, and questions to the
table so we can all continue to learn from each other. We hope to see you at
the next GBC!

Press Release: Adams Family Farms, Rural Export Center, and Thomas Shorma Receive Global Business Awards

Press Release: Adams Family Farms, Rural Export Center, and Thomas Shorma Receive Global Business Awards

Posted on May 24, 2022

FARGO, N.D.—Adams Family Farms, a five-generation farm based in Grand Forks, ND was named North Dakota's 2021 Exporter of the Year for its achievements and innovation in international expansion. The Rural Export Center was awarded the 2021 Service to Exporter Award on account of their exemplary market research and data-driven approach to support ND rural companies and their global exports. Thomas Shorma, president of WCCO Belting, received the 2021 Global Ambassador award for his unwavering support of ND's international trade initiatives.
Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford presented the awards during a ceremony at Global Business Connections, a conference hosted by the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO). The NDTO strives to grow ND's global exports by serving ND exporters through education, engagement, advocacy, and research.
Today marks the return of the Global Business Connections conference, which was last held in 2018. The conference, held at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, welcomed over 100 attendees, and included keynote addresses, educational breakout sessions, and panel discussions with impactful topics.
The opening keynote address was delivered by Natsuyo Lipschutz, a TEDx speaker, 5-time Toastmasters international speech contest winner, co-author of the Amazon bestseller, 'The Success Blueprint' and strategy consultant.
Afternoon sessions included a panel discussion on transportation featuring ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman, Jonathan Lamb, President of Lake Superior Warehousing, and Amy McBeth, Regional Public Affairs Director of BNSF Railways, rounded out the panel, which was moderated by Robert Sinner, President of SB&B Foods. Howard Dahl, President of Amity Technologies, closed the event, sharing his perspective on the evolving landscape of global exports.
Drew Combs, NDTO's Executive Director, remained a mainstay throughout the day as he welcomed conference-goers and served as moderator and host. Combs joined the NDTO team in 2019. With a background in cattle ranching and energy, his insights have led the NDTO through the pandemic with many opportunities ahead. "I am excited to have so many hardworking North Dakotans in attendance today," says Combs, "International trade is such an important part of North Dakota's economy. We are thrilled to bring together many stakeholders, perspectives, and problem solvers. We hope that everyone takes this opportunity to be curious, network, and find opportunities to learn and grow." Combs also expressed appreciation for the 2021 Global Business awardees saying that "No better companies could have received these awards today, Adams Family Farm, the Rural Export Center and Tom Shorma all exemplify the spirit of North Dakota and support its exports.”
2021 North Dakota Exporter of the Year
North Dakota Exporter of the Year Award is presented to one business that has achieved success in entering or further developing international markets. The recipient of this award must incorporate exports into their long-term business growth strategy, have demonstrated innovation and an ability to overcome challenges in exporting, and shown commitment to export market development in 2021.
Adams Family Farm incorporates many new ideas and processes for the operation's future. The leadership has a 'do more with less' mentality to increase efficiency, safety, and yields. This model has helped them bridge the gap between consumers and producers and become more creative with exporting and experimentation.
They have found great success with niche products that work well for specific international markets. But more than that, the company says their greatest accomplishment for 2021 is operating this business together and staying healthy doing it. With so much room to grow and a good foundation laid, this company is an excellent example of how ND-grown products are represented globally and makes them a well-deserving recipient of the 2021 North Dakota Exporter of the Year Award.
2021 North Dakota Service to Exporters Award
The Service to Exporter award is given to an international business resource that has demonstrated exceptional commitment to supporting ND exporters and increasing the state's overall international business strategy.
Based in Fargo, ND, the Rural Export Center was formed in the midst of the pandemic but persevered to support ND and America's rural exporters. Often, it is more challenging for rural companies to access resources to support trade, and this program breaks down those barriers. Their signature research provides a comprehensive look into market potential with a customized approach based on the companies' objectives. Many exporting success stories have been reported from ND companies who were able to reach agreements in Angola, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and several Latin American countries. This hardworking team's commitment to assisting ND exporters, especially through the pandemic, is one of the many reasons they are well deserving of the 2021 North Dakota Service to Exporters Award.
2021 North Dakota Global Ambassador
The Global Ambassador award recognizes an individual or organization that selflessly assists in the promotion of ND products worldwide and helps strengthen the relationships between ND companies and their international partners.
Inspiration struck Thomas Shorma, President of WCCO Belting, on an international sales trip nearly 20 years ago. He realized that exporting was the key to success, and more ND businesses needed to be a part of the global marketplace. At the time, Minneapolis was the closest place for ND exporters to gain the training they needed to succeed, so Shorma used his ample experience in working with both federal and state government officials to support a US Commercial Service trade specialist placed in ND and was involved in the creation of the North Dakota Trade Office.
As a business leader in North Dakota, Shorma and WCCO Belting are actively engaged in global pursuits, exporting to more than 20 countries across the globe, and has been awarded both President of the United States' E- Award for Excellence and E-Star Award. Beyond exporting, Shorma often speaks about job opportunities in manufacturing and leadership, with a focus on attracting younger generations to embrace their community and the variety of jobs available.
With dedication, Shorma continues to push the state forward onto the global stage and has helped bring ND to the forefront of international business.
The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and ND companies can increase exports and grow their international business. 

Member Profile: North Central Commodities

Member Profile: North Central Commodities

Posted on May 5, 2022

North Central Commodities (NCC) was created to export since its inception, says Dylan Kalrey, General Manager since 2010. Based in Johnstown, ND, the Lindholm/Karley family has been operating both their own farm, Johnstown Bean Company, and North Central Commodities in the heart of ND since the 1970s.

Exporting was a necessity to gain better margins and expand, explains Karley, and NCC was originally the international marketing arm for Johnstown Bean Co. The company has grown to now take in bean varieties from all over ND and export them worldwide. Primarily, the group works with edible beans such as black and pinto beans directly sourced from ND farmers. NCC then cleans, processes, packages, and prepares the beans for wholesalers, restaurants, and other customers for anything larger than 50lb bags. They are flexible with sourcing other products, with experience in lentils, other types of pulses, and even oats from time to time.As a true ND company, NCC always tries to source from ND whenever possible.

The company has over 40 years of exporting experience, and with more than 15 years himself, Karley has a lot of stories to draw upon. His best advice for the exporter is that “Google can only get you so far!” He talks about how each country and each new market has its own particular set of nuances. “Many of the services [The NDTO] offers have really helped us throughout the years, and the STEP funding, which is new to us, was a really great opportunity,” says Karley. “There are so many services and tricks out there,” he explains, “ you just have to know where to look.” He explains that exporting is a little more work on the exporter, but NCC finds the margins and overall business is well worth the effort. Additionally, NCC has found that working internationally with companies that have never imported before provides a mutually beneficial opportunity. “We get to connect with new importers on a deeper level, helping them through the process with our own expertise. So we get to build loyalty and good communication throughout,” Karley says.

When it comes to exporting, NCC has found great success in Mexico with an outfit in Monterrey, which Karley finds himself visiting nearly every month. In fact, Australia and Antarctica are the only two continents NCC hasn’t sold beans to, but Australia is in their sights for the future.

“At the end of 2019, Mexico experienced a bean crop failure, and then with the pandemic hitting in early 2020, the whole pulse industry was a bit frantic. We worked as hard and as long as we could to get the job done, ” he says. The pandemic brought new hurdles for NCC as they had to ramp up production as many food markets changed and demand for their products increased quickly. And now, they found better ways of looking ahead and planning further out. Shipping has always been a challenge in the middle of ND, but much of their business can go overland via rail to their site in Mexico, which has been less disruptive than many overseas shipping.

Looking ahead, NCC is exploring new opportunities to become more sustainable in its practices. Karley explains that “beans as a whole, are a very sustainable crop and food source, but we are investigating packaging updates, cleaners, processing, and transportation methods. These are all things our end users are looking for, and we want to be able to deliver.”

NCC is certainly a company with a solid foundation in exporting ND products, and this long-lived passion for going global does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With the endless challenges that go hand in hand with international business, Karley and NCC will continue to remain at the top of their game, exporting quality ND beans for many years.

Global Business Connections Spotlights

Global Business Connections Spotlights

Posted on May 5, 2022

On May 24, 2022, the NDTO's Global Business Connections conference returns, live and in person at the Holiday Inn in Fargo, ND. The event will open with a keynote address by Natusyou Lipschutz, speaking about the keys to success in global communications. You can read more about her expertise in this article. The rest of the day is filled with great topics that are not to be missed, and we are excited to share more of what's in store for this one-day event packed with information essential for your export businesses.

Mainstage Events:

The Congestion Conundrum: An Insider Panel on the Transportation Challenges Exporters Face

This panel will take on the tough topic of transportation that defines so many business interactions and touches almost every industry today. The panel will be moderated by Bob Sinner of SB&B Foods, who has been a long-time advocate for ND exporters. Members of the panel include ND Commerce Commissioner James Leiman,  the President of Lake Superior Warehousing  Jonathan Lamb, and a representative from BNSF. Each panelist has an insider look into the transportation and supply chain issues that are impacting so many. Come ready with questions for this interactive discussion of one of the largest hurdles to exporting today.

Insights on the Evolving Business of Export with Howard Dahl, Amity Technology

Howard Dahl, the president of Amity Technology, has been a longstanding leader in ND with a passion for innovation and the drive for exporting. With the last few years providing several challenges, we are eager to hear more about his take on the evolution of exports and what he sees for the future.

Breakout Sessions:

Economic Considerations for Exporters with Sarah House, Well Fargo

Sarah House, the Managing Director and Senior Economist at Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Bank, will share her insights on today's economy and how it will impact exporters. Based in Charlotte, NC, she covers the US macro-economy, including the labor market, inflation trends, and monetary policy. Sarah frequently speaks about the economy to the national media, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, CNBC, and National Public Radio. Prior to joining Wells Fargo in 2010, Sarah worked as a research associate for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Business Opportunities in Africa

With such a large market full of potential, this session will feature local experts in their experiences in doing business in Africa, offering guidance and perspectives along the way with plenty of opportunities for discussion. The panel will include Heather Ranck of the USCS Fargo, Delore Zimmerman of Praxis Africa, and Alexandre Cyusa of Weather Modification/Fargo Jet Center. NDTO's Executive Director, Drew Combs, will moderate the panel.

Cybersecurity Threats Facing Exporters  with Alexander R. Bilus, and Kermit Nash of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr

Experts in the field of cybersecurity and data privacy, Alexander (Sandy) R. Bilus and Kermit Nash, will dispense their knowledge on this ever-changing landscape and how to mitigate the digital risks for exporters. Bilus and Nash will help exporters take a closer look at all things digital to consider the compliance and integrity of their digital sphere and how to identify and mitigate threats.

Doing Business in Asia with Michael Hirou, Tractus Asia

Michael Hirou, USA Chief Representative and Manager with Tractus Asia, joins us from California to talk about the market trends and nuances for ND exporters doing business with Asia. Several key countries, including in the ASEAN region, Japan, and China, will be presented in a multi-industry approach.

Michael joined Tractus Asia in 2017 with a unique background combining entrepreneurial endeavors with Wall Street experience. He works with US-based clients on projects in real-time, bridging the time zones between North America and Asia in our Economic Development, Strategy and Execution, and Corporate Finance practice areas while also focusing on business development.

Register now for GBC to save your seat for this day focused to help you grow your export business.