North Dakota’s businesses are national leaders in export expansion, but should consider using private equity funds to realize their full growth potential, said Bill Owens, a native North Dakotan and chairman and CEO of AEA Holdings Asia, a private equity and real estate investment firm.
“I’m here because I love this place and I want to find out how we can help,” Owens told a group of about 40 North Dakota business leaders, state officials and investment providers during a meeting Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Fargo Jet Center.
The meeting, organized by the North Dakota Trade Office, was held to provide company officials with information about capital investment options available to expand their businesses. The group also discussed shortfalls in current finance options and ways to improve funding programs.
AEA Holdings and other private equity firms invest billions of dollars every day in businesses with strong growth potential, said Owens, a North Dakota Roughrider Award winner and former Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple said North Dakota companies would benefit from a program offering private equity funds combined with state finance options to grow their businesses.
It is easier for North Dakota businesses to raise capital today than ever before, but securing large investment capital remains difficult, said Doug Burgum, chairman of Arthur Ventures, a Fargo-based venture capital group.
For businesses needing more than $2 million, finding the capital can be difficult, said Jon Strinden, a Fargo-based partner in the Dorsey & Whitney law firm.
Susan Geib, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said many of the state’s manufacturers of agriculture equipment and processors of value-added foods are unable to keep up with world demand for their products. Some machinery manufacturers report that their overseas customers are waiting as much as one year to take delivery on orders.
Geib said many business owners are reluctant to use private equity funds because the investors typically require an ownership position in the company. Also, business leaders are unaware of or have misconceptions about the many finance options available to them.
Owens said companies should seek out private equity firms that are aligned with their business interests. Finding the right private equity firm can provide businesses with significant capital and the expertise to grow the business, he said.
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