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.