Lonnie Laffen posthumously receives the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. Impact Award
Held in person at the Alerus Center after a virtual awards ceremony in 2020, around 275 attendees, including representatives from EDC, local elected officials and business leaders, gathered on Wednesday, June 9 to see Laffen honored price. Laffen, a businessman and former state lawmaker, died of a heart attack late last year.
His wife Pam and Adam Davidson, JLG Project Manager, accepted the award on behalf of Laffen.
“In representing the Laffen family, Lonnie’s wife, Pam, and the entire JLG family, I am deeply honored and honored to accept today, on behalf of Lonnie, the Klaus Thiessen Impact Award in recognition of the significant contributions of Lonnie at Grand Forks Area Economic Development. “Davidson said.
Jonathen Holth, local restaurateur and community development manager and client at JLG Architects, presented the award and welcomed Davidson and Pam Laffen on stage. Holth said Laffen had helped him find a space for his restaurant, The Toasted Frog, in a downtown building owned by Laffen.
“It changed my life,” said Holth. “It was Lonnie. He believed in the best of people. He believed in challenging people and taking risks, understanding that stumbling, falling and sometimes failing were part of life and business, but that should never stop us from striving for success.
The Impact Award is presented annually at EDC’s annual meeting. It recognizes businesses and individuals who have a positive impact on the economic growth and prosperity of the Grand Forks area. Laffen founded JLG Architects in 1989 with Gary Johnson. Jim Galloway, another partner, then joined the firm.
Laffen served in the State Senate from 2010 to 2018 and served on numerous state and local councils, including the Community Leadership Committee for the EDC of the Grand Forks Area and the Review Board of the historic preservation of North Dakota. He also worked on planning for downtown Grand Forks after the 1997 flood.
Following the awards portion of the meeting, Keith Lund, President and CEO of EDC, introduced the theme for this year’s annual meeting: “Resilient and Rising. The Grand Forks area, Lund said, is resilient as it has continued to grow despite many setbacks over the years, starting with the closure of missiles at Grand Forks Air Force Base and then with the Flood. from 97, a recession in 2009. and culminating with the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout these challenges, Lund said businesses across multiple sectors have continued to create jobs and the region has almost returned to pre-pandemic unemployment levels, down from a high of 9% when the coronavirus has ravaged the state and caused an unprecedented change in the way companies do business. Among others, Lund said that an example of this change was the The Red Pine Distillery goes from making vodka to hand sanitizer.
Noting the second part of the meeting’s theme, Lund said the region is on the rise due to gains in agribusiness, manufacturing and unmanned aerial systems, the latter employing nearly 1,200 people in 23 companies.
Lund thanked members of the Grand Forks County Commission for applying for a land lease from Grand Forks Air Force Base for the development of the Grand Sky Drone Business Park, home to flagship companies like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics.
“From my perspective, I think Grand Sky is the most strategic economic development investment of our generation, so thank you for your leadership,” Lund said.
Lund praised the region’s burgeoning tech sector, including Mayor Brandon Bochenski’s willingness to transform the downtown Herald building into a technology accelerator to foster start-ups. At the same time, the UND, he said, is working to reshape its IT department to focus on big data, cybersecurity and scientific computing. Lund congratulated Bochenski and UND President Andrew Armacost on their first year in office.
While part of Grand Forks’ future is technology, another part is workforce development, which Lund called “the current EDC effort.” Lund said EDC has partnered with Grand Forks Public Schools, UND, Northland Community and Technical College and others to create a workforce development center in Grand Forks. . The center, still at the conceptual stage, would work to align K-12 education, post-secondary education and industry, to identify clear pathways for the well-paying careers available in the region. The center could be partially funded by a $ 70 million fund created by the Legislature to help fund new centers in the state.
“Make no mistake, this is a workforce retention effort, which you all know is absolutely necessary,” Lund said.
Brianne Osowski, boutique owner and CEO of Tailorie, a new startup based in Grand Forks, also spoke at the event.