BISMARCK - GIANT Sunflower Seeds co-founder Jay Schuler will lead the North Dakota Department of Commerce, an appointment announced Friday, Jan. 27, by Gov. Doug Burgum.

"Jay Schuler's impressive background of incubating and launching 15 startup companies spanning five continents and deep understanding of value-added agriculture will be highly valuable as we seek to diversify North Dakota's economy and reinvent state government," Burgum said in a statement.

Schuler will begin his new role on Feb. 27. He succeeds former Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson, who retired Dec. 31.

Schuler, a native of Wahpeton and neighboring Breckenridge, Minn., is a founding investor in both GIANT Sunflower Seeds, the largest sunflower confection retailer in the Upper Midwest, and Richland IFC, a dominant supplier of organic blue corn. He also is an original investor in Ag America Network, carried by more than 30 radio stations in the Dakotas.

One of Schuler's priorities will be to advance Burgum's Main Street Initiative, focusing on developing a skilled workforce, efficient infrastructure and vibrant communities.