What makes your business a great place to work? Is it culture, a flexible schedule, or its training programs and opportunities for advancement?

As it does every September, Prairie Business is pleased to list some of the region’s best places to work – 50 of them, in fact; companies from the Dakotas and Minnesota.

There are many things that make a business great, but after reading the many entries for this year’s nominations – 1,476 in all – what stood out is how these companies strive for excellence while making the workplace a creative and fulfilling environment for their employees.

Among the nominations by employees are many that said how much the employee appreciates opportunities their company provides to grow and advance. One entry for Apex Engineering Group, based in Fargo, N.D., but that has several offices in North Dakota and Minnesota, reads: “Apex has provided me with opportunities to grow in my career as well as grow my role within the company.” Another entry: “I am allowed to guide my training and work projects to my strengths. …” And this entry for TSP Inc., a multidisciplinary firm based in Sioux Falls, S.D.: “At TSP they want everyone to excel in what they are passionate about. … Everyone is always learning and updating.”

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There are many more entries, of course, about these and other companies – about training and leadership, teamwork and collaboration, employee and client devotion.

Some of the companies in this issue have been listed in previous editions, while others may be new to receiving this recognition. But what they all have in common is quality people, and providing opportunities to help them grow in their careers.

And that, if nothing else, is fulfilling work and makes getting up in the morning worthwhile.

If your company wasn’t listed in this issue, don’t fret. Maybe it will be next year. For those who are listed here, whether this is your first time or if you’ve been here before, congratulations. You must be doing something right.

“If I had nine hours to chop down a tree,” Abraham Lincoln purportedly once said, “I’d spend the first six sharpening my ax.”

These companies have taken the requisite time to sharpen their axes, and they seem to never let them get dull. They remain successful by being innovative and forward-thinking, even during these challenging times, and it is an honor for Prairie Business to salute each of them here, in the September issue.