Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question, and they answer with their perspective and insight.

The question we asked for October is: "What is something business related you and your team have done over the past year that you’re most proud of?”

Below are how four of the region's business leaders responded:

Keely Schlichting, VP Mortgage Production Manager Bank Division, Bell Bank Mortgage, Fargo, N.D.

In May of this year, we unveiled Bell Moving Forward. The program provides affordable lending opportunities to traditionally underserved and/or under-qualified communities.

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Keely Schlicting
Keely SchlictingImage: Courtesy of Bell Bank Mortgage

Unfortunately, not everyone has enough savings to use toward a down payment on a home. What’s worse is that many families are paying more to rent than to own a home.

Bell Moving Forward is designed to target this problem. Bell Moving Forward allows qualified families with low to moderate income and credit scores in the low 600’s to purchase a home with as little as 1% down. In a short time, we’ve already helped 10 families in the area either purchase or refinance a home. Bell Bank not only designed the program, but also services and underwrites it.

Another perk of Bell Moving Forward is that each applicant receives a required homebuyer education course to establish a budget. It allows buyers to see all of their monthly costs and how the mortgage payment will fit into that budget.

With Bell Moving Forward, we are getting families into homes who thought it wasn’t possible. Not only is that something we’re proud of, but it feels really good to know we’re impacting lives through this groundbreaking program.

Dawn Mandt, Executive Director, Red River Regional Council, Grafton, N.D.

The Red River Regional Council has a small and fierce team that is 200% invested in supporting the businesses and communities in northeastern North Dakota, however needed.

Dawn Mandt
Dawn MandtImage: Courtesy of Red River Regional Council

Over the past year, we have been focused on disaster recovery and resiliency planning due to impacts of COVID-19. For this work, we have been able to increase staff capacity, enabling us to complete more than 100 one-on-one interviews with business owners/managers to learn more about their impact, current issues, and opportunities as the foundation to our planning.

We have hosted three community conversations around the survey findings and featuring business owners with 170 attendees and more than 1,400 online engagements.

We are hosting numerous lively conversations about growth in rural North Dakota that will result in strong action plans. We are in the process of launching a regional destination and community development action plan with Roger Brooks, a national facilitator with 35 years’ experience in assisting communities in becoming high quality places to live, work, and play.

Deidre Hillman, Training Solutions Consultant & Certified Trainer Candidate, Dale Carnegie of North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota, Bismarck, N.D.

This past year I took a career leap. I started my own consulting company and I also joined Dale Carnegie of North Dakota and NW Minnesota. I’m proud of myself for making a career change, but I am also very proud of the organization I’m joining.

Deidre Hillman
Deidre HillmanImage: Courtesy of Deidre Hillman

I have a great passion for influencing and training people and the Dale Carnegie organization allows me to continue doing that through their variety of programming. We get to build powerful people skills all while giving back to our local communities.

But what makes me the proudest of this organization is in the past year they recently paused as a team and wrote a fresh set of goals for our next fiscal year. The team is small but mighty and the company is thriving. They recognized the importance to pause and to set the company’s vision for us. They invested in team building and made sure each employee was heard.

I believe in the importance of organizations needing to check in with their North Star and at Dale Carnegie we did that. The owners made sure we’re aligned with our business solutions as a team and are all enthusiastic about the next year's goals.

Emily Johnson, Vice President Branding & Communications, KLJ, Bismarck, N.D.

At KLJ our Branding and Communications team includes a number of individuals with diverse skill sets that require thoughtful creativity, collaboration, and great attention to detail.

Emily Johnson
Emily JohnsonImage: Courtesy of KLJ

With that said, over the last year, our team has successfully adjusted to a dispersed work environment that allows us to not only work effectively, but also helps us maintain that high level of creativity from a marketing standpoint on both internal and external projects.

Additionally, we have added new team members in remote environments that allows flexibility and a work life balance that we have found many of our team members appreciate.