BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET)— A lot of North Dakotans spend their whole lives in the state: working, raising a family and never wanting to live anywhere else. Then there are others who want to get away. They want to live where it’s always 85 degrees and sunny. But not only is this week’s Someone You Should Know a die-hard North Dakotan, Brian Ritter is also a die-hard advocate for two cities.
“I grew up in a community surrounded by people who cared, by teachers, by coaches two fantastic parents. So, I really couldn’t ask for anything more in a place to call home and grow up in than Bismarck Mandan,” Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC President & CEO Brian Ritter said.
He couldn’t ask for anything more growing up and he hasn’t wanted more as an adult, working for, despite some name changes, the same organization since he was a University of Mary junior. But he didn’t start at the top. “My first day, literally, was spent stuffing envelopes and almost 19 years later, I’m still here,” Ritter said. While he’s been there for so many years, there’s been a lot of change.
“Back in 2003, we had about a $1-billion economy and we had about 100,000 people in our community. Fast forward almost 20 years, we’re almost a $2-billion economy and we’ve got almost 130,000 [people] in our community. There aren’t a lot of other communities our size that have grown that much, that consistently, that strongly for a two-decade period as we have. And that’s what I’m most proud of,” Ritter said.
As passionate as Ritter is about being the leader of the Chamber EDC, he said economonic development takes a lot of work and it requires a team. “We’ve got more than 1,200 members from across Bismarck and Mandan. We’ve got a staff of 13 people. We’ve got a 19 member board of directors. You take that many people and that many ideas, it takes a lot of patience, it takes a lot of interaction, a lot of communication, but that’s how we get to where we need to be,” Ritter said.
It also takes motivation and a good work life balance. Ritter is an usher at his church, president of the St. Mary’s High School Booster Club Board, he’s also a husband and father. “The great motivations of my life are my family. I’ve got a wonderful wife who’s a kindergarten teacher.
I’ve two daughters who are 12 and 9 and between all those activities and all the energy you’ve got here at the office, it’s not real hard to stay energized,” Ritter said. And when you have that, Ritter asks, why would you want to live anywhere else?
Our families are here. The life that we’ve built is here. The things that we’re passionate about are here. And so, it would take something really special and you know what, I haven’t found it yet.
Ritter also said diversity has been the key to the success of Bismarck Mandan, relying on several industries including education, energy, healthcare, government, as well as oil and gas.
Photos used in this story are courtesty of Brian Ritter.