- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Representatives of North Dakota’s most successful companies told an audience at Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s economic summit Thursday that it can be challenging to recruit workers to the state, but it’s getting easier to keep them.

North Dakota has been trying to manage the largest job growth rate in the nation in the last decade, and just last month, there were 17,420 open and available positions, according to statistics compiled by Job Service North Dakota.

Business leaders at the Fargo event reeled off the number of job openings, some of them in the hundreds.

“You obviously need to bring people in,” Chapman University urban studies professor Joel Kotkin, the summit’s keynote speaker, told the group.

Kotkin said he doesn’t believe the recent slowdown in oil production will affect the state’s overall economic picture, and Dalrymple backed that up with growth statistics from several business sectors.

Sanford Health has 680 job openings in Fargo alone, regional hospital spokeswoman Bev Adams said during a panel discussion on attracting and retaining workers. However, Adams said, the state’s reputation as a good place to work and live has made it easier to recruit doctors in the last several years.

“We used to have to pay them a premium and lie about what the weather was like,” she said, smiling.

Appareo Systems, a software and electronics solutions company in Fargo, has has grown from “five stupid college kids in a research park office” to 190 people doubling in size every two years, according to president and chief operating officer David Batcheller. He expects to reach 500 employees by 2020.

Appareo attracts and keeps young workers by making their jobs challenging and rewarding and making wages only important enough to make them “a non-issue,” Batcheller said. He said he would rather embrace the young talent then count on experience.

“We do some really complicated stuff technically,” he said. “It really pushes people.”

Batcheller said the company also likes to recruit husband-and-wife teams, which serves as a strong recruiting tool.

Steve Burian, CEO and chief financial officer at Bismarck engineering consulting firm AE2S said he rarely recruits outside the region. Even though he may fail to land a superstar once in a while, the ones who accept offers usually stay, Burian said.

He noted he has a handful of employees who work remotely in other states, “but for the most part we don’t make those compromises.”

Recruiting to North Dakota now compared to 20 years is “night and day” because potential workers do their homework on the best places to live and work, said Sherry Olson, spokeswoman for Evolution1, a health care software and payment solutions company in Fargo.

“We have realized we have to move quickly with qualified young workers,” she said. “You have to get offers on the table and be very agile and swift.”

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