Character Reference

Since the day I started paying taxes…

Every year I was eligible, I claimed an Earned Income Tax Credit on my federal tax return. I’ve built three new homes, each time receiving a two-year tax abatement for new construction. I’ve worked for Phoenix International (recipient of economic development tax incentives), Prairie Public (non-profit, partly funded by the government), The Chamber (non-profit), John Deere Electronic Solutions (recipient of economic development tax incentives), and Kilbourne Group (recipient of various downtown redevelopment incentives). I pay taxes, and I benefit from the system, as do each of us.

I am grateful for those who take the risk to start and grow a business; they gave me the opportunity of a great job.

I am grateful for the programs that have supported my family’s love of building; they helped me to build equity and create beautiful homes.

I am grateful for public television, which relies on donations and government funding in lieu of advertising income; it’s the only safe space on television for my kids.

I am grateful my city leaders have learned from the urban renewal mistakes of the past and have found ways to partner with the private sector to invest in what’s already been built, instead of paving what I consider to be an urban paradise to put up a parking lot.

In what sense is it ok to characterize citizens who live within the system as corrupt?

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North Dakota State of Mind

Press Conference LineupOn September 6, John Deere Electronic Solutions participated in the State of Technology conference, hosted by North Dakota Senator John Hoeven and the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

JDES General Manager Tom Budan was in the speaker lineup of area technology entrepreneurs and business leaders, whom Hoeven said are leading North Dakota in developing the latest technologies that will change the world.

“If there were an Olympics of technology,” Hoeven said, “the gold medalists are here with me today.”

A key topic of the day was education, specifically in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning.

Caroline McEnnis, Director of Design Engineering at the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM, talked about the adoption of STEM learning techniques throughout the United States. McEnnis described how it tends to start with one school leading the way, thereby transforming a school system, thus becoming a geographic pocket of integrated STEM learning. West Fargo STEM Center Middle School Principal Michelle Weber agrees.

“The West Fargo STEM Center is thriving and proves daily that STEM learning is better equipping our students with the skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s job market,” said Weber. “Our district’s strategic plan focuses on our students becoming lifelong learners, demonstrating and applying 21st century skills. Many schools in our district are adopting STEM principles in their curricula. With willing community partners like John Deere, our region is poised to lead the way.”

Budan addresses State of Technology crowd

John Deere Inspire is Deere’s initiative to positively impact students by supporting STEM learning in Deere communities. John Deere Electronic Solutions works closely with the West Fargo STEM Center to bring STEM concepts, including the engineering design process, to area middle school students.

McEnnis says STEM is for more than just engineers and scientists, and challenged usto consider how the engineering design process is in everything that we do. “STEM education is for everybody,” McEnnis said. “STEM-trained students are problem solvers, innovators, inventors, and self-reliant, technologically literate logical thinkers.”

Innovation was woven into all the speakers’ messages. Jeff Davis, manager of enterprise evangelism for Google, says the more collaborative an organization is, the more likely the team is to innovate. “Remove your developers from the IT organization and embed them into the business systems,” Davis suggested.

This practice is a key factor in Deere and Company’s number two spot on the 2012 Information Week 500 ranking of the most innovative business technology teams that are helping change the way their companies operate.

The day wrapped with a panel of leaders from some of the fastest growing companies in Fargo. Each shared how they drive innovation in their organizations.

Michael Chambers, president/CEO of biotech firm Aldevron, stressed the importance of communication, accepting failure, and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement, adding that innovation can come from anywhere. “It’s incredible what motivated students can do,” said Chambers. “They can run circles around PHDs.”

Jim Traynor, director of client/channel management of Intelligent InSites, cited respect for others’ ideas as integral to driving innovation. Joel Jorgenson, CEO of Packet Digital, said his team uses innovation to attempt to obsolete its own products.

Budan spoke of Deere’s significant resources devoted to research, development and advanced technology, stating the company sustains these areas even during difficult economic times. He says that innovation isn’t unique to engineering, rather it is spread throughout all departments and business systems in Deere.

“Innovation is a core value to John Deere,” Budan said. “Therefore is it not subject to negotiation.”

Janssen with engine

My friend and colleague Damon Janssen shows off a sweet Deere engine.

Read Keynote speaker Doug Burgum’s speech.

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I trust you to stay on your side of the line.
I trust your cargo is precious as mine.
I trust you are attentively watching the road.
Not texting.
Not reading.
Not dozing.
Not reaching.


A few feet between us mean life, not death,
Ensure our next breath.

I respect the raw power under my toes,
the destructive strength my engine holds,

and your desire to be alive.

I won’t drink and drive.

Posted on by Yo Adrienne Olson | Leave a comment