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Published December 05, 2010, 10:49 PM

40 Under 40

For the past three months, Prairie Business magazine has received information from our readers in North Dakota, South Dakota, and western Minnesota nominating business leaders for our 40-under-40 section in the December issue. It started in 2008 honoring the region’s best and brightest. And like those first two issues, there were many qualified people to choose from. In fact, the Prairie Business magazine staff received more than 100 submissions. After browsing through many incredible submissions, here are the young leaders that were selected for this third annual celebration of 40 of the top business professionals under the age of 40:

By: Alan Van Ormer, Prairie Business Magazine

Jeff Olson (33)


Head Professional Golf

Thumper Pond,

Otter Tail, MN

Along with serving as president of the

Dakota Chapter of the Minnesota Section of

the PGA, Olson has been awarded Teacher of

the Year in 2009 and Facility Promoter of the

Year in 2010 from the Dakota Chapter PGA.

He has worked in the golf business since he

was 16 starting as a driving range worker,

helping with junior programs, and becoming

head golf professional with PGA member

status. Jeff has also finished in the top 40 for

player of the year points for the Minnesota

Section PGA.

Alex Warner (36)


Pedigree Technologies,

Fargo, ND

Alex is a wireless technology and marketing

professional, M2M advocate, and online

software service proponent. Before Pedigree

Technologies, he was a Strategic Account

Manager for a major vender of Microsoft’s

ERP division, helping pioneer that account

into a new business division that evolved into

one of the largest accounts in the company’s

36-year history. Alex has a diverse background

in technical operations, technical sales, and

consulting for data communication and

networking services. He has also held sales

positions for Competitive Local Exchange

Carrier, McCleod USA.

Eric Carlson (39)

Chief Financial Officer/

Executive Vice President

Alerus Financial,

Grand Forks, ND

As Chief Financial Officer, Eric is responsible

for the financial health of the organization and

plays an important role in developing strategic

plans for the short, medium, and long-term

growth of Alerus Financial. He also develops

the budgets for all entities that make up Alerus

Financial Corporation and works with other

members of the senior management team to

develop the strategies to ensure goals are met.

Eric received his bachelor’s degree in Business

Administration from North Dakota State

University in 1989. In 1994, he earned his MBA

from NDSU.

Nathan Reede (38)


Upper Plains Contracting, Inc.,

Aberdeen, SD

Nathan is the President and CEO of a heavy

highway construction company with job projects

in seven states in the Midwest. In 2001, he was

named vice president of Upper Plains Contracting,

Inc, and then in 2007 became President and CEO.

He is the current Vice President of the Associated

General Contractors of South Dakota, has served

on the Board of Directors for the National ACPA,

is current Vice President and board member of the

Heartland Group, and was past Chairman of the

South Dakota American Concrete Paving

Association, and past Vice Chairman of the North

Dakota Paving Association.

Sara Bovil (27)



Beresford, SD

Sara is not only the owner of the Blooms-

N-Lattes in Beresford, she is also the Beresford

Chamber President. Blooms-N-Lattes carry a

wide variety of unique gifts, cards, children’s

gifts, coffees, lattes, and serve a variety of meal

options and also have a flower arrangement.

Sara was a key player in Beresford’s first annual

Wheels & Squeals celebration that included a

barbecue contest, bands, family events, and car

show-n-shine. Sara and another business

owner in Beresford have started a farmer’s

market at their business complex.

Cory Vaughn (32)

Electrical Engineer

EAPC Architects Engineers,

Bemidji, MN

Cory is registered to practice engineering in

North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Kansas,

Iowa, and Missouri. He is a graduate of the

University of North Dakota, receiving his

Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical

Engineering in 2001. He started with EAPC in

the Bemidji office in 2005. Some of Cory’s

recent projects include multiple accessible and

elderly housing complexes around the region

including an 81-unit, 3-story apartment

building for the elderly in Fargo. He has also

worked on a variety of roadway and trail

lighting projects including the Bemidji

City/Skate Park.

Katie Anderson (29)


Jamestown, ND

Besides being mayor of Jamestown, Katie is

also the owner of Martinizing Dry Cleaning

and is a real estate agent for Dardis Realty. As

mayor of the community, she is involved with

many committees including but not limited to

the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors. She

also sings at different events and weddings in

the area. Katie graduated from Jamestown

High School in 1998 and then from South

Dakota State University in Brookings, SD with

a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

Lance Yanish (31)


Yanish Custom Exteriors,

Bismarck, ND

Lance decided to pursue an opportunity to

run his own business starting Yanish Custom

Exteriors with his partner, Michael

Krumwiede. At the start there was one window

installer and one siding crew. Now, the

business employs one office manager, one sales

person, and several installation crews. After

becoming a licensed farrier, Lance later went

on to receive an associate degree in 2002 from

the North Dakota State School of Science’s

Construction Management Technology

program. He has worked as an installer and as

a sales person for siding and window


Jason Schuler (34)

Sales Manager

Giant Seeds,

Wahpeton, ND

Jason, along with his brother, Robert, led

the Giant Seeds sales and marketing efforts

and increased sales dramatically to require

Giant Sunflower Seeds to build a new

processing facility that had its grand opening

earlier this year. Giant Seeds is the number one

sunflower seed in Minnesota, Wisconsin,

North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, as well

as the official seed of the Minnesota Twins and

Colorado Rockies. The seeds are now sold in

32 states and there are more than 100


Brian Jennings (39)

Executive Vice President

American Coalition for Ethanol,

Sioux Falls, SD

As the Executive Vice President of for the

American Coalition of Ethanol, Brian manages

legislative, market development, public

relations, and advocacy strategies on behalf of

nearly 1,500 ethanol producers, farm and

commodity groups, businesses, and

individuals that comprise ACE’s grassroots

coalition of ethanol supporters. He has played

a leading role in U. S. agricultural and energy

policy issues for more than 10 years, including

service on Capitol Hill as a legislative advisor

to U. S. Sen. Tim Johnson and as a lobbyist

with the South Dakota Farmers Union.

Tom Hurlbert (33)

AIA, LEED AP/Principal, Owner

hula design/build,

Offices in Aberdeen/Sioux Falls

Tom founded hula design/build in 2008 with

an idea that the Upper Plains should create more

meaningful architecture. His design experience

with various firms and background in

construction has created a recipe for thoughtfully

designed projects. Hula is engaged in traditional

design-bid-build, design-build, general

contracting, and developing. Project types include;

elementary/post-secondary education, office,

hospitality, retail, residential and preservation.

Previously he has worked for architectural firms in

New York City and Sioux Falls. Among his

hobbies, Tom co-hosts a public radio show and is

currently building his own office furniture.

Chad Coauette (36)

Vice President

Customized Training

Alexandria Technical College

Alexandria, MN

As the Dean of Customized Training, Chad

oversees seven Customized Training reps who are

charged with providing high quality training and

educational services to business and industry. The

mission is to provide customer centered, industry

driven workforce solutions through dedicated

people focused on providing services that exceed

customer expectations and provide exceptional

value. He is also involved with many community

and state organizations. He received a Bachelor of

Science degree in Industrial Technology, a Master

of Science in Industrial Technology, and a

Doctorate of Philosophy; all from the University

of North Dakota.

Marne Neiger (29)

Electrical Engineer

Bobcat Company-

Doosan Infracore Const. Equip.

Gwinner, ND

In her job as an electrical engineer with

Bobcat Company, and for the past four years,

Marne has designed electrical systems on the

skid steer and compact track loaders. She

enjoys working on a new product development

program where she can see a program go from

initial concept through the development phase

and eventually seeing it working for customers

on job sites. She received her MBA with a

project management specialization from

Capella University, an online university based

in Minneapolis, MN.

Eric C. Dodds (33)

Operations Manager

(AE2S) Advanced Engineering

and Environmental Services, Inc.

Fargo, ND/Moorhead, MN

Eric handles the operations for both the

Fargo office and Moorhead, MN office for AE2S;

currently leading a staff of 18 people. He provides

project management, facility and master

planning, regulatory evaluation, and preliminary

design services for water and wastewater systems

projects throughout the Midwest. At 30, he

became the youngest shareholder at the

company. Eric is a registered Professional

Engineer in Minnesota, North Dakota, and

South Dakota. He has a Bachelor of Science

degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of

Science degree in Environmental Engineering;

both from North Dakota State University.

Dusty Johnson (34)

Chairman, PUC Commissioner

Public Utilities Commission,

State of South Dakota,Pierre, SD

Dusty was elected statewide to the Public

Utilities Commission in November 2004. He

currently serves as commission’s chairman since

2007. Since joining the commission, Dusty has

worked hard to develop renewable energy

resources, expand broadband and wireless phone

capabilities, keep utility rates low, and protect

consumers. He attended both the University of

South Dakota and the University of Kansas. Dusty

has been a small businessman, worked for the U.

S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.

C., and served as the senior policy advisor in

charge of transportation, economic development,

and energy issues for Gov. Mike Rounds.

Bradley S. Woerner (37)

Director of Agricultural Engineering

Eisenbraun & Associates, Inc.,

Yankton, SD

Brad joined the staff of Eisenbraun &

Associates as a project manager in 2002. In 2007, he

became a Principal in the firm where he now serves

as the Director of Agricultural Engineering

Services working with farmers, livestock producers,

state and local government agencies in air and

water quality, environmental permitting and

design of livestock production facilities, wastewater

facility design and management, grain storage,

drying and handling facilities and nutrient

management planning. Brad graduated from Iowa

State University with a Bachelor of Science degree

and a master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering.

Kathy Dobson (38)

Social Services Director

Lakewood Health System,

Staples, MN

Since joining Lakewood Health System 14

years ago, Kathy has helped grow the social work

department from her part-time position to eight

full-time social workers that function in care

center and senior services, hospital and acute

care, outpatient services and infusion therapy,

emergency department, clinic services/medical

home/palliative care, and home health and

hospice. Kathy has a bachelor’s degree in Social

Work and is professionally licensed by the

Minnesota Board of Social Work. She belongs to

the Minnesota Nursing Home Social Worker

Association and is a member of a Hospital Social

Work group from the central Minnesota region.

Derek Walters (34)

Communications/Outreach Manager

Energy & Environmental

Research Center (EERC),

Grand Forks, ND

As the Communications and Outreach

Manager, Derek is responsible for planning,

development, and implementation of all

external communications and public relations.

He also develops marketing plans, organizes

press conferences, and oversees the management

of the EERC’s public web site and all other

online properties. Under his Derek’s direction,

EERC has boosted its media coverage by 208

percent in FY 2009 and the EERC was covered in

more than 1,700 publications and media outlets

in all 50 states and 18 countries. He received his

bachelor’s degree in Communications with an

emphasis on Broadcast Journalism from the

University of North Dakota.

Shane Johnson (34)

Vice President-Branch Administrator

Bremer Bank,

Willmar, MN

In 2009, Shane ranked fourth overall for

Eastern Region Sales Managers within Bremer

Bank. In 2008 and 2009, his retail teams

exceeded overall loan production, compared to

its plan, and exceeded referrals received from

other business lines. He was also a Best of

Bremer Sales Winner in 2002. Shane started

working for Bremer Bank in 2001 as a personal

banker. In 2007, he moved to the Bremer Bank

Willmar branch, retaining the management of

the Cash Wise location in Willmar, as well as

adding the management of the new location.

Amanda Bentow (29)

Director of Wellness Operations

University of North Dakota

Wellness Center,

Grand Forks, ND

Amanda is essentially the “CEO” of the

Wellness Center directing a staff of more than

140 full-time and part-time employees

including UND students. She has been at the

facility since it started in 2006, becoming the

Director in March 2009. Amanda continues to

grow and develop it into one of the premier

university wellness facilities in the state. She is

also the President of the Greater Grand Forks

Young Professionals organization and was

instrumental in developing the organization’s

mission, goals, and vision statements, as well as

initiating a new workforce initiative working

to attract and retain young talent.

Joel Vockrodt (33)


Office Peeps,

Watertown, SD

In April 2009, Joel and his wife purchased

the 51-year-old, family-owned office supplies

company. Because he believes that his 30

employees or “peeps” are the heart and soul,

brains and brawn, meat and potatoes of the

company, he updated the name and look of the

brand from Office Systems, Inc. to Office

Peeps. The new name and branding

incorporate a retro nod to the past while

positioning the company for growth on a

national level. Joel believes that if employees

are honored and empowered, they will provide

excellent customer service.

Hugh Weber (33)



Sioux Falls, SD

Storyline grew out of earlier companies

sounded by Hugh that included Deep Bench,

Dude to Dad, and We Discover Stories. He is

recognized worldwide for his ability to make

social media and innovative marketing

strategies. Hugh’s work with the Ford Motor

Company named Hugh a “heavy hitter” in the

social media space. He attended Swarthmore

College where he was a McCabe Scholar and

Senior Class President while earning his degree

in Political Science. Hugh also has a master’s

degree in Political Management from George

Mason University.

Tanya Vachal (35)

Office Manager

Job Service North Dakota

(Williston Office),

Williston, ND

After working for several years for the

housing authority in Grand Forks, Tanya

returned home to Williston to take on the

management position at the Job Service

Williston Office. She oversees four people in

her office and has been instrumental in

addressing the workforce needs in the area.

Her office handles on average almost 1,200 job

openings and has hosted more than 14

individual job fairs in the past year. Tanya is

also an active member in the Williston Young

Professionals organization.

Abbey Pieper (29)

Vice President, Sales Manager

Madden’s on Gull Lake,

Brainerd, MN

Abbey became the sales manager and vice

president for Madden’s on Gull Lake in 2007.

Her current role at Madden’s is ever changing.

She functions as the Director of Sales and

Planning, occasionally becoming involved in

marketing and also acting as co-vice president

of the company. After her graduation from the

University of Denver in 2003, Abbey worked

for two years in Colorado Springs, CO at the

Broadmoor Hotel at the front desk and as a

conference concierge. She then transferred to

the Hyatt Regency in Chicago where she spent

two years as a meeting concierge manager and

sales representative.

Mike Jerstad (39)

Managing Principal

PrairieGold Venture Partners,

Sioux Falls, SD

As a partner at PrairieGold Venture

Partners, Mike oversees all aspects of the firm’s

investment activities including sourcing,

structuring, negotiating investments, and

serving as a board member for portfolio

companies. He focuses on life sciences

opportunities and represents PrairieGold on

the boards of Grand Prairie Foods, Chronix

Biomedical, PetMedicus Labs, Orasi Medical,

and LineaGen. Mike also served as an attorney

at Briggs and Morgan in Minneapolis

specializing in business, litigation, employment

law, and contracts. He received his Bachelor of

Arts degree from Tufts University, his Juris

Doctor degree from Georgetown University,

and his MBA from the University of Chicago.

Matt Gage (35)

Project Manager,


Gage eServices, LLC

Sioux Falls, SD

Matt currently runs the day-to-day

operations of the company and acts as Project

Manager. Since 2005, Gage eServices has

experienced double digit growth each year and

now provides hosting and design services along

with online marketing strategy for companies

of all sizes across the United States. He studied

Information Systems at Dakota State University

in Madison, SD, and Business Management at

South East Technical Institute in Sioux Falls.

Matt has served on the Board of Directors for

the Sioux Falls Noon Sertoma Club and The

Sertoma Butterfly House in Sioux Falls.

Laura Anderson (26)


Convention and Visitors Bureau

and United Way,

Thief River Falls, MN

Laura is in a unique position of leading two

organizations. Not only is she the lone person

running those organizations, she also works

under two separate board of directors. Working

for the two also provides Laura an opportunity

to give back to the Thief River Falls community.

She is also incorporating social marketing into

the community’s marketing efforts trying to

bring a more contemporary approach to the

organization. Laura graduated in 2007 with a

Communications major from the University of

North Dakota.

Scott Russell (38)

Executive Vice President

and Chief Strategy Officer

Cloverdale Foods Company,

Mandan, ND

Scott is part of a manufacturer that

specializes in producing high quality

processed meats that are distributed

throughout the Midwest and western United

States. Drawing from knowledge earned

through a career background in the food

industry, he leads several key areas including

production and operations. After graduating

from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA,

with an Economics degree, Scott pursued his

passion of being in the restaurant business.

After returning three years later in the sales

department, he was promoted to Director of

Sales and Marketing.

Fred Selensky (38)


National Information

Solutions Cooperative (NISC),

Mandan, ND

Fred has been at NISC since 1995 after

receiving his undergraduate degree at the

University of Mary; being first assigned to

support, train, and install accounting software

products at customer offices throughout the

United States. He took over as Controller in

2001 becoming responsible for the accounting

functions within the organization including

financial statement reporting, payroll, accounts

receivable, and accounts payable. Fred also

manages the budget process for NISC’s $110

million budget. He has grown professionally

during his tenure at NISC attaining his master’s

degree in Business Administration and

becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

Dustin Floyd (29)


TDG Communications,

Deadwood, SD

TDG Communications is a full-service

advertising and public relations firm that

provides a niche in social media and online

marketing for tourism clients in South Dakota

and Illinois. Dustin is a fifth-generation South

Dakotan who studied at Oxford University

before graduating from Coe College in Cedar

Rapids, IA. He started as a copywriter and

media relations specialist, became a partner in

2007, and was named President in 2009.

Dustin and partner Monte Amende, TDG’s

creative director, and the company’s 16-person

staff now serve clients in Colorado, Illinois,

Florida, Oregon, California, and South Dakota.

Dustin Pratt (24)


Solid Rock Clothing,

Vermillion, SD

Dustin is founder and president of Solid

Rock Clothing, a start-up company that makes

eco-friendly, dry-wicking t-shirts for outdoor

enthusiasts. He encourages others in his role as

a teaching assistant for entrepreneurship

courses at the University of South Dakota as he

pursues his MBA. He has received the South

Dakota Board of Regents Outstanding

Leadership Award, the Governor’s Giant Vision

award, earned a Sales and Marketing Executives,

Inc. scholarship, and was one of South Dakota’

first Innovation Fellows.

Kelly Hubrig (30)

Branch Manager/

Financial Services Investment Officer

Bank of the West,

Lidgerwood, ND

Kelly has been a registered representative

with the company’s brokerage firm for six years

producing more than $100,000 in gross dealer

concession in each of the past six years. Only one

registered representative has achieved this over

the same period. There are more than 125

representatives in the program. In 2008, Kelly

took over branch manager responsibilities. He

also has qualified for the BancWest Investments

Services National Sales Conference in 2005, 2006

and 2009. Kelly has also been awarded Circle of

Excellence from Bank of West.

Rebecca Jirava (34)

Human Resources Manager,


Aberdeen, SD

Rebecca provides human resources

leadership for 650 employees at 3M’s

manufacturing operation in Aberdeen. She

consults with the leadership team to set

strategic direction and operating plans, develop

and implement employee engagement, hiring,

leadership development, training, performance

management, organizational effectiveness, and

reward strategies. She has a Bachelor of Science

degree in Psychology with a minor in Business

Administration from North Dakota State

University and a Master of Arts in Human

Resources and Industrial Relations from the

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of


Kayla Shafer (29)

Corporate Marketing Coordinator,

Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson,

Bismarck, ND

In five years, Kayla has moved through the

company as a Communications Specialist, then

transitioning into government affairs, and now

assisting in the development of a new division,

corporate marketing. In 2010, she worked with

clients to secure more than $102 million in

economic stimulus funding that will develop

infrastructures in rural areas of the Upper Great

Plains. After attending Washington State

University, Kayla returned to North Dakota and

has been actively involved in projects that

enhance the quality of life to retain the

community’s youth.

Jeff Scheel (35)

Vice President/Market Manager

Home Federal Bank,

Aberdeen, SD

Two years after joining Home Federal Bank

in 2003, Jeff was named Vice President/Market

Manager. He also earned the distinction of

being the Best Overall Performer in his job

function and has been nominated for the

bank’s Community Service Award. Jeff is a

strong advocate for local community outreach

and development that includes leadership roles

in the Northern State University Foundation

Board of Trustees, Bethlehem Lutheran

Church, Leadership Aberdeen, Junior

Achievement, Hub Area Habitat for Humanity,

North Eastern Work and Technical Education

Center, Aberdeen Housing Task Force, and

Aberdeen Home Builders Association.

Jeff Ackerson (39)


Vinylite Windows,

Fergus Falls, MN

As the President and CEO of Vinylite

Windows, Jeff is responsible for strategic

planning, oversight of sales, marketing,

finances, production, human resources,

engineering, logistics, and service. Prior to

coming to Vinylite Windows in 2007, he spent

12 years at Pella Corporation in a variety of

capacities that included engineering and plant

management. Jeff has a Bachelor of Science

degree in Mechanical Engineering from North

Dakota State University and an MBA from

Drake University. He is also serving on the

Fergus Falls Economic Improvement

Commission Board of Directors.

Steve Stickelmyer (32)


Tel Serv Communications,

Aberdeen, SD

Steve, who grew up in Eureka, SD and

graduated from Eureka High School, started

Tel Serv Communications in 2004 with a

mission to partner with and revolutionize

businesses through the use of innovative

technology and to be a think tank for

businesses to help them meet their goals and

objectives. The company, comprised of 14

employees, specializes in outsourced managed

IT service, IP telephone systems, and structure

data cabling in the northeast region of South


Michael Chambers (36)


Aldevron, LLC,

Fargo, ND

Michael is President and CEO of a

company that offers products and services to

the DNA vaccine and gene therapy

community. The company employs 80 people

and works with 1,000 research groups around

the world including government, academic,

and industrial laboratories. The company

initially focused on contract manufacturing,

products and services related to gene therapy

and DNA vaccine technologies. Michael, along

with James Ballantyne, founded the company

in 1998. He also serves on the board of the

North Dakota State University Research

Foundation and the NDSU Research and

Technology Park.

Michael Raum (35)

Vogel Law Firm,

Fargo, ND

In 2007, Michael returned to North Dakota

and joined the Vogel Law Firm. He

concentrates his practice on advising

businesses, commercial transactions, tax

controversy, and commercial litigation. He

represents several rural agricultural

cooperatives in various industries, as well as

several rural utility services. Michael graduated

from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN in

1997, and then the University of North Dakota

School of Law in 2000. He has also worked for

the United States Department of Justice, Tax

Division, from 2002-2007 in Washington, D. C.

Hunter Roberts (31)

Energy Policy Director

State of South Dakota,

Pierre, SD

In his role as Energy Policy Director,

Hunter serves as a liaison on behalf of the

governor and department secretary to energy

groups and recommends state actions and

policies. Since he started in the department,

South Dakota has over $2.5 billion of capital

investment in energy projects that have been

constructed or are under construction. He is

responsible for the South Dakota Ethanol

Blender Pump Incentive Grant program. He

received his bachelor’s, master’s and Juris

Doctor degrees from the University of South

Dakota in Vermillion.