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Mike Gallagher Retires as ND District Director

Release Date: 
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Release Number: 
Sheri Westion, 701-239-5044

FARGO – In reflecting back on my 32-plus years with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), I take pride in the successes SBA has had over those years through the help and support of so many in the small business and economic development community.

When I joined the SBA on Nov. 5, 1984, one of the first activities I was privileged to participate in was the development of the state’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network.  Sitting at a table in the Fargo SBA conference room, Jim Stai, our former district director; Dennis Elbert, the former dean of the UND School of Business and Public Administration; and I drafted the plan to open four SBDC offices in North Dakota.  This effort has grown to include a network of 12 centers located throughout North Dakota providing training, counseling and technical assistance programs to thousands of existing and potential small business owners around the state.

During my years at SBA, I had the honor of assisting in establishing the Women’s Business Center – known today as the Center for Technology and Business (CTB). CTB was created from a dream of Tara Holt, CTB’s original founder; working with Fay Behm, a former SBA Bismarck area manager, and myself.  Tara had the vision to educate women in new technologies, training thousands in rural communities across North Dakota, helping to launch numerous businesses, and expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs.  Today, under the direction of Deb Eslinger, CTB continues to expand services, raise the awareness of and provide opportunities for women-owned business.

When I joined SBA, the staff was cloistered in the District Office in Fargo.  Seeing a need to expand and enhance service to all areas of the state and seeing a need to work more closely with our expanding service network, we worked aggressively to establish an office in Bismarck.  This was done through a close and enduring relationship with Bank of North Dakota, USDA-Rural Development, the ND Department of Commerce, and the Dakota Certified Development Corporation.  This collaborative effort continues today through what is known as the Entrepreneur Center of North Dakota (ECND).  Dale Van Eckhout currently leads the SBA outreach effort in western North Dakota through the Bismarck SBA Office.

Following the flood of ’97 in Grand Forks and through the support of SBA in rebuilding communities in the Red River Valley, a SBA Office was opened in Grand Forks.  Eric Giltner established the initial Grand Fork’s SBA office with the Grand Forks Area Chamber of Commerce.  Eric continues to lead outreach in the Upper Red River Valley.

With Eric’s leadership, we have expanded our service to veterans, active duty military, and their dependents.  Eric established a relationship with the Grand Forks AFB which transitioned into what is now known as the Boots to Business program.  Both Eric and Dale provide ongoing training and counseling assistance to veterans through the Boots to Business program in Grand Forks and Minot.

Another SBA/North Dakota success is the SBA award that the Center for Innovation at UND received last year. I remember 32 years ago, the Center for Innovation at UND was just a vision or dream of Bruce Gjovig the Center’s director.  Through the strong and enduring relationship with the Center, SBA expanded its outreach and service in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.  Just this past year, the Center received an SBA Growth Accelerator Fund award for a program that helps drone startups accelerate their commercialization journey.

Reflecting back, I take great pride in the many efforts and numerous successes we had to expand services to small business owners in this great state.  Looking forward, I believe we will continue to have good leadership in SBA and the state.  I greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with so many dedicated and talented people. I sincerely thank all of you who have been a part of my life and assisted in SBA’s efforts over the years.

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