Trade Talk is a weekly column in the Saturday business section of The Forum, written by business reporter Marino Eccher. This blog is an extension of that column and also includes information by other members of The Forum business team. They are Sherri Richards and Tracy Frank.
With a spate of restaurant rumors accompanying spring construction – and an always-persistent chatter about new additions – we’re working to compile a rundown of the area’s most wanted restaurants and stores. We’ve heard plenty of interest in the usual suspects – Sonic, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and the Cheesecake Factory, to name a few, but now’s your chance to make the pitch yourself.
So let’s hear them: In 50-ish words, tell us what you want and why we should get one. Write me,
leave a comment below (be sure to include your name and hometown), tweet @MarinoEccher, or call if you’re really ambitious (701-241-5502). We’ll be looking for your input between now and Wednesday afternoon, and run down the results in Saturday’s Forum.
Item No. 1 on my own wish list: White Castle. It may not be gourmet, but with 25,000 college students and a thriving bar culture in the area, how can a restaurant synonymous with cheap eats and 24/7 hours go wrong?
The region’s young professionals will get the chance to hear from a celebrity business voice this summer when Bill Rancic, Donald Trump’s original “Apprentice,” delivers the keynote speech at the Great Plains Young Professionals Summit.
Rancic, who won over discerning billionaire Donald Trump in 2004, has since forged his own career as a television personality. He currently stars in his own reality television show, “Giuliana and Bill,” with his wife, E! News host Giuliana Rancic.
More information on the summit, which will be held in Fargo June 15 – 17, is available here.
Rather than leave that group’s positions by the wayside, I held onto a note Seaworth sent me outlining the wholesalers’ positions. Among her key arguments:
The current system makes it easy to regulate alcohol for taxation and safety purposes by requiring all products to pass through a supply chain from producers to wholesalers to retailers. “That provides accountability and if tainted product were discovered in the U.S., the current system would allow distributors to pull that product,” she wrote. Take that away, Seaworth wrote, and there’s no way to ensure product integrity or collect excise taxes, which are levied at the wholesale level. “The Tax Department has taken a strong stance in opposition to this legislation for that very reason,” she wrote.
The law would expose the state to serious legal challenges. In other states, she wrote, laws that let domestic wineries sell directly to stores led to costly lawsuits from out-of-state wineries. If out-of-state wineries win that battle here, she wrote, they’ll sell directly to stores without regulation, and domestic wineries will actually suffer in the face of increased competition.
Domestic wineries already have access to the market. Seaworth told me seven of the state’s eight domestic wineries sold their products to in-state distributors last year. “Every domestic winery that wants a distributor has one,” she wrote. “We do not believe that our system of alcohol regulation should be by-passed whenever it doesn’t fit someone’s business plan.”
Supporters of the law, including many domestic winery owners, disagree on just about every one of those points, of course. If you’ve got strong feelings either way, now’s the time to give your state senator an earful – the bill has already passed the house, and the senate will take it up soon.
Grand Forks has been smitten with Rhombus Guys pizza ever since the restaurant opened in 2007. Now, owners Matt Winjum and Arron Hendricks are closing in on an expansion in Fargo, set for late spring or early summer.
They’re moving into 606 Main Avenue (right next to Babb’s Coffee House). A warmer-weather opening should be all the sweeter with a planned rooftop bar and dining area – a feature that’s been a big hit in the Grand Forks location since it was added in 2009. And for good measure, they’re leaving the door open for an on-site microbrewery down the road.
How proud is Ramada Plaza & Suites general manager Carol Johnson of her hotel’s newly completed overhaul? When I met with her for an interview this afternoon, she tried to confiscate my Holiday Inn pen, offering me not one, but two Ramada-branded alternatives in exchange.
I declined to hand it over (when you write for a living, giving up a reliable pen is never a good idea), but I did get a look at the fruits of a $2.5 million renovation project that took 15 months to complete and updated everything from the ballrooms to the pool. The Ramada also updated its menus and events capabilities to handle a wide range of needs and themes – think a Carribean-themed fundraiser, or a wedding where the drinks match the bridesmaids’ dresses. “We can pull off any type of event, or any type of food and drink,” Johnson said.
Other renovations include a whole bundle of new flat screen televisions, new workout equipment, new custom-made carpeting, and new bedding and furniture. Renovations to the restaurant are coming soon, Johnson said, although she said she couldn’t tell me what those would entail.
One of Johnson’s goals is to make the hotel a one-stop shop for everything a visitor or conventioneer might need while in town. Between the restaurant, the conference facilities, the business amenities, and the indoor pool, she figures she’s got most of it covered. ”People don’t mind getting stranded here during the blizzards,” she said.
In response to a lawsuit filed recently by a California woman contending that Taco Bell’s beef taco filling doesn’t deliver enough beef to bear the name, the fast food chain launched a new advertising campaign today to “share the truth” about its seasoned beef.
The company took out full-page ads in a number of newspapers, explaining the “not-so-secret” recipe for its beef filling. “The only we reason we add anything to our beef is to give the meat flavor and quality,” the ad says. “Otherwsie we’d end up with nothing more than the bland flavor of ground beef, and that doesn’t make for great-tasting tacos.”
The company also released a YouTube video that features company president Greg Creed assuring customers about the quality of Taco Bell’s ingredients.
Yesterday’s news of a Verizon iPhone makes Verizon the first carrier that serves the Dakotas or much of northwestern Minnesota to carry the device. But as AT&T moves into the territories it acquired when it merged with Alltel last year, the second might not be far behind.
The acquisition was designed to boost AT&T’s reach into rural areas (look at the carrier’s current coverage map, and you’ll see more than a few holes). New customers in Fargo-Moorhead still can’t sign up for AT&T – try it and you’ll get this message: “We are expanding our coverage every day but unfortunately this is one of the few areas we haven’t reached yet. Please check back soon. If you think you may have entered the wrong ZIP, please re-enter and try again.” – but existing Alltel customers can order an iPhone, and AT&T says the device will arrive later this month.
It’s not clear when AT&T will get a 3G data network up and running here, open retail stores, let customers in the area sign up for its service, or otherwise open its arms to the region. But if you want an iPhone and don’t care for Verizon, the option may be on the table sooner rather than later.
Think your job couldn’t be any better (or any worse?) Career research website CareerCast has something to say about that. The site released a ranking of the 200 best and worst jobs in America for 2011 today.
Jobs were scored on work environment, stress, physical demands, hiring outlook, and of course salary. Your individual mileage will vary, but in general, white-collar jobs that require top-notch math skills fared very well. In fact, that just about sums up the top five: Software engineer, mathematician, actuary, statistician, computer systems analyst (hit those stats books, kids).
The other end of the spectrum was dominated by tough, hands-on jobs that often require risking life and limb. Roofer, lumberjack, and ironworker took spots Nos. 197-199, just a notch lower than taxi driver at No. 196 (dangerous in its own right). Roustabout – job description: “Performs routine physical labor and maintenance on oil rigs and pipelines, both on and off shore,” for $32,000 a year – came in dead last.
Interestingly enough, two very different jobs fell right in the middle of the pack: Teacher at No. 100 (average income: $51,132) and surgeon at No. 101 (average income: $365,258).
For the second time in the past three months, North Dakota has landed in the laps on airline passengers nationwide – this time in a feature in American Way Magazine on the state’s humming economy.
It’s not quite as robust as the 30-page spread the state got in Delta Sky’s October issue (and a little detective work suggests this photo of North Fargo was taken at least 20 years ago, and perhaps closer to 30), but the five-page profile does credit North Dakotans for prudent values and “old-fashioned American innovation.”
Fascination with North Dakota has been a bit of a trend since the economic downturn of 2008 - Newsweek and The New York Times have gotten in one the action, among others. The state’s remarkable recovery from the recession makes for a rare economic feel-good story in the current environment, and the elements of the narrative – sparsely populated Midwestern state best known f0r pop culture caricature makes good in dark times with down-home values – practically write themselves.
A myriad of suggestions for redesigning the US Bank Plaza will be showcased over the next few weeks, the results of a Kilbourne Group design contest for the space.
Entrants will be on display in the lobby of the Loretta Building, 208 Broadway, starting at noon today. That exhibit will be up until Dec. 18. Between today and Wednesday, members of the public can vote for the contest’s “People’s Choice Awards.” A panel of experts will also judge the entries, and pick a winner to be announced Friday.
The contest drew 160 entries, which are on display online here. More on the story in tomorrow’s Forum.