Fosheim steps into new ethanol industry role

By: 
Jill Meier, Journal editor
At the conclusion of 2019, Nick Fosheim wrapped up seven years as the executive director of the Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties Economic Development Associations. His new role is the director of membership and customer relations for the American Coalition of Ethanol. Jill Meier/BV Journal

Nick Fosheim is primed for a new challenge.
And as the calendar turns to 2020, the seven-year executive director of the Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties Economic Development Associations steps into his new role as the director of membership and customer relations for the American Coalition of Ethanol.
“Seven years, it seems like a long time, and then when you think about it, it’s really not that long,” said Fosheim, 34. “For me, it’s about a new challenge and doing something different. It’s still working in economic development, just in a little different capacity, and I think that is what excites me the most.”
While his career endeavors will now focus on the ethanol industry, Fosheim will be doing much of the same type of work he did for MCEDA and LCEDA.
“It’s a lot in the same way where those members financially support the organization, so I’ll be doing a lot of that same work. I’ll be doing some travel, working with ethanol plants and some of those affiliated services to help connect the dots,” he said.
Connecting the dots is the avenue that led Fosheim to the combined MCEDA/LCEDA position. After college, he launched his career in the community where he grew up, Webster.
“It was so interesting coming back from college to start my career there,” he reflects. “I think it pushed me, because I didn’t have to build relationships, they were already in place, so I could roll up my sleeves and get right to work. It was a good place to start.”
Through associations in that position, he met Jeff Eckhoff. Fosheim said he highly valued Eckhoff and his prior experience as executive director for MCEDA/LCEDA and it was Eckhoff who initially opened the door for Fosheim to the job.
“The position was open and he just said, ‘Have you ever thought about doing this gig here?’ I hadn’t, it just seemed like such a big step,” he recalls.
But Fosheim was eager to take on a new challenge, so he tossed his hat into the ring “and the rest is history,” he tells. “I’m a naturally curious person, and I think having that perspective of doing economic development in a smaller community fit the profile for what they were looking for.”
The first large-scale economic development project Fosheim helped guide was helping to connect the dots to bring Marmen Energy to the Corson Industrial Park.
“That was a big deal and I think they really transformed not only in Brandon, but the entire region. Now, to think back and look at that development north of I-90 and Brandon and see how much that’s changed in such a short amount of time, you lose that perspective, but it’s been fun to have been a part of that and to see this evolution,” he said.
Fosheim was also instrumental in the recent establishment of the Rovang Industrial Park, also locatednorth of Brandon.
“Those are milestone moments for me,” he said. 
Over the last seven years, Fosheim has stood alongside community developers at a plethora of ribbon cuttings and ground-breakings. The exact number eludes him, but he admits to a feeling of satisfaction in his “connect the dots” role.
“I think what I’m most proud of is that we’ve expanded our scope of our work. It’s not just the traditional model of economic development. We’re tackling things like marketing. We’re looking at some of those other factors that a company might be looking at before they make their decision to commit to a community where they’re going to locate,” he said. “What are some of those underlying factors? We’re starting to help communities champion those efforts. Housing, daycares, some of those other quality of life things, workforce development, all of that is now becoming part of the umbrella of what we do. And that’s what I think I’ve been most proud of. The way that I would summarize that is by saying that growth is important, and I think in this area, that will always be a factor.”
With the two neighboring counties essentially sharing one economic development director, Fosheim said that arrangement has forged a valuable partnership among its members. For example, the two boards are now meeting at the same time.
“I think what that’s done is opened up more collaboration because getting Harrisburg and Brandon or Dell Rapids and Canton, all of those perspectives in the same room, adds to a more robust discussion about what challenges or opportunities we’re facing as a community. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and that’s been the most fun part about that. There are differences sometimes, and it’s fun to hear the banter back and forth between them,” Fosheim said.
MCEDA members have also developed a partnership. 
“The job of the director is a big one in that you’re keeping everybody at the table,” he said. “Every community in our county is different. They have different challenges and different attributes, and when you add all that together, that’s pretty powerful. We do have a pretty compelling story to tell, and at times, we maybe compete with a neighboring town for a project, but I think that’s why MCEDA has been so successful since the 1990s is because it’s a forum to come and ask questions and to be challenged and supported. And that’s why it continues to exist.”
This year, Fosheim’s office organized the first Partners in Progress awards program. The event, he said, was developed to shine a spotlight on the folks that help shape their communities.
“This isn’t Nick Fosheim’s organization; this is your organization, and I work for you,” he said. “As I told my board, I just so value the trust that they – and I think I would say the same thing about Brandon – put in me to be part of your story. That means so much to me and at the end of all this that’s what I’ll remember the most.”
Fosheim says there’s no easy way to part ways with the community leaders he’s worked with and for, especially the MCEDA and LCEDA boards.
“I think the leadership and the leaders that I have worked with don’t do it for the fame or glory or even for the recognition; it’s just about doing the right thing. It’s hard to say goodbye, because it’s that acknowledgement that they are important to you and to say some of those things out loud – that’s the hardest part,” he said, “but it will be fun to watch them in a new capacity and work with them in a new way.”
Fosheim is confident that the future is bright for Brandon, the surrounding area and MCEDA/LCEDA.
“There have been some really good directors before me who laid a solid foundation, and hopefully when the history books are written, I’ll be among some of those,” he said. “And I think the next chapter is going to be really fun to watch.”

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