The excitement is building as the Williston Economic Development and the Small Business Development Center announced the nominees for their prestigious 2023 awards banquet. The annual celebration, which recognizes outstanding achievements of area entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations, will take place on Friday, September 8th, at 6:00 p.m. at the historic Old Armory in Williston.

This year's awards ceremony promises to be a night to remember, featuring Joel Heitkamp, the charismatic host of News & Views on KFGO Radio, as the emcee. Guests will be treated to a delectable plated dinner served by the renowned River’s Edge, and live entertainment will make the evening even more enjoyable. Tickets for this special event can be purchased here.

Let's take a closer look at the nominees in each category:

2023 Ambassador of the Year Nominees:

  • Jerry Bergman - Nominated for promoting agriculture in northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota.
  • Marilyn McGinley - Nominated for supporting the Miss North Dakota Scholarship Pageant and CHI St. Alexius Health Williston Auxiliary.
  • Penny Slagle - Nominated for contributing to the success of the Coyote Clay Target League.

2023 Partnership of the Year Nominees:

  • Little Joes Early Childhood Center - A new childcare center opening in September 2023.
  • MonDak Gymnastics Support Group - A youth USGA gymnastics program serving 250 children monthly in a new, larger facility.
  • University of Mary/Williston State College - A new partnership bringing a 4-year bachelor’s degree to Williston for nursing and other programs.

2023 Regional Business of the Year Nominees:

  • McKenzie County Ag Expo - A new expo opening in spring 2023 to attract events and opportunities like rodeos, tradeshows, motorsports, weddings, and much more to Watford City.
  • Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative - Nominated for contributing greatly to the quality of life in the region and opening a new, modern facility in 2018.
  • The Links of North Dakota - Nominated for its #1 ranking of golf courses in North Dakota and for giving $400,000 back to the community annually.

2023 Icon of the Year Nominees:

  • American State Bank and Trust - Nominated for their longtime support of the Williston region and for providing financial services since 1894.
  • Coca-Cola - Nominated for their longtime service to businesses, organizations, and events in northwest North Dakota and northeast Montana.
  • Double EE Services - Nominated for serving the oil and gas industry for 60 years.

2023 Ag Project of the Year Nominees:

  • Williston Research Extension Center Seed Cleaning Facility - Built-in 2021 to replace the existing facility built in 1954. The new facility more than triples the cleaning capacity and helps WREC guarantee the highest purity of seed varieties grown at the center.
  • Yellowstone River Beef - Started in 2019 with the purchase of Prairie Packing, they process beef locally to be sold locally as well as exported to overseas markets. This is one of the only USDA-inspected processing plants in the region.

The Small Business Development Center has also revealed its winners for 2023:

2023 Lender of the Year:

  • Brent Schwan, First International Bank and Trust, Watford City

2023 Champion of the Year:

  • Gene Veeder, long-time economic developer, rancher, entertainer, public servant, and entrepreneur in Watford City

2023 Woman-Owned Business of the Year:

  • Milestone Health Partners, a healthcare facility owned by three female doctors in Williston

2023 New Business of the Year:

  • 3E Pastry Café, a Turkish restaurant located in Downtown Williston

2023 Existing Business of the Year:

  • Home Comforts, a home décor retailer that recently expanded to a larger location in Williston

2023 Icon of the Year:

  • Gary Sukut, a long-time western North Dakota advocate, state representative, and business owner

The nominees in each category were thoughtfully selected by the WED and SBDC offices. The final winners will be decided by a distinguished panel comprising members of the Williston STAR Fund Board of Directors, the Williston City Commission, and the Western Region Economic Development Board of Directors.

For those unable to attend the awards banquet in person, the event will be live-streamed on Facebook by The Creative Treatment @willistoneconomicdevelopment, ensuring that everyone can share in the celebration of these outstanding individuals and businesses.

For more details about the awards banquet and other initiatives, visit, call 701.577.8110, or stop by 113 4th Street East in Downtown Williston.

The 2023 awards banquet promises to be a night of recognition, celebration, and inspiration as the community comes together to honor those who have made a significant impact on the region's economic growth and development. Join me in applauding these exceptional nominees and winners for their remarkable contributions to making our region better!

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