For many people–probably even most–the words “technology” and “North Dakota” don’t go together. Time to rethink. North Dakota led the country in growth of STEM jobs between 2004 and 2014; and the STEM workforce grew by 37 percent, according to the Praxis Strategy Group. Microsoft has a significant presence in the state. Fargo’s 80-acre campus, with close to 1,700 employees, is the third largest for the software behemoth outside of its Redmond, Washington, headquarters and its Mountain View, California, campus in Silicon Valley.

“The state has done a number of positive things for attracting and keeping companies such as Microsoft [here],” says Don Morton, site leader for the Microsoft campus in Fargo. In addition to favorable government policy, Morton credits the quality workforce. “We are consistently impressed by the productivity and quality of the people at our North Dakota locations.”

In many ways, Microsoft has served as the catalyst for tech start-ups in North Dakota. “Having the presence of the largest software company in the world in our state helps because there are smaller companies that want to be closer to where we are,” says Morton. “Also, we have had Microsoft employees go off and create their own businesses or lead start-ups.”

Myriad Mobile, a Fargo-based mobile application developer is one example. The young company is rapidly accumulating accolades and customers. Co-founders Jake Joraanstad and Ryan Raguse, who started the app-building company while undergraduates at North Dakota State University, have grown Myriad Mobile to over 50 employees in just under four years. “The pioneer spirit that built the northern plains is alive and will in Fargo’s tech sector,” says Joraanstad, CEO of Myriad Mobile.

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