Faces of Fargo Business: Alan J. Haut, Jeanna Cook, Alan Dostert

Written by: Fargo Inc Staff

Photos special to Fargo INC!

We like to think of the Fargo business community as a giant puzzle and the people who comprise it as the different but equally essential pieces. Take one person, one company, or one industry away, and the picture becomes incomplete. Faces of Fargo Business is our chance to piece that puzzle together each month and celebrate the countless people who make this such a great place to work.

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Alan J. Haut

Director, U.S. Small Business Administration – ND District Office

Alan J. Haut

Alan Haut’s 28 years with the U.S. Small Business Administration started out with an unpaid internship. Now, Haut is the district director for the SBA in North Dakota. He facilitates the delivery of SBA programs and services to benefit the state’s small business community, including access to capital, mentoring, training and government contracting. He oversees SBA staff in Fargo, Grand Forks, and Bismarck, as well as SBA grant-funded counseling and training partners in the state.

A Jamestown native who earned a Bachelor’s and an MBA from Minnesota State University Moorhead, Haut climbed the ladder in the SBA, where he held positions such as economic development specialist, loan officer, lender relations specialist and deputy district director. As district director, his days are now filled with conference calls, projects, reports, and lots of emails, which range from questions on how to start a micro business to structuring financing for a $5 million real estate expansion.

“People often think of a government agency as a bunch of bureaucrats getting in the way of their business,” Haut says. “The reality is the SBA is here to help small businesses through our one-on-one mentoring resources, our loan guaranty programs and our access to government contracting. We help businesses start and grow, not regulate them.”

The purpose of the SBA is to help any individual who wants to start and expand their business, and services go beyond just loans, including a group of mentors in the local SCORE chapter, SBDC centers, and the Women’s Business Center, which all provide free and confidential guidance to entrepreneurs.

Haut’s family’s experience in small businesses dates back to the early 1900s, when his great-grandfather started a hardware store in central North Dakota. That business eventually led to a funeral business that remains in the family today.

“I grew up in a small business and love the independent, innovative spirit that small business owners possess,” Haut says. “I also understand that sometimes they have hurdles to overcome, and I get a great sense of pride and satisfaction in helping others achieve success.”

U.S. Small Business Administration – ND District OfficeSBA.gov

Jeanna Cook

Owner, Northstar Coffee

Jenna Cook

When you own a coffee shop, early-morning starts are just a part of the gig. But when you’re Jeanna Cook and you own four? “Sleeping in” might as well be removed from your vocabulary entirely.

Cook, whose log-cabin-style Northstar Coffee drive-up kiosks have become a staple in Fargo over the past 20 years, typically starts her day around five, which is good because her customers start (literally) rolling in not long after.

For Cook, there’s a never-ending daily to-do list that includes running supplies to all the stores before they open, troubleshooting equipment issues, and researching new ideas and products, but it’s really not all that different from the daily chores of the farm she grew up on in Woodworth, North Dakota, a small town 40 miles northwest of Jamestown.

And while she says her life pretty much revolves around the business, allowing people to get their daily flat white without succumbing to frostbite makes it all worth it.

“Serving customers is the most enjoyable,” says Cook, who, in a past life, worked in higher-education student services, “I find joy in running a business. I enjoy watching customers’ reactions when we create something that they find delicious, and I like the autonomy and independence that running a business offers.

“The psychology of consumer behavior is intriguing. So much of how I make decisions regarding our product and how we deliver it is based on listening to and observing our customers. If it doesn’t work, we try a different avenue. And it’s rewarding when it does work.”

Northstar Coffee | Facebook.com/NorthstarCoffeeFargo

Alan Dostert

President & CEO, EAPC Architects Engineers

Alan Dostert

If you imagine the day of a professional architect to be filled with endless sketching on a drafting table in a glass-walled corner office, consider Alan Dostert’s schedule from a few weeks ago:

  • Leaves Fargo at 3 a.m. to make it to a 9 a.m. meeting in Williston
  • Drives 400 miles to a 6 p.m. meeting that evening in Pierre, South Dakota
  • Works with an associate until 11 to prepare for a 10:30 presentation the following morning in Selby, South Dakota — another 100 miles away
  • After completing the presentation, drives the 125 miles to Bismarck for a meeting with another client, followed by a trip back to Fargo to finish the day
  • The next morning, heads down to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to celebrate the opening of a new office, followed by a second day of marketing visits with potential clients

You could say it’s all in a week’s work, though, for the President and CEO of EAPC, a Grand Forks-based architecture and engineering firm that has nine satellite offices across the country, as well as a location in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dostert, who grew up on a dairy farm just west of Minot, is a graduate of the renowned architecture program at North Dakota State University, where, he jokes, “They don’t tell you about cost overruns, federal contracts and clients that don’t pay.” He’s been with EAPC more than 25 years — president since 2004 — and while he says he does less design work now than he’d like, he enjoys the amount of interfacing his position allows him to do.

“I find the contact with the public and connecting with clients very rewarding,” says Dostert, who also serves as the president of the American Institute of Architects North Dakota. “I’m still involved in the initial design of many projects, however, due to the volume of our work, that duty is shared with our very talented staff and project managers.”

Part of running a successful architecture firm in North Dakota, Dostert says, is having the capacity to perform a wide variety of work, so while he specializes in medical, laboratory and eldercare projects — along with a niche in wellness centers and fire stations — EAPC also has expertise in housing, primary and higher education, and mixed-use projects.

When asked if any parts of running a company keep him up at night, Dostert imparts the wisdom of his dairy farmer father:

“I asked my dad that question many years ago, about when any number of things weren’t cooperating in the world of agriculture: Did he ever lie awake worrying? At the time, I was experiencing a lot of pressure to produce the design drawings on some significant work and had my share of sleepless nights and wanted to know if he had some advice. He said, ‘When you work to exhaustion, it’s never a problem.’ I have never had that problem since!”

EAPC Architects Engineers | EAPC.net

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