3/2/2005 – News


Volume 122, Number 4             Wednesday, March 2, 2005
 


Baker area native on the cutting edge of environmental issues
BY MITCH VANCE City Magazine
When Lance Loken graduated from NDSU with a degree in earth sciences, specializing in geology, and later with a master’s degree in soil science, his material goals were modest — a new La-Z-Boy and a remote. "After that, he says, "I hadn’t figured out what to do with my life." But his long-time associates, botanist Jim Kramer and environmental planner Charles Manders, who have both joined him in his new venture, Western Plains Consulting (WPC), Inc. of Bismarck, quickly suggested a new goal for Lance, one of the least materialistic persons they ever met — a new tent! But his business associates and anyone else who knows him will tell you that, for a man with such modest material goals, he works very hard.
His willingness to assume the risks and hard work involved in starting a new business speaks to the heart of his values. "As long as I, and those around me, can make a good living, I’m okay,"’ Lance explains. "He who dies with the most toys may not win. He might, but that is not all there is to life."
To make a good living for yourself and those associated with you is certainly not a modest ambition in the current North Dakota economy, where many hard-working, well-educated people find themselves working two or three jobs to make ends meet. WPC provides good-paying jobs for nine people who are educated and experienced at what they do, including three full-time and six contract workers who are exclusive to the company.
WPC is an environmental, natural resources, and regulatory consulting firm that helps public and private sector clients with environmental assessments, planning, wetlands, health, and safety issues. Most of the firm’s clientele lack the staffing and expertise to do these projects themselves, so they retain WPC.
Lance and his staff are currently involved with the City of Bismarck Household Hazardous Waste Collection Project; wetlands environmental work for the emergency outlet out of Devil’s Lake; work for a bank in the Red River Valley regarding a large agricultural facility that is under EPA jurisdiction; and assisting a local developer with the regulatory permit requirements for a new development along the Missouri River in Mandan.
How did a company that is less than two months old generate so much business? Until recently, Lance and the majority of his staff worked for another local consulting firm that he and a former business partner started
11 years ago. Their contacts, along with a pristine reputation in the industry, greatly mitigate the risks an entrepreneur would normally face.
Also diminishing the risk is the fact that Lance has done this before.
However, Lance knows very well that there are still risks. When he established the previous consulting business, he learned that there are no state or local government economic development funds available for a service business whose only capital is the intellect and experience of its owners and staff. Economic development funds are intended for so-called primary sector businesses that are labor and capital intensive, not companies in the service sector. When he and his partner started the first company, they spent a year trying to obtain government funds to help start the business and almost went bankrupt.
Although WPC will not be hiring hundreds of people, Lance considers this business to be true economic development because he has created new, good-paying jobs for highly educated people. Several local businesses have benefited from this new start-up, including lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, office supply stores and numerous vendors.
Instead of wasting his time looking for government funding to start the firm, Lance decided to do it the old-fashioned way: by borrowing money from a bank, capturing projects, and doing quality work. Lance knows from experience that, if he and his staff expend their energies getting the work and doing it well, as they have always done, they will be successful.
"We produce a very fine product," says botanist Jim Kramer who has worked with Lance for years. "Before a report leaves this office, it is reviewed and all mistakes are out of it, and that’s how we are judged. Lance has pride in his work, he works hard and the company will succeed because of his work ethic."
Lance sums it up like this: "In order to have the freedom I want to have, I’ve got to take on the responsibilities of entrepreneurship: employing people, signing paychecks and watching lives happen around me. That’s what I need to survive, that’s what gives me satisfaction in life."
As Lance recently learned, owning a business is not without its hazards.
The firm was part of a team that was one of the final three groups to bid on the multi-million dollar Mandan diesel fuel cleanup project. It would have been a growth opportunity for WPC or the other local firms involved in the bidding. During the time Lance waited for the announcement of who would win the contract, he never counted on this job for the future of his company; it was never considered a do-or-die project. However, he was disappointed when the contract was awarded to an out-of-state company.
In spite of the disappointment, Lance knows the fledgling company has a bright future. "It’s one thing to do the planning, promotional marketing and the budget, but you have to bring in the work," he says, "and you have to produce a quality product, on time and on budget. We want to become a valued part of the business community by helping the public and the private sectors address their problems."



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The Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce sent its ambassadors to welcome Western Plains Consulting to that area. The company is headed by Baker area native Lance Loken. Left to right in the front row are the ambassadors with
Loken: Melissa Jorgenson, Loken, Kevin Stewart and Karen McBride. Loken is a 1981 graduate of Rugby High School and he still farms the home place north of Baker. He is the son of Charlotte Loken, who is a resident of the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd in New Rockford and the late Gordon Loken. He has a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences with a major in geology and a master’s degree in wetland soil genesis from NDSU. His company deals with issues related to asbestos, lead-based paint, environmental assessments, mold, indoor air quality, and other environmental problems.
(Photo courtesy of City Magazine)



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Visits Washington
Maddock 5th grader Megan Lauinger tries out Sen. Byron Dorgan’s chair and desk for size as Dorgan looks on. Megan went with her uncle and aunt, Ken and Debbie Dosch of Maddock, on a trip to the East Coast and one of their stops was in Washington, DC. While there they toured the White House and the Capitol. While waiting in line to tour the White House, they saw the First Lady, Laura Bush, leave in a motorcade. In addition to visiting Dorgan’s office they also attended a committee meeting he chaired. Megan is the daughter of David and Shannon Lauinger of Esmond.



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Record DL northern pike
Dick Cassellius of Glenwood City, Wisc. caught this huge 29 lb. 2 oz.
northern on the Main Bay of Devils Lake Feb. 26 with smelt on tip-ups. The fish was 46" long. Cassellius and his partners, who caught several other big northerns, had quite a time getting this monster through the hole in the ice. It is believed this is a new Devils Lake record northern pike. The Wisconsin fishermen were guests of Whistling Wings Outfitters of Devils Lake, Clint and Touria Campbell, owners.



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Chinese New Year
The second and third graders from Leeds celebrated the Chinese New Year on Feb. 9. They enjoyed a Chinese meal and even ate their stir-fry with chopsticks. Left to right are Colton Wangler, Austin Thorp and Timber Morgan.



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Elementary art instructor Susan Braun (standing in rear) helped the third graders make rooster mobiles in honor of the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rooster. Left to right, front row, are Colton Wangler, Mylie Herman, Taryn Bjerke and Shelby Jorgenson. In the back row are Jessica Peterson, Alyssa Anderson, Mrs. Braun and Michael Ellison.



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Eileen Herman shared information about China and showed the classes unique and interesting objects from this fascinating country. She is pictured with her daughter, Mylie.



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Dives for dollars
Minnewaukan-Leeds cheerleader Amber Bracken dives for dollars at a recent basketball game. Winner of this raffle drawing picks up as many $1 bills as possible in 20 seconds. Raffle winner, Arden Helgeseth, opted not to dive and Amber Bracken volunteered. This raffle raises money for the Leeds Dollars for Scholars organization and was sponsored by the ND Telephone Co.
Amber picked up $29. The money went to Helgeseth, who in turn, donated it back to Leeds Dollars for Scholars.



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LACTC receives $10,000 grant
The North Dakota Telephone Company board of directors and general manager Dave Dircks presented the Lake Area Career and Technology Center (LACTC) with a $10,000 Foundation for Rural Education and Development (FRED) Technology Grant. Left to right are board members Richard Otto, Gerald Eissinger, Ray Dunnigan, Mary Holm, Linda Fee (LACTC), board members Lorne Field, Loren Kadelec, Denise Wolf (LACTC), board members Brian Udby, Gordon Kunz, Gene Norheim, Pat Kurtz (LACTC), board member Dave Monson and NDTC general manager Dave Dircks.


The North Dakota Telephone Co. (NDTC) played a part in securing a $10,000 grant for the Lake Area Career and Technology Center (LACTC). The LACTC was eligible for the Foundation for Rural Education and Development (FRED) Technology Grant by completing the application process which included a nomination letter from the local telephone company. That letter came from NDTC general manager Dave Dircks.
Dircks supported the LACTC application for a wireless computer lab with network connectivity by stating the lab would allow classrooms and shop areas, limited by structural barriers, to have access to Internet and network resources.
The FRED Technology Grants Committee reviewed more than 50 applications.
Only eight other schools in the nation received a technology grant this year.
FRED, in cooperation with the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative (RTFC), created the technology grants for rural school programs to help meet the growing need for innovative technology in the classroom. Additional information about FRED and its programs can be found at www.fred.org or by contacting NDTC at 662-1100 or 800-880-4213.



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Active Women donate
The Active Women of Maddock presented a check for $500 to be put toward remodeling the nurses’ station and administration office at the Maddock Memorial Home. Seated are Eileen Vetter, certified medication assistant and Elizabeth Slater, RN, at the Maddock Memorial Home. Certified medication assistant Deanna Johnson, standing, left, accepts the check for the memorial home. Presenting the check is Tracy Kallenbach, standing, right, a member of the Active Women.



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Students visit governor
The Maddock juniors and seniors were at the State Capitol Feb. 24. They are gathered here in the office of Gov. John Hoeven (far right). Also in the photo are Rep. Arlo Schmidt of Maddock (back in doorway at left), Rep.
Dennis Johnson of Devils Lake (back right of doorway) and Rep. Jon Nelson of Wolford (back, behind governor). Photo courtesy of Erin Wood of Lake Region State College.


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