New Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller good for business statewide, North Dakota business leaders say – InForum

GRAND FORKS — Two eastern North Dakota business leaders say the state’s new lieutenant governor is good for business across the state.

Tammy Miller, a longtime businesswoman turned state employee, was sworn in as lieutenant governor after former Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford resigned on Jan. 2. Miller has served as Governor Doug Burgum’s chief operating officer since April 2020.

Prior to working in the governor’s office, she had a long career in the private sector, including serving as CEO of Border States, a Fargo-based wholesale electricity distributor, for nearly 14 years.

Brian Johnson, CEO of Choice Bank and co-chairman of the Valley Prosperity Partnership, said he and the rest of the VPP — a group of business and community leaders dedicated to seeking economic opportunity to benefit the Red River Valley — are excited about Miller’s appointment.

“We are grateful for the former lieutenant governor’s service to the state, and we certainly believe that Tammy, with her qualifications and having been in the Burgum administration here for the past several years, is well-prepared to have a solid understanding of the issues for the state of North Dakota as a whole,” he said.

Miller began her career in public accounting before taking the job at Border States in 1991. She has been with the company for nearly 30 years, serving as CEO for her last 14 years in the Border States. Under her leadership, the company grew from a $485 million company to a $2.5 billion company. Today, Border States has more than 100 locations in 24 states.

“I started with the company when the company was very small, and it was like working for a startup,” Miller said. “I got to work in many areas of the business, although my primary focus was on accounting.”

Miller also served on numerous volunteer boards, including co-chair of the VPP, a position she held until becoming COO in the Governor’s Office.

So far, her diverse experience in business has translated well to the public sector, Miller says. As COO of the Governor’s Office, she worked to standardize state agency websites to make them easier for North Dakotans to navigate, similar to work in border states to streamline the user experience through mergers and acquisitions across the United States. While running the company, she learned that economic diversification within the company can help it weather economic downturns more easily.

“It’s something that’s really important in the state and a key part of the governor’s Main Street initiative,” she said. “We are working very hard to continue economic development and diversification in the state.”

Miller says her experience in the private sector will help North Dakota businesses because she knows what it’s like to run a business.

“We strongly believe in innovation ahead of regulation, and having been in the business, we fully understand the importance of ease of doing business with the state,” Miller said. “It will certainly help us attract and retain new businesses if we are easy to do business with, have less regulation and promote more innovation to solve more problems.”

Miller has lived and worked in eastern North Dakota most of her life. A native of Brocket, North Dakota, near Devils Lake, she attended college at Minnesota State University Moorhead and spent most of her career in Fargo. He now lives in Mandan.

Johnson expects Miller’s experiences in eastern North Dakota to carry over to her state leadership, he said.

Steve Burian, who co-chaired the VPP with Miller and is CEO of Burian & Associates, said Miller always approached North Dakota as one big entity when she was doing business. She has many ties to eastern North Dakota, he said.

“I think she’s going to be able to bring some perspectives to eastern North Dakota in a very appropriate way,” he said.

Johnson and Burian agree that Miller’s leadership is good news for business across the state, not just in eastern North Dakota. Johnson said both Burgum and Miller know what it’s like to be on the business side of a public-private partnership.

“Doug and Tammy are completely on board with those things because as they ran their business, it was important to the community,” he said. “Well, now it’s important to the whole country.”

Miller says she has great relationships and contacts in eastern North Dakota, but is familiar with the needs of western North Dakota because of her work with border states across the state.

“For many years, a lot of the profitability came from the western part of the state with the different oil booms that happened over the years, so I’m very knowledgeable and passionate about what’s going on in the western part of the state as well,” she said.

Making connections with leaders and constituents in western North Dakota is a priority for Miller in her new role. The lieutenant governor serves as president of the Senate, so getting to know senators is a top priority given that the legislature is in session.

“I’m hoping that after we’re done with the session, I’ll be able to get out, as I like to say, on the field and start meeting with a lot of our constituents across the state. But I probably need to focus more on the western part of the state just to build some of those relationships and hear firsthand from them how they’re doing and how we can help them,” she said.

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