Family, community and country
Kristin Hedger, vice president for business development at Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, works day in and day out to provide stable jobs to western North Dakotans and to continue to grow her family's company.
Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing was founded by Hedger's grandparents in 1987. She said her first job was working with her grandparents delivering mail as a kid.
"I remember the founding of the company and it's near and dear to my heart," she said.
Hedger was born in Bismarck and grew up in Killdeer and Texas. She said in the wintertime she would be in Texas and spent time in Killdeer in the summertime and on holidays.
"I grew up riding horses, working cattle and then of course in the family business learning aerospace and learning from my family how to expand business opportunities for western North Dakota," Hedger said.
Western North Dakota and the Texas Hill Country have similar cultures, Hedger said.
"They're very similar and ranch-oriented," she said. "They both celebrate resilience and authenticity."
Hedger received her bachelor's degree in political science from the American University's School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., while she was working with former U.S. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. She holds a master's degree in arts and religion with a concentration in ethics from Yale University.
Hedger said it was important for her to be able to understand other religions and cultures.
"I did that because I'm a Christian but also because I saw international affairs through an arena that I believed would likely be influenced heavily by religion," she said. "I thought it'd be important to understand those dynamics."
While Hedger grew up with the company, she got more formally involved in the company initially in business development around 12 years ago to help pick up new contracts and doing advocacy with Congress.
"I think one key thing, especially with my background and growing up in Killdeer and seeing some of the challenges that exist for our economy is market diversification," she said.
She said one of the reasons her grandparents started KMM was because of the ongoing drought climate at the time. She said her grandfather had a background in aerospace and her grandmother had a passion for building community.
"They really understood the need for diversity in our marketplace," she said. "I had a deep appreciation for that from a very early age. It really led me to have that passion."
Hedger spends time in Washington speaking with lawmakers about why companies like KMM are so important to not only local communities, but on a global scale. Hedger has been a proponent of the Export-Import Bank, which is a government agency that provides a variety of loan, guarantee, and insurance products intended to aid the export of American goods and services. She said working with lawmakers can offer a range of opportunities.
"I think KMM is an example of what heartland innovation and true entrepenurialship can provide for the population," she said. "I think we've set ourselves apart through just shear gratitude for being apart of what is one of the most elite industries for manufacturing in the world."
Hedger said the company has a commitment to "family, community and country."
While KMM has locations across North Dakota, Hedger said it is a global company working with countries around the world.
"We're international and I think that's something to be celebrated from our prospective in western North Dakota and it's because of our work ethic and our communities are committed to excellence," she said.
Hedger was also recently named to the North Dakota District Export Council, which is a volunteer organization drawn primarily from local businesses. DECs are comprised of experienced exporters whose companies have been positively impacted by international sales, exporting and Foreign Direct Investment. Its members help ensure U.S. companies remain globally competitive through professional mentoring and advocacy. New DEC members serve four-year terms and are appointed directly by the secretary of commerce.
KMM celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, as well as adding a new addition to its Dickinson facility.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., also spoke last year about the importance of a company like KMM in North Dakota.
"The economic activity you create is very very important for our state," he said. "But you know what else is important? ... the high quality work you do. I know the quality of work you do benefits all Americans."
Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker said last year that the products KMM makes also keeps soldiers safe.
"The quality that you turn out and the products that you make that saves people's lives every day is so important to the airman, the sailors, the marines, the soldiers on the ground," he said last year. "You just have to step back and appreciate the work you do for them and they really appreciate the quality that goes into every one of your products."
In the coming year, Hedger said they are looking forward to many different opportunities. They are also looking into space exploration.
Hedger said it's very special to be a part of a family company, which she says continues throughout the company.
"That family dynamic is something that's conveyed throughout our company," she said. "We value family, community and country very greatly."
Hedger said she enjoys being a part of a company working on behalf of families to provide good, stable work to North Dakotans.
"North Dakota is such a boom-and-bust-related economy, without manufacturing it's very difficult to have that stability and KMM provides that stability for a lot of families and that's a fun thing to be able to advocate for and to fight for," she said. "At the end of the day we're all saying our prayers, trying do what we can for our community.