Lunch series aims to connect Grand Forks area business community to drones

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--Creating connections between local businesses and the growing drone industry in Grand Forks is the driving force behind a new monthly lunch series launching this week.

071016.N.GFH_.DRONEBIZ Baumbach, Brandon.jpg

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-Creating connections between local businesses and the growing drone industry in Grand Forks is the driving force behind a new monthly lunch series launching this week.

For several years, the city and North Dakota as a whole have garnered a reputation for being a hub for unmanned aircraft systems activity and event organizers say they want to continue building on that foundation.

"We want to connect local businesses with the UAS industry," said Brandon Baumbach, business development projects coordinator for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation. "That way they can take advantage of opportunities that exist today that have been identified and, more importantly, identify those next-generation challenges and opportunities."

Those efforts have taken the form of Drone Biz, a monthly lunch series that will feature speakers highlighting drone technology, its potential applications and business opportunities. The event also will have time for networking among attendees.

The lunch series is co-hosted by Evolve ND, Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation and The Chamber.


Open to the public, Baumbach said organizers hope to see people representing a wide variety of industries and backgrounds attending, from owners of established businesses to students enrolled in various programs at the University of North Dakota.

"When we get those people in the same room I think there's going to be a lot of innovation to come," Baumbach added.

The kickoff event is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday in the Grand Forks Herald's Community Room, 375 Second Ave. N. Future events will be one hour long and will have a charge for lunch, but the inaugural lunch will be free and include an introduction to the drone industry and acknowledge strides that have been made so far in the region.

"Drone Biz is supporting what's already been happening and trying to get it out there in a new way," Baumbach said. "It's definitely a nod toward all the hard work that's been going on and we wouldn't be where we are without that work."

The speaker will be Thomas Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development Co. Swoyer's company is behind the Grand Sky aviation and business park under construction on Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The park, with an estimated completion cost between $200 million and $300 million, is considered the first of its kind in the country. It has attracted two large defense contractors, Northrop Grumman Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., as tenants.

Future speakers will be pulled from various areas of the industry, including those that go beyond the physical aircraft such as software developers or data analysis and storage professionals.

The event is similar to another effort in Fargo, which also hosts a monthly luncheon called Drone Focus organized by nonprofit Emerging Prairie. The goal isn't competition with that event, which also draws in speakers and audience members to talk about drones.


"In a lot of ways they try to have the same goal and regionally we're partners in that," Baumbach said. "We want to make sure North Dakota in general is the UAS capital."

Drone Biz guests are asked to RSVP, which can be sent to .

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