BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday appointed GIANT Sunflower Seeds co-founder Jay Schuler to lead the North Dakota Department of Commerce, citing Schuler’s successful track record as a job creator and entrepreneur for more than 40 years.
“Jay Schuler’s impressive background of incubating and launching 15 startup companies spanning five continents and deep understanding of value-added agriculture will be highly valuable as we seek to diversify North Dakota’s economy and reinvent state government,” Burgum said.
Schuler will assume his new role as commerce commissioner on Feb. 27.
As commissioner, one of his top priorities will be to advance the governor’s Main Street Initiative, focusing on a skilled workforce, smart, efficient infrastructure and healthy, vibrant communities. Schuler will oversee the department’s four divisions – Economic Development, Workforce Development, Community Services and Tourism – and continue its work to improve the quality of life for North Dakota citizens by leading efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth.
“As someone who has spent his entire career launching and growing businesses, I’m excited to join a cabinet led by a successful entrepreneur in Gov. Burgum,” Schuler said. “We share the view that in order for our urban and rural communities to prosper, we must create a regulatory environment and support network that encourages startups to form and thrive, while ensuring our existing businesses have the tools and workforce they need to flourish and innovate.”
A native of Wahpeton, N.D., and neighboring Breckenridge, Minn., Schuler started his first company in college. He is a founding investor in both GIANT Sunflower Seeds, the largest sunflower confection retailer in the Upper Midwest, and Richland IFC, a dominant supplier of organic blue corn. Schuler also is an original investor in Ag America Network, which is carried by more than 30 radio stations in North Dakota and South Dakota.
Recognized as a teacher and mentor to new businesses, Schuler was selected to be the first Lynn Holaday Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation in November 2012. Schuler has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture economics from North Dakota State University, and he received the John Lee Coulter Award from the NDSU Agribusiness Club in 2003.
“Jay knows first-hand what it takes to grow a startup business into a nationally recognized brand,” Burgum said. “His commitment to entrepreneurial education and breadth of experience as a business owner, farmer and investor make him the right person to steer the Department of Commerce through a rapidly changing world.”
Schuler succeeds former Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson, who retired Dec. 31.