Lyman wants to make a difference

MINOT, N.D. – Mark Lyman ’16 knows it sounds like a cliché when he says it, but he just wants to make a difference.

“If I have to boil it all down, it’s one of the things that makes me happy, that makes me feel like I’ve done something with my life,” he said. “Sometimes I suppose I try to solve too many problems, or become too aggressive, or I focus on solving a problem when all a person wants is someone to listen; I have to balance that.

“But, it goes decades back and is a large part of me. I want to be someone who is helpful and someone who makes a difference.”

Lyman believes his role as economic development specialist with the Minot Area Chamber EDC strategically aligns with his past roles in Minot including KMOT, Odney, and Minot State. These positions all allowed him to highlight the good.

“One of the best things about the Chamber EDC, as well as a number of the jobs I’ve had, is they have allowed me to showcase the good things happening,” he said. “I could take a step back with many of them and see the good things that were happening, with the clients I worked with at Odney, with a number of the city and regional construction projects with this job, at Minot State, spotlighting the good things that were happening with students and the University.”

The title of economic development specialist comes with a varied blend of different roles and jobs that suits Lyman perfectly. He doesn’t hold a degree or certificate in economic development because there isn’t anyone that offers it — and he tried to find one. But it fits some of the skills he has picked up both from degrees at BYU in broadcast journalism and a master’s in management for Minot State and work experience.

“It blew my mind that you don’t go to school to study this, there are no degrees in economic development,” Lyman said. “I had to combine the skills I had, the listening skills and storytelling skills and the ability to plan, the ability learn and grow. I feel I’m good at a bunch of things and the Chamber EDC has been great to say that we have staff for these certain areas.”

While he doesn’t have a specific economic development degree, his master’s in management has certainly paid dividends. Lyman didn’t travel the traditional route of graduate school after undergrad, instead he returned to school in 2015 after more than a decade in the workforce.

“I had a little more flexibility in my life at home, career, family and wanted to be involved in things and the master’s program helped me do that, in a fast way, at night, in person, which is what I wanted,” he of his time at MSU. “I had to set aside time and my family, especially my wife Katherine, was great about it — if I needed to go to the library to study, I was able to do that. The program was exactly what I wanted; it was a full-on master’s program. The projects were bigger, so it was rigorous, but I didn’t think it was overly tough to go back. I was able to work my way through it.

“One of the reasons I went back to school was to better understand business. My undergrad in journalism showed me how to communicate, how to talk, tell a story, ask the right questions, but I wanted to learn another side. It has paid off as I better understand what is a good business and how can we support it. The marrying of the two degrees has really worked out.”

When arriving in Minot to begin his time with KMOT, it was his first trip to the state. His initial plan was to stay 18 months as many young reporters do. Outside of a short stint in Fargo, it’s been 20 years for Lyman.

“There’s a lot that goes into my answer when asked ‘why Minot.’ The short answer is the people. People care about you. That doesn’t mean we are all going in the same direction always,” Lyman said. “But Minot is a small enough of a community where an individual can make a difference, but big enough where the difference you are making isn’t minor.”

His rise from young journalist to his current role seems both infinitely large and yet not too far of a jump.

“I think some of life’s changes come at you pretty quickly and it’s really how you respond to things. You can call it God’s hand or karma, or whatever, but there are roles you play or places you are supposed to be even if you don’t feel too good about,” he said. “Professionally there have been some big changes and not all of them have been perfect, but none of the jobs I’ve had have seemed like a leap. I know I’ve given them my all.”

While there are multiple areas he has been or is currently involved in, two Minot projects stick out: Start Up Minot with the Minot Area Chamber EDC and the Magic City Discovery Center.

Start Up Minot goes back to before his time with the Chamber EDC, but its impact is being seen currently through local entrepreneurs.

“It probably goes back a decade with the idea of better supporting entrepreneurs and came to a head in 2018 when IEDC (International Economic Development Corporation) representatives conducted a study and did some focus groups at the MADC (Minot Area Development Corporation) and City of Minot’s request,” Lyman said. “When I came in, we were told we need to get moving so we reached out to some people in Fargo and some people in Tennessee and they provided some curriculum.

“We now have two components, the academy, that is all about you and your idea and how can we help you succeed. And we have the networking and business showcase, which is an opportunity to listen to local entrepreneurs and hear how those individuals grew their business.”

His work with the Magic City Discovery Center also helps Lyman understand that great economic development goes beyond just the next start up and includes all areas of business, including nonprofits.

“It’s important to grow our own as well as attract new businesses. The individual entrepreneurs are the backbone of the community,” he said. “It goes along with the nonprofits. In the case of the Discovery Center, we saw a need there and while my vision wasn’t necessarily the same vision other saw, we continued to work towards the reality. I didn’t necessarily lead that charge, but I was asked to help out and kept doing it.”

Lyman believes he will continue to help out.

“The tough part of this job is I probably get told no way more than yes, but if you aren’t out there swinging for the fences, you aren’t going to get those yeses,” he said. “It’s not necessarily me directing people but directing them to the right resources. So, I’m just as supportive to filling in potholes as I am building the center as I am to attracting the next $200 million expansion. They all play a role in economic development and to building Minot.

“Hopefully all of the things I’ve been involved with are helping me do something good.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 02/21/23   

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