Posted 7/15/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
Gene Veeder is a man credited with using his position in the community to change Watford City from a rural community like many others in the state, to a thriving community that is looked up to by other communities in the state.
Veeder has served as Executive Director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority and Tourism Bureau in Watford City, North Dakota since 1994. Through his position, Veeder has been instrumental in the growth of McKenzie County and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Veeder has been awarded the Wally Beyer Rural Development Award, an award given by the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives for his significant and lasting contributions to rural development.
McKenzie Electric Cooperative nominated Veeder for this award because they feel that he was instrumental in transforming Watford City from a rural community with a population of less than 4,000 people into a thriving economic icon with employment opportunities from major information-based businesses.
The conversion began when a local committee identified information technology (IT) as an economic development strategy. From there, they used IT to create everything from new employment opportunities to better healthcare.
“The value and power of cooperative decision-making between community leaders and IT providers is essential in the success of a community,” adds Veeder.
This dedication to technology led to Watford City earning the 'City of the Year' honors from the North Dakota League of Cities in 1999 and also attracted the publicity that turned some business heads. As a result, Watford City has developed companies like Midland Atlas Company, Cross Consulting Group, and All-In-One products, as well as encouraging the growth of First International Bank & Trust.
“The biggest obstacles to overcome on the path to success were educating people about the IT industry, educating the world of business and industry that rural America was still valuable, obtaining financial resources, and providing education to the rural areas,” states Veeder.
As the Executive Director of the McKenzie County Tourism Bureau, Veeder has taken a leadership role in the development of the Long X Visitors Center, one of the state’s newest attractions. He worked with Watford City in developing and promoting the recently constructed Wild West Water Park, the Children’s Play Park, the Watford City Golf Course Clubhouse, the bike and walking paths, the nature park and pond, the heritage park and other regional attractions such as the Maah Daah Hey Trail.
“Those of us who live in McKenzie County, and in the state of North Dakota, are truly the lucky ones,” says Brenda Berquist, McKenzie Electric Cooperative. “We have a modest man that wakes up every morning and dedicates his life to the betterment of North Dakota, working endlessly to provide a better life, filled with greater opportunity for all of us. We are the WINNERS – thanks to a man named Gene Veeder!”
Gene and his wife, Beth, have three grown daughters and operate a ranch in the Badlands of McKenzie County.