There is no end to the number of innovators doing great things in our region, but as OTA-Pollen CEO Hugh Weber points out, Midwesterners do not like bragging about their achievements.
"I like this vision of the farmer out there that already is an inventor, already is tinkering, but hasn't yet shared with the world yet," Weber said.
OTA-Pollen, a newly-formed company with connections, can help spread the word. Using a $3 million grant from the Bush Foundation, OTA-Pollen is the product of a merger between two top Midwest networks.
OTA organizes in-person networking events in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota, with a goal of "connecting the disconnected." It was founded in 2009 by Weber, who lives in Sioux Falls. The name OTA comes from the last three letters of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Pollen is a digital networking community that publishes a twice-monthly newsletter with crowd sourced information on job opportunities, networking opportunities and peer-to-peer recognition for individual accomplishments. It was founded in 2009 by Lars Leafblad
So, what does this mean to the folks who live in KELOLAND? OTA-Pollen gives farmers, photographers, writers, inventors, and community leaders - just to name a few - a broader reach. This non-profit is essentially a network, allowing people access to resources to help them thrive, as well as a platform - both online and in person - to share success stories to inspire others.
"In general, this region is deeply connected on a personal level, but on a professional level there's a lot of isolation," Weber said.
Weber hopes this company changes and strengthens how individuals, organizations, business leaders and communities connect within our three-state region.
"When stories are told somewhere else, we think that life happens somewhere else. When stories are told here, people will recognize that life is happening here," Weber said.
Weber's partners, Executive Director Jamie Millard and Creative Executive Director Meghan Murphy, both come from Pollen. Calling this a collaborative effort, Weber hope this venture helps dreams, ideas and achievements grow to the next level.
"It's taken a lot of coffee, places like this, but we're there. We're just at the starting line. We're just at the beginning," Weber said.