Kevin Turner said it in English; the slide behind him carried the message in a few dozen other languages, all directed at the architects and employees of Microsoft Fargo: Thank you.
“Microsoft is so proud of the 10 years here in Fargo,” the company’s chief operating officer said.
Turner’s remarks came at a company reception Tuesday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Microsoft’s acquisition of Great Plains Software, a $1.1 billion deal that gave the technology giant a major presence here. About 200 business leaders, elected officials and other guests were on hand for the event.
In addition to his praise for the Fargo campus, Turner also spoke at length on trends in technology – touch screens, social computing, the need to cultivate more high-tech talent – and made a bit of a sales pitch for the company’s cloud computing services.
He was joined by Kirill Tatarinov, the head of Microsoft Business Solutions, a division formed in the aftermath of the Great Plains acquisition. Tatarinov succeeded Doug Burgum as a corporate vice president after the longtime Great Plains chief executive stepped down in 2007.
He credited the 400-plus Great Plains employees who’ve stayed with the company through the decade following the acquisition with fostering a tight-knit culture here – and ultimately pushing values like teamwork and empathy into other parts of Microsoft.
“It is fair to say that with that merger that happened 10 years ago, Microsoft has changed,” he said. “Great Plains brought some very important, very exciting values to the greater Microsoft community.”
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and U.S. Rep. Rick Berg also spoke at the reception. Both praised Burgum for bringing jobs to the state, and upheld Great Plains and Microsoft as an example of the state’s economic success.
Dalrymple, who’s known Burgum since Burgum was a young man managing honeybee hives for Interstate Seed Co., echoed other speakers in praising the caliber of Great Plains and Microsoft employees.
“(Burgum) had a great theory that if you get really great people and you get them all together and you give them a mission, they might just get it done,” he said.
Don Morton, the site leader for Microsoft Fargo, presided over the reception. The former North Dakota State University football coach joined Great Plains in 1999 as Burgum’s chief of staff.
“We’re proud to celebrate a decade of making a difference,” he said. “We want to show proper respect for the past with great focus on the present as we build an extremely bright future.”
The afternoon events were a prelude to a private party in the evening. The company arranged a swanky affair to rival the famed Great Plains parties, complete with beer and wine tasting, live music, and fireworks. Employees donned their evening finery – the only time many of them may ever have the occasion to wear something remotely formal on site – to dine, dance and celebrate.
From the lawn, one stoic guest oversaw the proceedings. It’s a stone pillar buried deep in the earth and fashioned after the antiquated mile markers that run along the North Dakota-South Dakota border – and also after the similarly inspired rivalry trophy held by the winner of the annual North Dakota State-South Dakota State football game.
It’s a nod to both the sense of history and the alma mater of the man for whom the marker was made, a parting gift for the Great Plains patriarch who now lends his name to the stretch of campus over which the marker presides: Burgum Field.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502