Dakota West makeover brings changes

Todd Hickel, Mike Grote and Ashley Duncan (from left to right) form a core of the staff at the Dakota West Credit Union in New England.
Herald photo / Brad Mosher


There is something new about Dakota West Credit Union in New England.


By Brad Mosher
The Herald

The customers may have already noticed the upgrade recently in the credit union’s online site.
According to Todd Hickel, the agriculture and commercial loan officer at the branch, there have been changes that local residents should check out.
The credit union is looking to expand not only the services to local farmers and businesses, but also to residents.
I have exposure to a lot of different lending areas, plus I completed a multi-year professional financial planning training program in 2001,” he said, noting it covered, taxation, investments, retirement, and estate planning, which took years to complete,” he said recently.
“Our focus is on agricultural lending, ranching, real estate acquisitions, and a variety of consumer loans… We are also looking to expand our business contacts in manufacturing, construction, whatever else it may be,” Hickel said.
“We are willing to pursue any area that is viable. When people come in and have a plan, we normally sit down and talk things over. If they are entry-level beginners, then we could pair them up with different programs through The Bank of North Dakota or the SBA. We participate in as many of their new business development programs as possible. If it is viable, we certainly would work with them,” he explained.
There are opportunities available in Hettinger County, he added.
“In our community, our primary focus is on farming and ranching. We work with members on operating lines of credit, equipment purchases and real estate acquisitions. Also, if they are looking to expand or refinance or maybe they are currently with a lender that isn’t flexible.
“I think we offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to the different programs we utilize,” the loan officer said, noting that his regional supervisor in Watford City has challenged the branch to develop new business and expand our loan portfolio.
“That is one thing we are hoping to accomplish in the next year or two,” he added.
The Hettinger County communities can face challenges getting their locally manufactured products to market, he explained. “You have to analyze the different methods of transportation available … like UPS, FEDEX and the US Post Office. If they are into larger items, then you have to look at moving your product by truck or rail. You do your best to minimize your operating costs at all times,” he explained.

Relatively new
For Mike Grote, the regional operations manager and consumer loan officer at the credit union, the
business of lending has increased at the New England branch. Mike comes from a background of retail management and lending over the past 15 years.
Grote lived in Louisiana for 17 years before he made the move to North Dakota three years ago. He made mention about the temperature differences saying, “I have mowed the lawn on Christmas Day in tank-top, shorts and flip-flops.” The Washington native moved north to be close to family.
“I find the people here are even a lot more polite than in the south,” he added.
Grote says he is trying to help the local customers if they have any problems, but also if they can be helped with any services, including refinancing any loans. In addition, just being local means local customers do not have to deal with 800 numbers, he added. “That is kind of the benefit of the smaller communities.”
The upgrade has been moving a lot of the systems into the 21st Century, he added.
There has been a constant in the branch for many years. One employee at the credit union has been a mainstay. Toni Jung has been employed at the same location for about 40 years, even when the credit union took over the former Heartland branch and picked up Jung in the transition. Although her title officially reads, “Member Service Representative,” Jung sometimes feels her work in Dakota West Credit Union’s New England branch is also part psychiatrist and part preacher. Probably because Toni’s face has greeted the members here for nearly forty years, building relationships with many of the members. Her landmark anniversary lies just around the corner in July.
“Toni is the Tom Brady of New England,” her fellow member service representatives jest, referring to her longevity and popularity among our members.
She enjoys seeing familiar faces across the counter as well. “People who were members when I got here – their grand kids and kids are members.”
The credit union is looking to grow and expand its customer base, Hickel added. “Part of that is introducing the community to Mike and myself… and Ashley Duncan. She has kind of grown up in this area.” Ashley has been with the credit union almost three years as of September. She has 10 years of experience with customer service as well as five years of banking experience. She greets every member with a smile and shows professionalism with each transaction. She travels to and from her home in Dickinson everyday with her two sons Aiden and Jackson. She hopes to create more banking relationships in the future and mentions that if there are any questions, she would gladly take the call and help as best as she can.
The branch has a new crew of experienced lenders who have dealt with a lot of different things and can help a lot of different people. “We are trying to re-introduce ourselves into the community and help them feel comfortable coming to us.”
The New England branch has made quite a few changes, inside and out, but the biggest may be one that only the regular customers noticed. The online program was upgraded in late May in a process called the convergence. The branch also has made interior changes, including computer system upgrades and interior flooring. If you have any questions about the Core Conversion and how it effects your accounts, feel free to call at any time.
In addition, customers can directly call the branch at (701) 579-4708, extension 6610.


Toni Jung



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