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Published March 31, 2012, 02:08 PM

ND sees big increased in women-owned businesses

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The number of North Dakota businesses owned by women has grown by more than 48 percent since 1997, according to a recent report.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The number of North Dakota businesses owned by women has grown by more than 48 percent since 1997, according to a recent report.

The Grand Forks Herald reports (http://bit.ly/H2PmAi ) that an American Express analysis of Census Bureau data shows there are now an estimated 18,400 North Dakota businesses owned by women, up from 12,417 women-owned firms 15 years ago.

The report says those businesses have about 19,000 employees and annual sales of $2.6 billion, more than double the $1.2 billion annual sales of women-owned firms in 1997.

About 30 percent of American businesses are owned by women, and the number of women-owned firms has grown 1.5 times faster than the national average for all companies over the past 15 years.

Dona Wambsganss of Grand Forks said when she earned her license as a certified public accountant 12 years ago, the industry was dominated by men. She also noticed the gender gap in business owners as she expanded Business Specialties CPAs from an in-home operation to a firm that employs seven.

Wambsganss said more women are asking for her help to develop business plans and secure financing to join the growing ranks of female business owners in North Dakota.

"The opportunity is there for businesses in general to start in the area and in North Dakota, and so I believe that it does make it easier for a woman to start," she said.

But Wambsganss said business owners of both genders face the same issues.

"I really don't see any difference or any real challenges for women in the workplace at this time," she said. "I think there may have been years ago, but you don't see that anymore."

Wambsganss is a member of Grand Forks Women Hearth Link Network, a group run by Shannon Noack to help women gain referrals and support each other.

"We're all just looking to grow our businesses really," Noack said.

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Information from: Grand Forks Herald, http://www.grandforksherald.com

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