Community Spotlight: Could There Be A Fourth Economy?

by on Apr 10, 2017

Photo by Paul Flessland

As the world changes, and disruption continues to push innovation and challenge tradition, a fourth economy is taking a stronger hold and we must pay attention. In 1998, Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore introduced the world to the Experience Economy. They showcased their ideas that experiences and memories become a product more compelling than the goods and services consumed. Now, nearly 20 years after their ideas were introduced, we are watching entrepreneurs and organizations bet big on this idea, creating impact and opportunity with intentional design, thoughtful execution and a desire to delight customers.

This idea hit home to me in 2012 when landscape architect Mike Allmendinger of Land Elements spoke at TEDxFargo. During his talk, he introduced the idea that a unique sense of place creates an experience, an experience creates a memory, memories inspire an engaged community and engaged communities lead to impact. His talk shifted the way I viewed the world, both as a consumer and in my business. It led our team at Emerging Prairie to focus on creating whimsy, wonder and energy with our events. It pushed me to spend more money, personally, on high-quality experiences versus buying based on price. His talk inspired me to join the efforts and collaborate with others to make our community a driver of unique experiences in hopes of creating better memories for our visitors and locals. Allmendinger’s message has made a tremendous impact on the way I see the world.

The Fargo community is filled with folks committed to this idea. Want to see the experience economy in action? Here are a few places to consider seeing it:


A small, hidden cafe in the middle of a vintage furniture store on Roberts Street, Bernbaum’s creates an incredible experience with their craft and unique atmosphere. When you sit at the countertop or dine on vintage furniture, the experience is enriched with a unique energy paired with outstanding food.

The Hotel Donaldson

By far, the best hotel experience I’ve ever had. The team at the HoDo is focused on providing an extraordinary experience with turndown service that introduces incredible pastries and local music as guests prepare for bed. The rooms are filled with unique local art that celebrate the artists of the region. Their spaces are designed with intention, in a calm, soothing environment. You may pay for a place to stay, yet the experience created leaves countless memories for all.


Our local sporting goods store has set the bar high. Really high. The leadership team at SCHEELS has bet big on customer experience. From statues of presidents to interactive hunting opportunities, the folks here have delighted and wowed guests from around the world. Their signature ferris wheel captures the imagination of children and adults alike, creating family memories cherished through generations.

The Loretta Building

An up-cycled building in the heart of downtown, this building is designed with intent. You’ll find windows that extend light, a walkway for the community to connect from Roberts Street to Broadway and a fascinating energy of hope and possibility. The building is home to mixed-use with retail, restaurants and office space. The design has fostered community and been a showcase for our guests from around the world.

The Toasted Frog

Whenever I host a guest in town, I try to bring them to The Toasted Frog for a drink at the back kitchen bar. The ability to have a fancy beverage and watch the kitchen team hustle to prepare meals allows me to enjoy new smells, interactions and an experience I can’t find anywhere else. It’s a small addition to a large space, yet for a small few at a time, it’s a delightful experience.

One Million Cups Fargo

This weekly event is the largest of its kind. With over 80 One Million Cups events in the country, Fargo’s has the largest attendance numbers. Our team has designed the experience to foster community. We interject performance artists to showcase their craft, we build in an environment for humor and have a casual approach to sometimes intense topics. The sum of all the elements creates an energy that continues to draw large crowds.

Red River Farmer’s Market

For 10+ Saturdays in the summer, thousands gather for North Dakota’s most robust outdoor market experience. The smells of food, interactive exhibits—including llama petting and artisan bread tastings—and the live music lead to a great local hangout. The collection of people from across the region showcasing their unique products captivate the creativity in all of us.

Honorable Shout-Outs

Tyrel’s Bomb Dog on a Saturday night in Downtown Fargo (across the street from Dempsey’s) and exploring the art at West Acres any day of the week.

Looking for additional resources?


  • “The Experience Economy” by Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore
  • “This is Where I Belong” by Melody Warnick
  • “Delivery Happiness” by Tony Hsieh


  • Mike Allmendinger at TEDxFargo
  • Amanda Burden’s TED talk
  • Jason Roberts at TEDxOU