Interview – Brian Opp, Learn about the business opportunities in North Dakota.


Where to set up your business? Which state activity best fit your business? Who are the main Aerospace & Defense players on each states? Who to contact if you need more information?

AerospaceExport would like to bring you all the main information that you need to know by asking this questions to the state representatives and allowing you to connect with them if you need it. This interview will focus on the state of North Dakota.

Information on the state:

North Dakota is a state in the midwestern and northern regions of the United States. It is the nineteenth most extensive, the fourth smallest by population, and the fourth smallest sparsely populated of the 50 U.S. states. North Dakota was admitted as the 39th state to the Union on November 2, 1889. The state capital is Bismarck, and the largest city is Fargo.

North Dakota

North Dakota weathered the Great Recession of the early 21st century with a boom in natural resources, particularly a boom in oil extraction from the Bakken formation, which lies beneath the northwestern part of the state. The development drove strong job and population growth, and low unemployment.


What about the Aerospace & Defense opportunities in North Dakota?

We asked our questions to Brian Opp in charge of the development of the Aerospace & Defense industry in the state.

Brian Opp, Business Development Manager at North Dakota Department of Commerce

What is your current position and what do you do for your state?

  • Manager, Aerospace Business Development
  • My work focuses on encouraging economic growth and diversification in the aerospace industry.  North Dakota places a heavy emphasis on the UAS/drone industry, which is where I spend most of my efforts.

How your state can help foreign companies willing to develop their activities on the Aerospace & Defense industry?

  • North Dakota has many attributes that are attractive to drone companies, including: an FAA-approved test site, research universities that are always looking to collaborate, a growing cluster of private drone companies, and a favorable business climate.
  • Drone companies will also find many “helpers” in North Dakota, whether it is state or local leaders, business incubators or community developers.  These helpers encourage a climate that is innovative, entrepreneurial and also welcoming to newcomers.

What are the main Aerospace counties or association that you would advise foreign companies to connect with, in your state?

  • Northern Plains UAS Test Site
  • North Dakota Department of Commerce
  • University of North Dakota – Aerospace
  • Emerging Prairie
  • North Dakota State University
  • Grand Sky Development Company


Could you give us an estimation on the average salary for a technical worker, electronic engineer, mechanical engineer and software engineer in your state?

  • I do not have this information readily available, although it is well known that software engineers are in high demand everywhere.


Could you give us an overview of your state Aerospace & Defense clusters? Main clusters location? Main Aerospace & Defense companies?

  • Our main drone cluster is located in eastern North Dakota in the communities of Fargo and Grand Forks.
  • These communities are home to our research universities, our test site, and numerous companies that are active in the drone industry.
  • North Dakota companies participate in many sections of the drone value chain, for example:  software, hardware, payloads, commercial applications, defense, training, and more.

Could we have some more information on the State tax system for Aerospace companies? Any governmental incentive program?

  • The following is a link to the website for North Dakota’s Tax Department:
  • North Dakota has numerous state economic incentives/programs.  Visit for more information.
  • Additional opportunities often exist at the local level.
Summer landscape in North Dakota

Why your state would be particularly attractive for foreign companies compared to other states in the US?

  • North Dakota has provided soft-landings for numerous international drone companies in recent years.  Those companies include Elbit Systems, Sharper Shape, Robot Aviation, eSmart Systems and more.
  • Companies will find the necessary assets and assistance readily available along with a cooperative spirit that desires to see all parties find success.

Any local conferences or exhibition in your state that you highly recommend to assist?

  • Drone Biz Meetup – monthly gathering in Grand Forks, ND
  • Drone Focus Meetup – monthly gathering in Fargo, ND
  • Drone Focus Conference – annual conference in Fargo, ND
  • The UAS Summit – annual conference in Grand Forks, ND

Any thing that you would like to add?

  • North Dakota has been encouraging growth and advancement in the drone industry for more than 10 years.  We are a leading location in the U.S. for the drone industry.  We welcome the opportunity to help international companies explore their options in the U.S.
  • North Dakota will have a large presence at AUVSI’s Xponential conference and exhibition April 30 – May 3 in Denver, CO. Visit us at booth #2634.


Thank you Brian,


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@AerospaceExport’s team