WASHINGTON — From the outside looking in, it can appear that not much can get done in the current state of government. But Jake Joraanstad’s recent visit to the United States Capitol for the State of the Union showed him that there is more to what goes on in Congress than meets the eye.
“The thing that people probably don’t recognize from the outside looking in is how important it is that they continue to carry on the tradition of the senators being in the same room,” he said, noting that senators from both sides of the aisle have dinner together and interact and must cast votes in person.
Joraanstad, founder and CEO of agriculture app developer Bushel, was the State of the Union guest of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., on Tuesday, Feb. 4. A statement from Hoeven’s office said he invited Joraanstad to the speech to highlight North Dakota’s growing technology sector.
“We’re excited to have Jake in Washington this week for the State of the Union address because it’s an opportunity to celebrate a major milestone for his company, which met its fundraising goal of $19.5 million in December, and to highlight the broad benefits of supporting tech startups in our state,” the senator said.
Joraanstad said the experience was “pretty awesome.” He toured the Capitol, visited Hoeven’s office, walked through the special underground passage to the Capitol and got to have “dinner with a lot of personalities,” including Sens. Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham. During the speech, he sat above the entrance to the House of Representatives, looking straight on at President Donald Trump.
Joraanstad said the dynamic in the room reminded him of a sporting event with two distinct teams. But regardless of the tension between Democrats and Republicans, Joraanstad said his host seemed to get along well with everyone.
“Everybody seems to love Sen. Hoeven, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on,” he said. “He seems to be having a good time out here.”
Joraanstad said agriculture didn’t feature into much of the speech, besides talk of recent trade deals like the phase one deal with China and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But he was pleased to hear the president talk of efforts to expand broadband in rural areas.
Joraanstad didn’t go to Washington just to attend the speech; he’s also doing business. By Wednesday morning, he already had visited with North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong about the importance of not overregulating the tech sector. Joraanstad cautioned that small businesses, like his, have more difficulty dealing with regulations than large ones and that overregulation would drive small tech companies out of business.
"There’s some value in the relationships you’re building while you’re out here," Joraanstad said.