DL native turns love of numbers into successful businesses

Mark Anderson, a 1975 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, has received a seemingly endless list of financial and academic accolades since leaving town. In fact, if one were to walk into the Minnesota State University Moorhead School of Busines...

Mark Anderson, a 1975 graduate of Detroit Lakes High School, has received a seemingly endless list of financial and academic accolades since leaving town. In fact, if one were to walk into the Minnesota State University Moorhead School of Business, his name would surely stand out.

“They named a broom closet after me,” he said, jokingly. That “broom closet” is actually an auditorium. It goes well with the scholarships named after him at both MSUM and NDSU.

“It’s kind of cool - not everyone gets that, I guess,” he said lightly, adding that it’s always fun when he sees his students (he is an adjunct professor at MSUM) put the dots together that he is the Mark Anderson they know from the auditorium and scholarship awards.

Tuesday night, the former Laker who calls himself a high school “mathlete,” received yet another highly prestigious honor. He was given the L.B. Hartz Professional Achievement Award for his contribution to the region in terms of economic growth and contribution to the community in general. It’s an award only the most notable and accomplished professionals in the region receive.

An impressive resume


Anderson is one of two founders of BlackRidge Financial, which operates 11 banking offices, as well as a newly-added insurance agency. He sits as BlackRidge President and CEO, but his work in finance dates back to the mid ’80s when he co-founded Community First Bank.

“We started with nothing - just two people,” said Anderson, who turned that “nothing” into one lending opportunity after the other for area businesses just starting up or looking to grow. Through their growth, Community First grew as well, ultimately employing 700 people when Anderson sold it roughly a decade ago and began creating BlackRidge Financial. It was back to just him, a partner and another dream.

But Anderson had done this before and was more than ready to do it again. Now, with 11 banks stretching from Brainerd and Alexandria all the way over to Fargo and Bismarck that collectively hold $400 million in assets, Anderson says his goal is simply to continue that growth with this company. BlackRidge Financial has already outgrown its Fargo location and is in the midst of building a larger facility in West Fargo. Anderson’s secret weapon to growth, according to him, is the people around him.

“The philosophy is that we want to support and develop talented people and have a culture that is built around people and customers and trying to do something that is ‘client-centric,’ something unique,” said Anderson. “It’s all about finding those quality people, helping them, supporting them, then getting out of the way so that you don’t hinder them.”

But Anderson isn’t all business. This DL guy has family roots that helped him grow into not just the businessman he is, but the man he is.

Growing up

Anderson didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, but rather a set of parents who were ready to teach him the value of hard work.

His father, a truck driver, and his mother, a homemaker during most of his childhood, instilled in him a work ethic that complimented his natural intellect.


“The word I made up for him is ‘cerebralismness’ because he is the smartest guy I have ever met,” said his older brother, Dennis Anderson, an engineer.

Although he, too, has a resume that would impress most, he remains in awe of his brother, who is about a year and a half his junior.

“I remember when he was 5 years old he, would do flashcards with baseball cards,” said Dennis. “He had all the stats on the back of these cards memorized.”

In fact, when most kids were just learning to count, Mark was light years ahead.

“I taught myself to calculate batting averages when I was 4 and then taught myself how to do division,” said Mark, who learned how to do high school algebra in the second grade.

“My brother and I were doing our babysitter’s high school homework,” he said, laughing.

As Mark grew up, he followed very closely in his older brother’s footsteps, getting a job wherever Dennis had a job. They both drove freight in Detroit Lakes, they both drove for the post office in college – the two were thick as some very clever thieves.

“I think that a purpose in my life was to set the bar just high enough so that Mark could keep reaching for it and keep striving for his own potential," said Dennis.


“Denny was in the engineering program, and so when I went into college, I took an engineering class,” said Mark. “And I soon learned that his path was right for him, but it wasn’t for me.”

Mark, the ultimate “numbers guy” found his niche in finance and went on to not just get a finance degree from MSUM, but has sustained an insatiable appetite for knowledge.

“I’m probably the only guy I know that goes out and gets a doctorate degree for the fun of it,” said Mark, who has several masters and doctorate degrees in various areas of finance.

“Every once in awhile we’ll tease him and call him ‘Dr. Anderson’ or something,” said Anderson’s mother, Bertha. “But I think he’s stayed pretty down to earth – I don’t think it’s gone to his head or anything.”

Being a good person and helping those around him grow is important to Anderson, as he strives to help students find their own academic and professional footing, but also has five children of his own spanning 36 years old to 6.

“And my wife and I have got one on the way,” he says, with a little laugh.

Anderson acknowledges that he’s got a very busy, full life, but that’s the way he wants it, as he quotes a book he read recently.

“It said ‘Some lives can be summed up in a sentence or two, others are epics,’ and I think that if they want to, everybody should try to make their lives epics,” said Anderson, who also tries to go by a notion that French author Voltaire wrote about.


“He said that we must cultivate our garden, and our garden is everything that is important to us - our relationships, our family,” said Anderson. “This is it – this is our lives, and we’re given these beautiful blessings from God to take care of. We take on a role to love and nurture and cherish and cultivate and grow things – I believe that’s what I’m here to do.”

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Anderson accepted the L.B. Hartz Professional Achievement Award from MSUM President Anne Blackhurst. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Paula Quam joined InForum as its managing digital editor in 2019. She grew up in Glyndon, Minnesota, just outside of Fargo.
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