News and Events

Organizational Updates

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Administrative Intern Joins APEX

Karl Schuettler joined the APEX team in early March as the organization’s Administrative Intern. Schuettler is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He plans to obtain his masters in Urban and Regional Planning in hopes of obtaining a job in economic development. Schuettler is an active volunteer at the public library and as a freelance writer for several outlets that cover high school hockey locally and throughout the country. Along with hockey news, he also contributes coverage of City Council and Duluth School Board Meetings on his blog "A Patient Cycle".

Attraction and Expansion Updates

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Investor-Members in the News

At the March Board of Directors meeting, Dan Markham, APEX Vice-Chair, shared several regional success stories involving APEX investor-members. Highlights included:

  • College of St. Scholastica for receiving a $10,000 grant from the National Center for Women & Information Technology
  • ALLETE Clean Energy who finalized the purchases of wind farms in Minnesota, Iowa and Oregon
  • Essentia Health, who will build a state-of-the-art $12 million cancer center in Ashland, WI in partnership with Memorial Medical Center
  • maurices' donation of the Company’s downtown building to the University of Minnesota Duluth

APEX staff monitors regional and statewide news publications and captures stories that involve investor-members. See the most recent coverage of APEX investor-members in the news.

Attraction and Expansion Efforts
Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO, shared an update on the organization's deal sheet with investor-members at the March Board of Directors meeting. A new deal sheet, pared down to the most viable, higher-probability prospects, was provided to investor-members. Hanson indicated that the APEX staff is focusing on the highest-value prospects in attraction and expansion efforts, including Direct Reduced Iron/Hot Briquetted Iron prospect International Metallics Corporation, four Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) prospects and two regional retail projects.

"The tides have changed considerably in the past several months," stated Hanson. "In several cases, APEX and regional partners are being courted by companies assessing the region, rather than courting. These companies understand the benefits our region has to offer and are seeking insights and collaboration. It affords us a unique opportunity to conduct due diligence and assess viability earlier on in a potential project."

If APEX investor-members would like to review the deal sheet with an APEX team member, contact Sandy Johnson to arrange a meeting.

International Biomass
Brian Hanson will be traveling to Orlando, FL, March 24-26, to attend the largest biomass conference in North America. The conference is attended by industry leaders from the biogas, pellet, biomass power and thermal and advanced biofuels sectors. There are four program tracks available for pellets and densified biomass, biomass power and thermal, biogas and landfill gas, and advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals. In addition to attending the conference, Hanson will also be meeting with site selectors and companies that are interested in the region's supply chain and credentials.

NORTHFORCE: Your Talent Community

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
In early February, APEX, the Northspan Group and regional public and private partners launched NORTHFORCE, an innovative and intentional talent community strategy to invigorate the workforce in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin by attracting, managing, placing, enriching and retaining talent. The public launch event was held at Lake Superior College and was attended by more than 80 regional public, private and philanthropic leaders. is a web portal hub where people in search of a career meet opportunities. The initiative is represented by four websites – the portal, - and three community portal sites featuring Duluth, Superior and the Iron Range. The website features push-pull capabilities to entice talent attraction and retention, including:
  • An employer-employee "talent matchmaking" function
  • A searchable business directory
  • Area events, attractions and resources

Read more about the launch

To date NORTHFORCE results and analytics include:
  • More than 430 members have registered for matchmaking
  • More than 175 active career based jobs posted
  • Visitors spent an average of just under five minutes on the website – well above the Google analytics average of approximately three minutes
  • Within the first 24 hours of the website launch, there were more than 200 Likes on Facebook, more than 1,000 unique visitors and more than 12,800 page views to the site
  • More than 3,500 unique visitors and 48,000+ page views
  • You can also follow NORTHFORCE activity on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
"APEX is proud to be part of this exciting strategy that aligns the needs of business with talent in search of opportunities," said Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. "Our organization has been at the center of the talent attraction and retention issues for many years. It’s rewarding to be part of a solution through this collaboration."

For questions about NORTHFORCE, contact Elissa Hansen at Register your organization and promote career opportunities at

UMD to Host Northland Community Wellness Day

Friday, March 14, 2014

A variety of informative and fun activities will be part of the 5th annual Northland Community Wellness Day at UMD’s Romano Gym from 10 a.m.-2 p.m on Saturday, March 29. Parking and admission are free.

The event, which promotes healthy families and communities through education and awareness, will include information about health and wellness, public safety, environmental awareness, financial literacy and more.

For more information, visit:

First Economic Indicators Forum on March 25

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The inaugural Regional Economic Indicators Forum Breakfast will be held from 7:30-9:30 a.m. on March 25 at the DECC Harborside Ballroom in Duluth.

Toby Madden, regional economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, will be the keynote speaker, followed by presentations by economic researchers from UMD, UWS and the College of St. Scholastica.

Pre-registration is encouraged. The cost is $20. Same-day registration will be $25.

To register online, click here.

The event is sponsored by APEX and several of its member organizations, inclding National Bank of Commerce, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and the College of St. Scholastica.

Student Showcase Highlights Business Programs

Friday, March 07, 2014

APEX Receives Recognition from MN Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) announced that the organization, along with the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, was recognized by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce for leadership and commitment to business retention and assistance as a GROW Minnesota founding partner. As part of the local GROW program, APEX representatives and investor-members meet annually with regional companies to thank them and assess input on issues related to the local, regional and state business climate. The information is collected and reported to policy-makers and business leaders throughout the State to help drive public policy relating to business development.

In 2013, APEX visited 72 businesses throughout northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin as part of the organization’s program. “The results of our regional visits are consistent with the positive trends that the public, private and philanthropic industries in our region are experiencing,” stated Elissa Hansen, APEX Director of Business Development. When asked whether sales had increased, remained stable, or decreased over the past 12 months, more than 80% of regional companies indicated that sales had increased, 15% said sales had remained stable and 5% said sales had declined. Innovation and new product launches were also cited by 32 local companies who have either launched new product lines in 2013 or plan to invest in innovation, new facilities, or new equipment purchases in 2014.

Job growth and employee recruitment predictions for 2014 also remained positive with the regionally surveyed companies. More than 90% predict that hiring will remain stable or increase. “There’s obviously no way to predict what 2014 will bring to our economy with respect to job growth. However, local industry leaders continue to convey optimism with respect to sales, new hires and market expansion; often that optimism is a major component in the momentum required to continue upward trending,” stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.

In addition to using the information from the GROW program visits to provide insight to policymakers, APEX also assesses the feedback to look for emerging trends in the industries that are strategic to the region. “The information we’ve gathered over the past years has provided the background and analysis for business retention and expansion strategies relating to manufacturing, information technology and clean energy industries,” continued Hanson. 

Since the program’s inception 10 years ago, approximately 60 chambers of commerce and local economic development organizations have visited and revisited more than 8,000 companies to thank them for their investments in their communities and the state. More than 215 companies have been assisted in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin since APEX began conducting its GROW program visits.

For more information from the GROW Minnesota! visits throughout 2013, go to

Regional businesses that would welcome a GROW visit from APEX should contact Elissa Hansen at

UPDATE: Business Leaders' Luncheon Forum

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On November 18th 2013, APEX partnered with the Northland Foundation to develop a Business Leaders' Luncheon featuring Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Associate Economist Rob Grunwald.  To a sold-out room at the Duluth Holiday Inn's Lyric Room, Rob presented the importance of early childhood education and its effect on the economic position of our state. 

"Minnesota's Economic Outlook and the Role of Early Childhood Education"

This important and relevent presentation is NOW available for Download here:

Economics of early Childhood Education Economics - Powerpoint


Rob Grunewald conducts regional economic research and co-authors the Minneapolis Fed’s “Beige Book” report on current economic conditions. Grunewald regularly speaks to business, community and school groups about the Federal Reserve and the regional economy. He co-authored “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return” (Jan. 2003), an economic policy paper, which has been featured in the media, legislative hearings, and seminars throughout the United States. Grunewald holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and religion from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree in applied economics from the University of Minnesota. 



EDAM Names APEX as Marketing Award Winner

Friday, February 21, 2014

EDAM announced winners of the organization’s annual Excellence in Economic Development Awards on Thursday January 23 at the organization’s Winter Conference at the Minneapolis Marriot Northwest. The awards are presented annually to recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding economic development achievement. Nominations are submitted throughout the spring and winners are selected by a special selection committee.

Following are this year’s winners:

  • Business Retention & Expansion Award
    City of New Prague for the Chart Industries, Inc. project.
  • Partnership Award
    St. Paul Port Authority /Gerdau Ameristeel USA
  • Economic Development Initiative Award
    City of Brooklyn Park for the Business Forward project.
  • Business Recruitment Award
    City of Shakopee for the Shutterfly recruitment project.
  • Redevelopment Award
    City of Duluth for the Canal Park Brewing Company project.
  • Economic Development Marketing Award
    APEX for the Lake County Initiative


See the APEX video here:

AMFA ET Beer Tasting & Spring Social Fundraiser

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Please Join Us in Supporting AMFA ET

(Arrowhead Manufacturers & Fabricators Association Educational Trust)

Beer Tasting & Spring Social Fundraiser

Wednesday, March 5

Duluth - Moorish Room at Greysolon Ballroom

5:00PM to 7:00PM

Sample the wares of NINE Local Craft Breweries!

Bent Paddle Brewing Company

Blacklist Artisan Ales

Borealis Fermentary

Canal Park Brewing Company

Carmody Irish Pub & Brewing

Castle Danger Brewery

Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery & Grille

Lake Superior Brewing Company

Thirsty Pagan Brewing

Please Click Here to register! The $20 Donation to AMFA ET includes beer tastings, soda, water and heavy hors d' oeuvres.

This event is open to members and non-members of AMFA.

This fundraiser is co-sponsored by Consulate General of Canada which ensures that all donations benefit AMFA ET. Last year we raised nearly $2,000 in 2 hours! AMFA Educational Trust supports AMFA by raising funds to support workforce development for the manufacturing industry. Recent grants include:

$2000 - To help fund purchase of CAD Software for Two Harbors/Silver Bay High Schools

$1398 - Chisholm High School to purchase laptop computer to run 3D software; set of 3D router bits

$500 - William Kelly High School robotics funding

$500 - Duluth Denfeld FIRST robotics funding

Parking is just steps away at the City of Duluth Parking Ramp on the corner of Third Avenue and First Street. Please use the main entrance on Superior Street and go straight ahead to the Moorish Room.


AMFA ET Beer Tasting Spring Social PDF             AMFA ET Brochure PDF