News and Events

LSC Center for Aviation Grand Opening

Monday, October 05, 2015
Center for Advanced Aviation
LSC CAA – Dr. Pat John’s addressing the Center for Advanced Aviation open house attendees.

On Wednesday, September 16, investor-member Lake Superior College celebrated the grand opening of the Center for Advanced Aviation near the Duluth International Airport. Dr. Patrick Johns recognized several entities for the leadership to bring the vision to reality, including APEX, Lake Superior Helicopters, St. Louis County Commissioners, TKDA, Kraus Anderson and the Northern Aero Alliance.

The Center for Advanced Aviation will now house the pilot training and aircraft maintenance programs under one roof. The 46,000 square foot facility, leased from the Duluth Airport Authority, will serve more than 100 students currently enrolled in programs at Lake Superior College.

City of Duluth Mayor, Don Ness, declared September General Aviation Appreciation month during his remarks. “Higher education is critical to providing the workforce to support the growing aviation industry. Students coming out of these programs support today’s jobs and those well into the future,” stated speaker, Mayor Ness. “Those students are within steps of potential employers that provide wages that can support a family.” Employers who benefit include APEX investor-members, AAR and Monaco Air.

For more information about the Center for Advanced Aviation visit

Nine Site Selectors Visit Minnesota

Saturday, October 03, 2015
Site Selector, Phil Schneider, with IRRRB’s Janelle Greschner and Brian Hanson prior to the Cirrus Aircraft flight from Duluth to Minneapolis.
FAM participants toured Lonza in Cohasset, MN. From the left: Paul Nevanen, with KEDA, Phil Schneider, with Schneider Consulting, Mark Zimmerman, with IEDC, Todd Jaranson, with Lonza and Tamara Lowney, with APEX.

September 13-16, 2015, nine site selectors visited Minnesota as part of the third annual Familiarization (FAM) Tour put together by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Minnesota Marketing Partners. The FAM tour consisted of two days of regional events throughout the State and then concluded in the Twin Cities with a panel discussion sharing insights from the State-wide tour. The regional tour included participation from APEX, Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the Northspan Group, Minnesota Power, the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, Carlton County, the City of International Falls, Great River Energy and the Iron Range Economic Alliance.  

Phil Schneider, President of Schneider Consulting LLC and Chairman of the Board/President for The Site Selectors Guild, was the site selector that spent the majority of his time in northeastern Minnesota. 

Schneider has 28 years of consulting experience primarily in the field of corporate location strategy, site selection, incentives negotiation and economic development. Throughout his career, Schneider has led more than 300 location strategy and site selection engagements, with experience around the world. His work has cut across industries and corporate functions. He has also led numerous assignments for economic development and investment promotion agencies to help them form business attraction and retention strategies.

While in northeast Minnesota, Schneider toured the Forest History Center and Lonza in Itasca County, and Altec Hi-Line, the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), Cirrus Aircraft and the Port in Duluth. Schneider was particularly impressed with the NRRI tour, stating, “My time at NRRI was an eye-opener. Rolf [Weberg] was like a kid  on Christmas morning, excitedly showing us all of the gifts and talents NRRI and the northeast region have to offer.” 

Schneider also met with the Mayor’s Economic Development Coalition while in Duluth. He communicated that it’s critical to take advantage of the rebirth of the area and pay specific attention to sustainable and manageable growth in order to improve the quality of life in the region. 

The last day of the FAM Tour consisted of a site selector panel in the Twin Cities. Combined, the panel members are currently working on 150-200 active projects. Schneider, one of the most active panel members, shared three key insights throughout his visit and to the participants that morning. He indicated the primary drivers of investment and growth include:
  • Quality workforce
  • Robust infrastructure
  • Strong, regional governance
Regional collaboration, responsiveness and testimonials are also important when attracting the attention of site selectors. Schneider commended the northeast region for their public and private sector partnerships. He specifically cited APEX and IEDC as examples of the types of regional partnerships he prefers working with on attraction projects.

Participating in the FAM Tour has proven to be worthwhile – one key prospect APEX is working with was derived from the 2013 tour. While a tremendous undertaking, it is an effort that both promotes the region and results in business attraction and expansion prospects. 

For questions about the FAM Tour, please contact Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.

NORTHFORCE Continues to Connect

Friday, October 02, 2015

Talent recruitment and retention is a critical area of focus for both APEX and the region’s private sector economy. Throughout the past two years, in partnership with several organizations, APEX has been committed to the NORTHFORCE Talent Community. These workforce recruitment and retention efforts are in direct response to what APEX investor-members and the regional employers have requested – the initiative grew out of an issue that was brought to APEX’s attention at previous Breakfast Club meetings. 

Randy Lasky, President and CEO of The Northspan Group, joined Brian Hanson to provide APEX investor-members with an overview of NORTHFORCE successes. The employment matchmaking initiative is led by The Northspan Group and APEX, and receives additional funding and support led by Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), the City of Duluth, the City of Superior, The College of St. ScholasticaMinnesota Power and the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. 

Lasky shared that the three components to NORTHFORCE are matchmaking of employers/employees, management of the platform and marketing efforts. While the matchmaking and management of the platform are primarily overseen by the Northspan Group, the marketing efforts are driven by APEX Senior Business Developer, Ian Vincent. 

Metrics and Performance

Each month, the NORTHFORCE team conducts a review to understand participation metrics, including age, geographic, education, etc. Through August, there are more than 2,050 NORTHFORCE participants. Highlights include:  
  • More than 475 employers and 1,575 individual job-seekers
  • 59% of the individuals hold a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 57% of the individuals have more than 5 years of experience in their field of expertise
  • 82 employers are actively engaged with NORTHFORCE – 26 of those employers are APEX investor-members
Employer and individual information is stored in a database that allows the NORTHFORCE team to push and pull the most relevant information when matching talent. More than 12,000 postings – nearly 500-1,000 each month – have been pushed to potential candidates over the past two years, and more than 800 candidates have been pulled through the data base and presented as potential candidates. While it’s difficult to entirely quantify the success of the program, NORTHFORCE can directly be attributed to 50 known hires in the region, 17 of those hires were with APEX investor-members. 

Fee for Service

Today, NORTHFORCE is supported by public and private sector resources. To remain sustainable, the leadership team is evaluating a fee-for-service model. The first NORTHFORCE client to employ this model was RJS Construction. NORTHFORCE, who competed against to win the RJS business, is currently conducting a search for a senior-level position. Knowledge of the local employment market and region was a key driver in obtaining the business. Providing the service, in addition to qualified leads for employers, is critical to the value proposition of a fee-for-service model.  

Media Outreach

Hanson shared that social media and media outreach are key to successfully reaching job-seekers. APEX Senior Business Developer, Ian Vincent, leads these efforts for the NORTHFORCE team. The NORTHFORCE Facebook page, promoted ads, and career groups are three of the tactics that Vincent uses to capture the attention of potential candidates. In specific cases, the NORTHFORCE posts have generated more than 60,000 views. Social media is a powerful tool to reach outside the region. Investor-members were encouraged to share these posts with their own network when appropriate – there is no cost, with the potential for high-impact. 

In addition, NORTHFORCE is featuring a series of 10, 30 and 60 second ads on KDLH/KBJR television stations from October through February. These ads will highlight jobs of the week, client testimonials and a “Workforce Minute.” 


To attract and retain talent from our educational community, NORTHFORCE works closely with our region’s major higher education institutions. NORTHFORCE representatives inform both students and alumni of the industries in demand on NORTHFORCE, and coach young adults on how to use the system to network their individual capabilities and talents.

Investor-Member Engagement

While NORTHFORCE continues to demonstrate value to regional employers and individuals who that utilize the system, the long-term success of the initiative relies on continued participation.

If your company hasn’t already done so, consider using NORTHFORCE when posting your next employment opportunity. Share the NORTHFORCE link,, with your key Human Resources contacts to register and post current and upcoming positions.

For questions or assistance, contact Ian Vincent, NORTHFORCE Marketing Coordinator and APEX Senior Business Developer at 218-740-3667, or Anna Tennis, NORTHFORCE Talent Community Manager with The Northspan Group at 218-529-7559,  

September APEX Board Meeting - In Case You Missed It

Thursday, October 01, 2015
Randy Lasky, with The Northspan Group, co-presented with Brian Hanson on the continued growth of NORTHFORCE.

The APEX Board of Directors meeting was held on September 3, 2015 in Duluth. APEX Chair, Nancy Norr, welcomed investor-members and highlighted many of the recent Members in the News

APEX Treasurer, John Strange, provided investor-members with a review and update on APEX’s financial position. He indicated the balance sheet is strong and cash is holding. APEX continues to remain in a solid position, yet Strange encouraged investor-members to continue promoting APEX membership leading into 2016. 

APEX President and CEO, Brian Hanson, introduced Tamara Lowney to investor-members. Lowney joins APEX as a Business Developer with more than 17 years of experience in food and beverage operations for Aramark. Lowney, a Hill City, Minnesota native, expressed that she is excited to be back in the region. Lowney will office at the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) three days a week and at the APEX office in Duluth two days a week. Please feel free to reach out to her at if you need assistance. 

Investor-members welcomed speakers Randy Lasky, CEO and President of The Northspan Group, and Brian Hanson, as together they discussed the partnership and progress of NORTHFORCE over the past two years (see NORTHFORCE article).

Later in the meeting, Hanson reviewed the deal sheet, expressing that he was proud of the high quality of deals APEX is working on currently. He mentioned there are 33 high quality projects in the pipeline. Several have been successes, and others hold significant promise, including an opportunity for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Final research is underway to determine if the regional capabilities are ideal to attract an LNG facility to the region. APEX Senior Business Developer, Ian Vincent, led a prospect visit in late August – if the market can present itself, we may have a future facility.

In addition, APEX continues to benefit from the steel study research conducted in mid-2015. A business in Superior, Wisconsin has invested significant capital resources in an expansion to serve the structural steel market. The APEX team also continues to pursue back office leads stemming from the domestic outsourcing conference attended earlier in 2015. 

Typical of this time of year, the APEX team has an extensive marketing and recruitment calendar throughout the Fall. In addition to the annual Familiarization (FAM) Tour for site selectors in September, Brian Hanson and Ian Vincent will be traveling to attend trade shows that support the data center, manufacturing and NORTHFORCE strategies. In the past, these efforts have resulted in leads that are currently in the APEX pipeline, including Project Purple. 

For questions regarding the Board of Directors meeting, please contact Sandy Johnson at Find investor-member news and accomplishments in the “Members in the News” section of the APEX website.

UMD-CED Data Security for Business Owners

Friday, September 18, 2015

Is your business at risk for a data breach? Many companies keep sensitive personal information about customers or employees in their files or on their network. Customers and employees expect that every business - large or small - that collects their personal information will protect it. How do you protect your company from a data breach? What should you do if a data breach occurs?

Join us Tuesday September 22 at the UMD Center for Economic Development to hear Bradley Hammer of Dorsey & Whitney LLP discuss data security for small business owners and Karen Brehmer with the IRS who will share information on how the IRS is working to prevent identity theft and what the IRS is doing to help victims of identity theft.

Sign-in and a light breakfast will be from 7:30 - 8:00 am 

and the session will begin at 8:00 am.

Register for the workshop HERE 

Local Technology Firm Doubles Footprint in Downtown Duluth

Friday, September 18, 2015
Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO, with the Compudyne Leadership Team at the APEX Insider event (R to L: Mark Baron, John Marinac, Brian Hanson, Patrick Gibson, Tom Vidovic).
Compudyne’s new office space features several amenities, including a gym and shower rooms, to attract and retain talent.

Duluth, MN - On Thursday, September 17, 2015, Compudyne celebrated the company’s office expansion in downtown Duluth. To fulfill existing and future workforce demand, Compudyne nearly doubled its footprint to 14,500 square feet. To commemorate the completion of the expansion, the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) hosted a private celebration to provide investor-members a rare look inside the first-class space, after being at its new location for nearly two years.

Compudyne, founded in Hibbing in 1988, began operating in the region with a focus on building and selling computers. Over the years, the company has transformed the business and today focuses on professional services, managed services, network services and hosted/cloud services.

After two years of communicating between two separate offices in Duluth, the expansion heightened the company’s potential by bringing all Duluth staff into one central location, which has allowed for increased service offerings and better collaboration between teams.

“Previously coming from a space with half the size, we’re excited for the opportunity to provide our team with a large, welcoming office space with room for expansion,” said Compudyne President and CTO, John Marinac. “The build out took six months and the move itself took more than a month. Every employee pitched in to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

“Compudyne recognizes that our region offers many competitive advantages for IT services,” said APEX President and CEO, Brian Hanson. “APEX is proud to celebrate Compudyne’s expansion in Duluth. Our investor-members were impressed by the nature of the facility and commitment to its clients.” 

The new facility features a variety of engaging amenities that includes front offices with full glass for enhanced visibility, a private employee gym with state-of-the-art equipment, and multiple desks and conference tables that are hand-carved by local woodworking artists.

Based in Duluth, Minnesota, Compudyne has five additional locations in Hibbing, St. Paul, Marquette (MI), Houghton (MI) and Anchorage (AK), while also providing services on a global scale with a total of 77 employees.

“As a team, we are committed to working together to provide total customer satisfaction,” said Marinac. “And, we plan to grow and build out within the next five years, adding three to six more office locations.”

# # #

About APEX
The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) is the private-sector led business development engine for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. APEX investor-members represent some of the most influential companies in the region, with a collaborative approach to promoting sustainable economic growth. APEX attraction, expansion and retention efforts focus in areas including aviation, data centers, manufacturing, professional services and next generation forest products. Since 2003, APEX has impacted over 3,640 jobs in the region, resulting in an annual regional payroll of over $133 million and contributing to over $18 million in state and local taxes annually.

McGladrey's Three Part Series on Cloud Strategy

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Technology moves quickly and, as the cloud evolves, many businesses debate which cloud solutions best benefit and effectively integrate into their overall business strategy. 

Join us for a three-part lunch and learn series to take part in a discussion about what the cloud is, how it works and how it can address your unique business needs. You can register for all three sessions or just those that best fit your interests and schedule.
 Session topics will be:

  • Thursday, Sept. 17 – Cloud security
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14 – Clarity, definition and strategic fit of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17 Unified cloud collaboration tools

We hope to see you at these informative and insightful events.
All sessions are 11:30 a.m.–
1 p.m. and lunch will be provided.
Kitchi Gammi Club
Charter Room
831 E. Superior Street
Duluth, MN 55802

Erin Pearson

Learn more or register now.


Involta Celebrates Three Years in the Region

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You're invited to celebrate Growth+ Innovation+ Impact

Join Involta as we celebrate three years of growth, innovation and impact on Minnesota's statewide and regional economy.


Friday, September 25th

11:30 AM Lunch Reception

Duluth Data Center

Lunch provided and tours will be available on request


*Please RSVP to by September 23.

Labovitz School 2015 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

October 1, 2015 (9 am-5:30 pm)

 UMD Kirby Ballroom and Rafters

The first annual 2015 Entrepreneurship & Innovation Conference is a one-day event featuring national, regional and local entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their respective industries. This milestone event brings together Twin Ports students, business professionals, educators, entrepreneurs and innovators for a day of learning, inspiration and celebration.

The 2015 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference, presented by the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE), will feature two keynote UMD alumni, several panels, a buffet lunch and an entrepreneur & innovation exposition. The day will conclude with an evening reception from 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm in the LSBE atrium.

The LSBE Conference is 100% student run and is an initiative of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. 

Register by September 8th to qualify for the Early Bird Rate!

Note: There are special rates for students and senior citizens,  

UMD Students, faculty and staff attend at no cost but must register.

 Click link to register:

For more information and to see the conference schedule, go to:

 Click here to visit the Entrepreneurship Conference Facebook page


Opening of Lake Superior College's Center for Advanced Aviation

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

You are cordially invited to join LSC President Patrick Johns, Duluth Airport Authority Executive Director Tom Werner, and City of Duluth Mayor Don Ness for the official opening of Lake Superior College's Center for Advanced Aviation in its new home for our Professional Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician programs.



Wednesday, September 16 at 9:00 a.m.



Hangar 103

Duluth International Airport

4960 Airport Road

Duluth, MN 55811

Next to Cirrus Aircraft



(218) 733-7737