News and Events


APEX announces new hire in Business Development

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Tamara Benson
Tamara Lowney joins the APEX team as a Business Developer
Duluth, MN: The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) is pleased to announce the addition of Tamara Lowney as Business Developer. Lowney’s role will span all aspects of attracting, expanding, and retaining business in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. She will also support APEX's partner, the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in Grand Rapids, with business attraction and expansion efforts.

Lowney brings over 17 years of management experience and extensive knowledge in project management and business leadership to APEX. Her career achievements include managing million-dollar budgets, developing sales and marketing strategies, and developing and leading training courses.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Tamara join our teams at APEX and the IEDC,” stated Brian Hanson, President and CEO of APEX. “Her business and hospitality knowledge will add significant value to both of our organizations.”

Prior to her new role at APEX, Lowney was employed with the hospitality division of ARAMARK Corporation, holding positions for the company at various locations across the nation. She also directed food and beverage operations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Following her time in London, Lowney moved back to Minnesota where she finished her degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in management.

APEX Organizational Updates

Wednesday, August 05, 2015
APEX’s Sandy Johnson recently graduated from the Duluth Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Duluth program
APEX’s Ian Vincent was recently promoted to Senior Business Developer.
Tamara Benson
Tamara Lowney joins the APEX team as a Business Developer
Congratulations to Sandy Johnson, Manager of Member Relations and Administration, for recently graduating from the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014-2015 Leadership Duluth program.

Ian Vincent was recently promoted to Senior Business Developer. Vincent will continue to lead the marketing of NORTHFORCE and strategic business development projects for the organization.

“We are excited to provide opportunities for growth and development to our APEX team”, stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “Sandy and Ian continue to demonstrate leadership in their roles and I’m thrilled that our organization plays a part in their professional development.”  

In late June, Nick Larson, Business Developer, departed the organization to be the Regional Director of the Ruffed Grouse Society. “As an avid outdoorsman, this position will provide Nick the opportunity to engage in a leadership role that supports his passion. We wish him the best,” continued Hanson.
 

APEX is pleased to announce the addition of Tamara Lowney to the APEX team as a Business Developer. Lowney will support the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) in Grand Rapids, MN and lead other APEX attraction and expansion initiatives. She brings over 17 years of management experience and extensive knowledge in project management and business leadership into APEX.


For the majority of her career, Lowney was employed with the hospitality division of ARAMARK Corporation, holding positions for the Company at various locations around the US, as well as directed operations for both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Following her time in London, Lowney moved back to Minnesota where she finished her degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in management.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Tamara join our teams at APEX and the IEDC,” stated Brian Hanson, President and CEO of APEX. “Her business and hospitality knowledge will add significant value to both of our organizations.”


“Insider” Look at New St. Luke’s Surgical Expansion

Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Dr. Mary Boylan, Dr. Gary Peterson, Mark Emmel (St. Luke’s Board Chair) Dr. Scott Mikesell, and Sue Hamel at the APEX Insider Event.
John Strange, St. Luke’s CEO/President, with APEX’s Sandy Johnson and Ian Vincent.
The expansion features one hybrid operating room – a traditional operating suite augmented with cutting-edge surgical imaging technology. Other additions include 42 private pre- and post-op patient rooms, four traditional operating rooms, five endoscopy and special procedure rooms.
The 36,000 square foot Surgical Procedure & Care expansion opens August 10, 2015.

On August 4, 2015, as part of a special APEX Insider event, more than 40 APEX investor-members were given a private tour of the just completed St. Luke’s surgical floor expansion. St. Luke’s Surgical & Procedural Care will open August 10, after an extensive $22.5 million, 36,000 square foot expansion project.

John Strange, St. Luke’s CEO/President gave opening remarks to investor-members. “This high-tech facility is the future of St. Luke’s and will dramatically improve the way we deliver health care today. It also positions us to be adaptable in the future with the always-evolving health care landscape.” Strange indicated that the expansion had been part of the administration team’s vision since 1996, and that over the past three years St. Luke’s has invested more than $55 million in capital expenditures.

Dr. Mary Boylan and Dr. Scott Mikesell also addressed investor-members, while several St. Luke’s staff members provided tours of the expansion. The Surgical & Procedural Care floor includes one “hybrid” operating room – a traditional operating suite augmented with cutting-edge surgical imaging technology. Other additions include 42 private pre- and post-op patient rooms, four traditional operating rooms, five endoscopy and special procedure rooms, bedside registration and heated parking. These additions are expected to make the medical experience smoother for patients, patients’ families and health care providers alike.

ERDMAN of Madison, Wisconsin served as the general contractor for the project. Several Duluth companies played important roles in the construction process, including APEX investor-members The JAMAR Company and A.W. Kuettel.

“St. Luke’s has invested in a world-class surgical facility,” stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. “Having access to advanced technology, superior patient care and hospitality-minded health care facilities, our region has yet another desirable feature to attract new businesses and professionals,” continued Hanson.


Adding Regional Capacity – Download APEX Case Studies

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

APEX often receives inquiries from business retention and expansion prospects to demonstrate examples of how we engage with clients on business development projects. The case study content is now available for investor-members, stakeholders and partners to download. These electronic briefs show different facets of how APEX supports and augments the growth, efforts and overall economic health of investor-members and the region. Click to download PDFs of any of these five case studies:


NORTHFORCE Facilitates 44 New Hires

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How do you help real people find real jobs? A region cannot succeed, grow its businesses or prosper without a robust talent pool. NORTHFORCE, a nonprofit community-based workforce development initiative of APEX and The Northspan Group, is in year two of a two-year pilot program to address talent attraction, management, placement, enrichment and retention in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Since launching in February 2014, NORTHFORCE met or exceeded all its key 2014 performance goals, and is well on its way to doing it again in 2015.

The hub of NORTHFORCE is a multi-platform online relationship management system, allowing the service to communicate opportunities, match job-seekers with employers, track results, and support regional stakeholders. View the site at www.northforce.org.

One of the most obvious and important NORTHFORCE metrics is placement. Since its inception, NORTHFORCE has directly facilitated at least 44 hires, for positions such as business analyst, product manager and mechanical engineer as well as entry-level positions and internships. That works out to a 3% conversion rate for registered individual job-seekers.

What has made that outcome possible is the over 435 regional business and educational members participating in NORTHFORCE’s service. These businesses are responsible for posting nearly 1,000 job openings since the site’s inception. Nearly 20% of those members have opted to allow NORTHFORCE to send resumes for matching candidates directly, thereby gaining the most value from the service. 

The nearly 1,500 total individual and student members of NORTHFORCE comprise a diverse and motivated talent pool of business and tech people, laborers, artists, scientists, and everything in between. Nearly 57% these individuals have five or more years of experience in their field, and 59% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

Another metric encouraging to the growth of our region, is NORTHFORCE’s aim to attract talent from across the country: currently and consistent with 2015 Key Performance Indicators (KPI) 25% of registered individual members are currently living outside the region but looking to relocate.



The NORTHFORCE Team has recently finished tallying the results of an in-depth user experience survey conducted to members of the service and results will be reported in the coming weeks. The team is also pursuing advanced website customization and planning the deployment of a microsite for new users that will offer tutorials and job and talent search resources, thereby broadening the reach of NORTHFORCE’s personalized service. 

To become more engaged within the Iron Range’s working community, the NORTHFORCE team has dedicated themselves to spending regular and full days meeting with businesses and individual members working out of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board offices in Eveleth. If you are a Ranger looking to connect with the NORTHFORCE Team one-on-one, do not hesitate to schedule a meeting by contacting Marketing Coordinator Ian Vincent at ian@northforce.org or Talent Community Manager Anna Tennis at anna@northforce.org.

Finally, if you haven’t already, register your free job seeker or employer profile on the NORTHFORCE website and “like” and “follow” the team on social media.

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Facebook
Twitter
Twitter
Website
Website

The Future of Minerals Extraction in Minnesota

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don Fosnacht, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Applied Research and Technology Development at the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), presented to APEX investor-members on the "Future Implications for Minerals Extraction in Minnesota and Conversion to Higher Value Products." This topic is of particular concern right now because of the negative impact of imports and structural steel on Minnesota’s iron ore industry, as well as the potential future impact of automobile and steel production trends.

First, steel production. As blast furnaces reach replacement age, the steel production industry is increasingly shifting to EAFs (Electric Arc Furnaces) as replacements. Since EAF production prefers DRI (Direct Reduced Iron), this shift foretells a long-term reduction in the demand for Minnesota taconite pellets unless another means of generating demand is found. The economic situation for producing DRI from Minnesota ore materials has changed dramatically with the advent of shale based natural gas. This may open up future production possibilities for DRI production in Northeast Minnesota.

Next, automobile production. Driven in part by legislation (primarily highway fuel economy standards), automakers are looking for ways to reduce vehicle weight in order to improve gas mileage. For example, converting one Ford F-150 model truck to an aluminum body would displace 405,343 metric tons (MT) of steel demand and 502,900 MT of iron ore pellets. If other truck manufacturers followed in a similar fashion for their truck bodies, that would displace another 1,676,000 MT of iron ore pellets. This combined with the F150 aluminum use would mean the potential closure of a smaller mine on the Range.

There is room to grow and evolve this region’s iron ore industry. For example, mining iron ore byproduct to capture value from legacy materials – such as extracting hematite from tailings – making ore processing more efficient, and converting portions of ore into value-added materials such as DRI. NRRI is working on research and strategy to produce new grades of iron concentrate.

APEX will provide investor-members a copy of Dr. Fosnacht’s presentation upon request to Sandy Johnson at sandy@apexgetsbusiness.com or 218-740-3667.


Outlook: Mining in 2015 and Beyond

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Mike Perala, Director of Strategic Accounts at Minnesota Power, presenting to the APEX investor-members

Mike Perala, Director of Strategic Accounts at Minnesota Power, spoke to the APEX investor-members at the June 2 Board meeting about critical trends and projections for the taconite industry in the coming year and beyond. Perala indicated, “While the industry is going through a cycle correction, the long-term forecast is optimistic.” Minnesota’s annual taconite production capacity is approximately 40 million metric tons (MT). The industry is expected to produce 33 MT in 2015.

Iron ore is a global industry. It is a feedstock for steel used in cars, appliances, consumer goods and industrial applications. Because it is a commodity, pricing is very inelastic. Minnesota follows the market – we are not a price-setter or demand-setter.

Perala explained that commodity pricing worldwide is off due to a slowing of China’s growth. Oil and gas rig count is down, which correlates directly to U.S. steel production. The dollar is strong. Imports are high. Gas prices are low. All of these factors combine to reduce steel demand, which depresses iron ore prices. Ore has dropped from $140 per metric ton (MT) to $47 per MT and currently sits at a price of $60 per MT. 

Some positive trends are helping to counteract the effects of the negative factors - construction, auto sales, and consumer activity are all strong.

Perala indicated that there are fundamental changes taking place in the industry relating to integrated manufacturing, reprocessing of scrap, the use of electric arc furnaces and more.

Minnesota Power invests significant resources in helping to partner with their industrial customers. The mining and metallurgy sector comprises 44% of the Company’s business (twelve customers in that category account for 60% of total megawatt-hours). In many cases, Minnesota Power partners with their customers in providing onsite generation.

The Company also provides communications, legislative and regulatory support to customers and key stakeholders, including Jobs for Minnesotans support for PolyMet and Twin Metals. In addition to serving as APEX Chair, Nancy Norr also Chairs Jobs for Minnesotans. Nancy cited this and other examples of how the Company has played a significant role in shouldering the grassroots effort, both externally and internally at Minnesota Power, to help organize the voices for business.

APEX will provide investor-members a copy of Mike Perala’s presentation upon request to Sandy Johnson at sandy@apexgetsbusiness.com or 218-740-3667.


July APEX Board Meeting – In Case You Missed It

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO and Nancy Norr, APEX Chair with guest speakers Dr. Don Fosnacht with UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute and Mike Perala with Minnesota Power
The APEX Board of Directors meeting was held on July 2 at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Duluth. APEX Chair, Nancy Norr, welcomed investor-members and highlighted many of the recent Members in the News

Talent recruitment and retention is a critical area for both APEX and the region’s private sector. APEX has internally been an advocate of hiring and promoting interns organizationally for the past several years. To show support of investor-member efforts and to introduce interns to the broader business community, for the second year, APEX invited investor-members to bring their organizations’ interns to the Board meeting. Interns were introduced and welcomed from CW Technology, Enbridge, Giant Voices, The JAMAR Company, Lakehead Constructors, maurices, The Northspan Group (NORTHFORCE), Sisu, WestmorelandFlint and APEX.

APEX Treasurer, John Strange, provided investor-members with a review and update on APEX’s financial position. He indicated the organization continues to remain in a strong position, ahead of budget year-to-date.

Investor-members welcomed Mike Perala, with Minnesota Power, and Dr. Don Fosnacht, with the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute, to provide a mining industry outlook. A recap of their presentations are outlined in this issue. Norr indicated the critical nature of the industry’s impact, as more than 1,000 regional jobs are impacted by the current downturn and consolidation. According to a University of Minnesota Duluth impact analysis, these jobs produce an average annual income of $70,000 – compared to $38,000 regionally overall – and have a multiplier effect of two. 

APEX will continue to provide investor-members with updates that affect our investor-members and the regional economy.

Leveraging our Marine Infrastructure

Thursday, May 21, 2015

 

The Port of Duluth-Superior

Vanta Coda, Executive Director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, addressed the APEX investor-members at the March 5th Board of Directors meeting at the Kitchi Gammi Club. Coda shared an optimistic vision for the Port and highlighted the importance of investing in the regional transportation infrastructure in order to drive further investment.

Coda stated the Port of Duluth-Superior is directly or indirectly responsible for supporting nearly 12,000 jobs, $546 million in wages and $1.5 billion in business revenue. Highlighting 2014 as a successful year for the Port, Coda reported total tonnage exceeded expectations and was up 2.3% over the previous year. He also reported that the Port Authority is active in waterfront industrial development to ensure that our port is ready for anything the shipping industry needs us for, including heavy-lifting components in the energy and forestry products industries.

Sharing his concern for the lack of infrastructure investment nationally, Coda compared highways and railways to marine infrastructure emphasizing that marine is grossly underfunded. Left unchecked, this may result in undesired economic difficulty, especially in port-dependent economies. Marine freight provides the best return on investment, and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority is strategically engaged so that it is well-positioned to double its capacity in the next 25 years.

“The Port Authority, a founding APEX investor-member and strategic economic development partner, is at the heart of securing reliable and effective marine infrastructure for the transport of raw materials, industrial components and goods in and out of the region,” stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.

Coda’s presentation to APEX investor-members can be found here. If you have additional questions relating to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, please contact Jeff Borling.


New Investor-Members

Thursday, May 21, 2015
APEX is pleased to announce that The Boldt Company, Lake Superior Consulting, McGough Construction Company and Sisu Healthcare IT Solutions recently joined as investor-members.


The Boldt Company has a nationwide presence, with an extensive footprint throughout the upper Midwest, including an office in Cloquet with a satellite office in Grand Rapids. The company is a fourth-generation, family-owned professional construction services firm that has been in operation since 1889. They provide a variety of world-class construction services to a variety of key industries, including healthcare, power, education, manufacturing and forest products.


Lake Superior Consulting, established in 2002, is headquartered in Duluth and has offices in Minneapolis, Houston, Kansas City, Minot and Omaha. With more than 300 employees, the company offers a variety of engineering and design services in order to provide integrity management solutions for the energy industry.


McGough Construction Company serves clients throughout the Midwest, Southwest and nationally through its St. Paul headquarters and five branch offices. The company currently serves as the general contractor for the maurices’ headquarters project. McGough is a full-service firm that services all industries from the strategic planning phase to construction management and property management.


Sisu Healthcare IT Solutions, formerly Sisu Medical Solutions, delivers comprehensive IT solutions and services to community healthcare facilities. Headquartered in Duluth, Sisu specializes in helping healthcare organizations manage IT infrastructure, compliance and electronic healthcare records in rural communities throughout the country.

Please welcome these new investor-members at the next APEX event.