News and Events

Lake Superior College Aviation Mechanic Evening Cohort

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Registration for Lake Superior College’s Aviation Mechanic evening cohort is open – please help us spread the word! The course schedule is below, and registration can be found here:

The semester runs from January 12 through May 11, and classes are held from 5:00pm-9:50pm (Monday through Friday) and 8am to 11:50 am on Saturdays.

AMT    1410    90        Aviation Maintenance Fundamentals I

AMT    1412    90        Aviation Maintenance Fundamentals II

AMT    1414    90        Aviation Physics and Math

AMT    1416    90        Aviation Electricity and Electronics

If you have any questions, please call:

Jenni Swenson, Dean of Business and Industry, Lake Superior College, 218-733-7609


Events Highlight Altec HiLine's Business Expansion, Success

Thursday, October 09, 2014

PHOTO: Tim Spangenberg, Shawn Brougham, Brian Hanson, Dave Masters, and Dave Faynik at the APEX Insider event hosted at Altec HiLine.


A ribbon cutting and open houses were held this week at Altec HiLine to celebrate the corporation’s 85 years of business.

Investor members of APEX participated in a private reception and manufacturing plant tour Tuesday. More than 35 private-sector leaders attended the “APEX Insider” event to celebrate Altec HiLine’s newly completed expansion at 1255 Port Terminal Drive in Duluth. More than 100 guests were expected to attend a Wednesday ceremony that included Duluth Mayor Don Ness, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, Altec President Jon Styslinger and General Manager David Faynik.

Altec HiLine manufactures some of the highest reaching, vehicle-mounted aerial lift devices in the country, used primarily by electric utilities for transmission line work. The expansion increased the company’s production capabilities, upgraded technology and equipment and improved efficiency. It added manufacturing, warehouse and office space to enable Altec HiLine and its parent company, Altec, Inc., based in Birmingham, Ala., to better serve customers in the region.

“The expanded plant is more efficient, more sustainable and a better place to work for our growing number of associates,” said David Faynik, General Manager, Altec HiLine. He noted the company is on track to meet its job creation targets and is finding a great resource of talent in the region.

“APEX has played a strong role in workforce development and in attracting talent, both of which are important to us as a growing employer. We have a very long and positive relationship,” he said.

“Altec recognizes that our region offers many competitive advantages for manufacturers,” said APEX President and CEO Brian Hanson. “APEX is proud to celebrate Altec HiLine’s expansion in Duluth. Our investor-members were impressed by the caliber of its operations and commitment of its owners.”

Privately owned Altec was founded in 1929. It formed Altec HiLine in 2002, establishing the Duluth plant as part of a global team that manufactures, sells and services vehicle-mounted aerial devices, digger derricks, cranes and specialty equipment for the electric utility, telecommunications, tree care, construction, and lights and signs industries.

“Altec HiLine associates are committed to working together as a team to provide total customer satisfaction,” said Jon Styslinger, President and CEO, Altec. “Their efforts helped to make the reinvestment in our Duluth facility a logical business decision—one that will benefit our customers, strengthen the fabric of the community and help grow the local economy."

Altec HiLine Toastmasters Leadership Training

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Altec HiLine Toastmasters will be hosting a Leadership and Speaking Skills Training every Thursday from 3:30-4:30 P.M. The program will be open to anyone interested, no obligation. For additional details about the HiLine Toastmasters club contact Jason Jaros at  or 218-269-9034. For general information about the Toastmasters club itself, contact Stephen Shaner at

APEX Verifies Need for Industrial Specialities

Friday, September 05, 2014

Photos: Ian Vincent (Left) Brian Hanson (Right)

The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) spent the past year conducting a in-depth survey to better understand the heat treatment, plating and powder coating industry. Discussions with 100 area businesses revealed that more than $12 million annually leaves the region to be spent on these services in Southern Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with Ohio and Indiana.

This type of research makes APEX unique, said President and CEO Brian Hanson.

"It is what differentiates us from other economic development agencies. We take the extra step to research and really understand the industry," he said.

Regional company owners repeatedly said they had to send their materials outside the region for finishing services, which isn't their first choice, said APEX Business Developer Ian Vincent, who conducted the survey during the past year during the course of business retention visits.

"Ninety-nine percent of the businesses wish they could source these services locally. Our goal is to play a role to make that possibility a reality," he said.

To further understand the industry, APEX distributed surveys to 100 firms. Fifty-five shared data, and 25 had information that was pertinent. Vincent feels the $12 million of lost impact might be underestimated.

The survey discovered additional details about the heat treating, plating and powder coating industry by breaking down the $12 million by treatment. About $4 million was spent on heat treating, $5.5 million on metal plating and 2.5 million on powder coating. And additional $20,000 went towards treatments. The survey also determined products were sent 270 miles one way to obtain those services.

Once the data was complete, APEX shared the results of participants. Hibbing Fabricators President Sandy Bryant was one of them. Powder Coating is something his company has been considering for a while, but this data really peaked my interest.

"It's a venture we've considered before as a separate entity, but this study made it a bit more interesting," he said. "I was surprised by how high the number was"

Bryant shared the survey results with investors but is unsure if an expansion will ever happen at Hibbing Fabricators. If they move forward, APEX has volunteered to help identify which area companies would use the service and how Hibbing Fabricators might best connect with them.

APEX wants to be part of the solution but doesn't want to plat favorites.

"We developed these materials to create conversation around the topic," Vincent said. APEX is open to having further conversations with companies such as Hibbing Fabrications to spark a solution, but ultimately, APEX wants to maintain neutrality.

The complexity of this industry suggests there isn't one solution that will ensure products aren't shipped out of the region to be treated. In some cases, it might help always make more business sense to ship very specific projects outside the market. But Vincent is confident the survey may spark enough interest within the region for a company to expand its efforts to capture some of the outsourcing.

"We've received a lot of interest within the region as people have learned about the survey," he said. "We want to support these regional expansion efforts first."

If that effort is exhausted, APEX will spend time looking outside the region to identify a firm that might want to address a need. If successful, the end result would reduce transportation costs and time for area customers. Hanson said they also would regain quality control. That's because once a product is shipped out of the region for treatment, it often continues on to its destination versus coming back for a final inspection.

Hanson and Vincent are optimistic about what the future holds for regional heat treating, plating and powder coating and the role. APEX can play in a keeping $12 million from exiting the area. The group has reason to be optimistic. Its other recent successes include recruiting AAR and Involta to the Twin Ports. In both cases, staff were dedicated to ;learning about the industries - aviation maintenance and data storage - and then played an active role to ensure the companies made the Twin Ports their home.   



APEX Organizational Updates

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Upper Midwest Economic Development Course

APEX business developers Ian Vincent and Nick Larson recently completed the Upper Midwest Economic Development Course held in Duluth in partnership with the University of Minnesota Center for Economic Development. The comprehensive five-day course focused on the theory and practice of economic development fundamentals. It is accredited by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and fulfills one of the prerequisites for those who wish to take the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) examination. Vincent and Larson were immersed in content that covered:

• Business Retention and Expansion
• Strategic Planning
• Marketing/Attraction
• Economic Development Finance
• Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development
• Community/Neighborhood Development
• Real Estate Development and Reuse
• Workforce Development
• Managing Economic Development Organizations

Arrowhead Manufacturer's and Fabricator's Association/Educational Trust

In July, Ian Vincent was appointed to fill a vacant term on the joint AMFA/ET Board of Directors. Vincent's term will run through December 2014. Vincent's appointment to the Board further demonstrates APEX's commitment to the AMFA/ET organization – APEX has held various Board and volunteer roles within the organization since 2006.

Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Duluth Class

This summer, Sandy Johnson, APEX's Office Administrator, was selected to participate in the 2015 class of Leadership Duluth that will begin in September. Sandy is looking forward to learning more about the components of a healthy community, aspects of Duluth's history unbeknownst to her and to developing additional leadership skills that she will utilize to support APEX as well as other organizations in our community. Sandy is excited to be a part of this reputable program put on by the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and getting to know the other community leaders in her class.

National Site Selectors Visit Region

Thursday, August 28, 2014
In mid-August, the Minnesota Marketing Partnership (formerly Positively Minnesota) hosted the second FAM (familiarization) statewide tour for national site selectors. APEX, and several additional public and private sector economic development partners, hosted a four-day event including regional site tours, strategic business meetings and networking events throughout the State of Minnesota. Several local partners and investor-members participated in the regional FAM tours, including Minnesota Power/ALLETE, The Northspan Group, Itasca Economic Development Corporation and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority participated in the regional FAM tours.

"APEX was fortunate to host Tim Comerford with Biggins, Lacy, Shapiro & Co. and Dean Barber with Barber Business Advisors, on the FAM tour. We had the opportunity to highlight regional partners and assets, including visits to the IRRRB, Joy Global, Cirrus and the Lake County data center site," stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. Hanson will share additional highlights with investor-members at the September Board of Directors meeting.

NORTHFORCE: Your Talent Community

Thursday, August 28, 2014
NORTHFORCE efforts continue to gain steam and recognition throughout the region. To date, there are more than 330 positions available and more than 700 candidates profiled in the database.

The marketing efforts continue to seek broad-based business and individual participation. The initiative has been promoted through local and statewide communication channels, including radio, print and social media. Twin Cities Business magazine, Minnesota Business, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Business North, Positively Superior and Minnesota Public Radio are examples of the media outlets that have featured promotions for NORTHFORCE.

From professional services to healthcare, there are a multitude of professionals with various degrees, years of experience and backgrounds that could be the next asset to your team. Consider posting your next position – whether experienced, entry-level, or an internship – on

"The NORTHFORCE team has been a pleasure to work with," stated Lisa Bodine, President of Giant Voices, Inc. "After a brief interview and conversation, we had 12 experienced professionals within two business days to review for potential interviews. It was an entirely efficient and professional process," continued Bodine.

Promote career opportunities today at For questions about NORTHFORCE, contact Anna Tennis at or Ian Vincent at

Financial support for is provided by the City of Duluth, City of Superior, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and investor-member ALLETE/Minnesota Power. Investor-member The Northspan Group is responsible for database development and management and APEX is managing the outreach and marketing strategy. TwinPortsConnex has also partnered with NORTHFORCE to expand its reach and impact with financial support from the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and the College of St. Scholastica.

Member Survey: Profit, CAPEX, Revenue to Rise

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Results are in from the 2013 APEX Investor-Member Survey, which garnered responses from 83% of those surveyed. When asked what changes they forecast for their respective companies for the next 12 months compared with the previous 12, responders were bullish on all counts, expecting:

• To spend 9.4% more on capital expenditures
• A raise of 7.3% in revenue and 6.3% in profit
• To acquire 3.8% additional employees

On a scale of 1-10, they assessed current business conditions at a 6.7 and expect overall conditions to improve to a 7 one year from now. Average annual revenue of the 56 responders was $41 million.

APEX will benchmark and collect updated information from investor-members annually at the Breakfast Club meetings. Mark your calendars - the 2014 Breakfast Club meetings are scheduled for October 2, 7, 9, 15, and 21. More information and details will be provided in coming weeks. In the meantime, call or email Sandy Johnson with questions at 218-740-3667 or

Dr. Larry Goodwin: The Evolving Academic Environment

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Dr. Larry Goodwin, President of The College of St. Scholastica (CSS), was the featured speaker at the July APEX Board of Directors meeting. Dr. Goodwin shared the history, mission and strategy of CSS, and also provided insight about how leadership must balance both the heritage and vision for the institution with today's evolving academic environment.

Improving the educational experience for students while staying true to the values and mission of the College is at the forefront of Dr. Goodwin's leadership.

"Having engaged, forward-thinking academic institutions within our region is essential to the business community and the success of our healthcare industry. We are fortunate to have an asset like the College of St. Scholastica in our region," commented Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.

Rooted in healthcare education, the College of St. Scholastica was founded in 1912 by six Benedictine sisters. Creating a diverse and inclusive community was part of the vision that the original founders had for the College, and a vision that the current leaders continue to use as a compass.

In addition to the Duluth campus, CSS offers classes online and on location in St. Paul, St. Cloud, Rochester and Brainerd. Locally, CSS also works closely with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Lake Superior College and other institutions.

CSS places significant value on intellectual and moral preparation. The College strives to help students develop an ethos – building values, meaning and purpose into their educational ambition.

"We want to help our students develop the fundamental capacity for communication and education across all sectors – we want to help them learn and figure out anything," stated Dr. Goodwin.

To accommodate the needs of today's students and remain competitive in the market, CSS continues to evaluate opportunities to deliver more accessible and affordable courses. In addition to scholarships – often up to half of the annual tuition – many students access financial aid and participate in work study programs to manage the cost of tuition. CSS also pledges to help ensure that students who do their part to stay on track will graduate in four years.

The College is embarking on a new endeavor starting in January. Taking advantage of the current lack of private, Catholic-values-based education in the Phoenix, AZ market, CSS will offer a graduate-level social work program.

College of St. Scholastica by the numbers:
• Total enrolled students: 4,300
• International Students:130
• Percentage of students who are nontraditional online students: 25%
• Percentage of students pursuing degrees in a healthcare field: just over 50%
• Employees: approximately 540
• Operating budget: $72 million
• Endowment: $67 million
• Spending on capital improvements in the past 10 years: more than $50 million
• Division III sports options for students: 20
• Placement rate for graduates (after six-months): 96%

To learn more about the College of St. Scholastica, visit

Vincent Appointed to Fill AMFA/ET Board Seats

Friday, August 08, 2014

Ian Vincent, Business Developer at APEX, was appointed

in July to fill a vacant term on the joint AMFA/ET Board of

Directors. Vincent’s term will run through December 2014.

On behalf of the membership, “Thank you, APEX,” for

continuing to provide leadership for AMFA, and “Welcome

to the AMFA/ET Board of Directors, Ian!”