News and Events

APEX Visits Help Attract Business to Arrowhead Region

Thursday, January 29, 2015


APEX tailors its Grow Minnesota! program in Duluth and the Arrowhead Region to serve its business development strategy. Local issues are integrated with the standard topics addressed in Grow Minnesota! visits. The Grow Minnesota! platform allows APEX to access background information and familiarize themselves with businesses before machining their first call. Their latest manufacturing strategy consisted of visiting with 100 businesses to identify specific industry needs. They found that $12 million in heat treating, metal plating and powder coating services were leaving the region every year. APEX is now using this rich data to attract and expand heat treating, plating and powder coating businesses in its region. "We found a great resource in the Grow Minnesota! program and will continue to utilize visits to assist us with future expansion and attraction projects." said Ian Vincent, business developer at APEX.

APEX Wins National Award for Data Center Strategy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Duluth, Minnesota: The Area Partnership for Economic Expansion (APEX) announced today that the organization won first place in its division for the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC) 2014 Annual Economic Development Awards for its data center attraction strategy. As part of the recognition, APEX will be highlighted in an advertisement in the January issue of Site Selection Magazine.

This is the second consecutive year that APEX has been recognized at the national level for its marketing efforts. In 2013, APEX was awarded first place for its newsletter, Pinnacle.

MAEDC presented its annual Economic Development Awards at the 2014 Mid-America Competiveness Conference and Site Selector Forum, held December 7-9 in Chicago, Illinois. APEX was awarded first place for their data center attraction strategy under the small division marketing program category (for annual marketing budgets under $100,000).

"APEX has invested considerable financial and human resources in a sophisticated data center attraction strategy over the past several years," stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. "It is exciting to be recognized nationally by our peers and colleagues for the investment." The marketing and communication tools developed to support the strategy highlight the region’s competitive advantages specific to data centers, including two brochures and a video focused on the region. In addition, APEX created an iPad app highlighting the regional capabilities. "Minnesota Power, Great River Energy and Lake County have all been key partners in the strategy and development of these innovative marketing materials," continued Hanson.

APEX has played an instrumental role in data center attraction in the region over the past decade. In 2012, APEX was a key partner in the attraction of Involta, the region’s first multi-tenant data center facility. APEX continues to work closely with state, county and local public and private sector partners to attract enterprise and mega data centers to the region.

"Receiving this award in front of a crowded room of key industry site selectors was a great way to showcase the marketing efforts of our organization," said Hanson. "The recognition is another example of how we continue to leverage the APEX brand outside of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin to help drive additional attention and investment to the region."

For more information on the APEX data center strategy, please contact Ian Vincent at 218-740-3667. The APEX data center video can be publicly viewed at the following YouTube link: The iPad app, "APEX Data" is also available for free download at the Apple iTunes store.

Lake Superior Consulting Open House

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Open House

December 15th, 2014 - 4:00-6:00P.M

In the past year, LSC's innovation, intelligence and focus on service achieved several new milestones. We surpassed the 300 employee mark, expanded several office locations, opened a brand new office in Kansas City, KS, landed some of the largest projects in company history, and expanded services lines. To top the year off, we completed our brand new Headquarters in Duluth, MN! We hope you will join us at our Open House to celebrate another wonderful year and toast to the future.

4:00 P.M Networking with Hors d'oeuvres & Refreshments

4:20 P.M Welcome for LSC President Phillip Powers

4:30 P.M Message from Duluth Mayor Don Ness

4:40 P.M Ribbon Cutting with Duluth Chamber President David Ross

4:45 P.M Office Tours

130 West Superior Street, Suite 500, Duluth, MN 55802 218-727-3141


APEX Insider Event Showcases LSC's Expansion and Duluth's Industrial Boom

Friday, December 05, 2014
Duluth, MN - On Tuesday, December 2 at the latest "APEX Insider" event, more than 35 APEX investor-members and guests enjoyed an exclusive private reception and tour of Lake Superior College's new Downtown Center, located at 120 N. 2nd Avenue West. Featured speakers from Lake Superior College (LSC) included Dr. Patrick Johns, President, Jenni Swenson, Dean of Business and Industry, and Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. Remarks from the speakers included LSC’s enrollment growth, new programs and facilities, and current and future business partnerships – and the vital part APEX has played in all of it.

The Downtown Center is the new home of LSC's expanding integrated manufacturing program. With 33,700 square feet of space for classrooms, machining, welding and CAD/CAM labs, and a cutting-edge fabrication lab with a 3D printer for rapid prototyping, the facility will help LSC accommodate the fast-growing enrollment in the integrated manufacturing program, which is up 12% year over year.

The College continues to expand its footprint in the Duluth region. In late November, LSC announced the signing of a 10-year lease of Hangar 103 with the Duluth Airport Authority. This 40,000-square-foot space will house LSC's Center of Advanced Aviation. Students in LSC's aviation programs – including the new Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) program - will benefit from proximity to and partnership with companies like Cirrus and AAR. LSC is working with AAR now to develop an Aircraft Maintenance Support training program.

"The new Downtown Center has not only enabled us to meet the demand for advanced manufacturing education, it also opens up new program and partnership possibilities," said Dr. Johns, LSC President. "No doubt the same will be true of the facility to be built out at Hangar 103."

"With the Downtown Center, LSC has again demonstrated its powerful commitment to the economic well-being of our region and its people," said APEX President and CEO Brian Hanson. "APEX treasures LSC as a partner and vital builder of workforce value and capacity. Our investor-­‐members were impressed by the sophistication of its facility and program-­‐building strategy."

Lake Superior College is an accredited college offering over 90 certificate, diploma and associate degree programs, including pre-baccalaureate majors for students who wish to transfer to a 4-year university. LSC tuition is the third-lowest in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) system.

"APEX has had a huge hand in fostering Duluth’s current industrial renaissance," continued Dr. Johns. "LSC is committed to creating and providing the education pathways needed to give people in-­‐demand skills, develop the workforce here, and ultimately dovetail our efforts with APEX’s to fuel sustainable growth across our region."

Inside Altec HiLine's Expansion and Booming Business

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
More than 35 APEX investor-members were provided the rare opportunity to look inside the growing operations of Altec HiLine, LLC during the October 7th Insider event. Investor-members were greeted with a private reception and manufacturing plant tour at the company’s newly completed expansion at 1255 Port Terminal Drive in Duluth.

Altec HiLine manufactures some of the highest reaching, vehicle-mounted aerial lift devices in the country, used primarily by electric utilities for transmission and distribution 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, Alabama, 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."

"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."

Altec is a privately-owned company that 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."

APEX Updates

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Breakfast Club Feedback
Throughout October, APEX hosted the annual Breakfast Club engagements to receive input from investor-members. Five small-group meetings provided the opportunity for staff and leadership to hear from 42 APEX investor-members. The format provides investor-members with the opportunity to share feedback and to encourage discussion and interaction.

"As in years past, the information gathered is valuable and will be leveraged as a means to continue driving investment and results throughout our region," stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. In addition to providing insight into the APEX efforts surrounding business attraction, retention and expansion activities, investor-members cited concern regarding the region’s regulatory environment, talent recruitment and retention and the housing shortage. "APEX continually evaluates the attraction, retention and recruitment strategies we are engaged in and what regional issues and opportunities we need to delve into further."

An executive summary of the Breakfast Club results, presented and prepared by Nick Larson, APEX Business Developer, can be found here.

APEX Member Recruitment Reception
On November 20th, five businesses attended our reception at the Kitchi Gammi Club as potential new APEX investor-members. Hopefully, we will see a few of them at our upcoming 2015 Board Meetings and other events. We wish to thank our Executive Committee members who welcomed our guests and shared their stories of the value APEX had brought to their businesses.

APEX Board of Directors Annual Meeting
Save the date for the annual APEX Board of Directors meeting scheduled to be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015 from 3:00 to 5:30 pm at the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth. Invitations with details will follow.

Adding Regional Capacity: Heat Treating, Plating and Powder Coating

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
At the November meeting, Ian Vincent, APEX Business Developer, shared an update of the strategic initiative APEX has been evaluating regarding regional heat treating, plating and powder coating activities over the past 18 months. The concern was originally identified through the Minnesota Chamber’s Grow MN business retention and expansion program in 2012.

Several APEX partners invested resources to further investigate the concern. In early 2013, APEX, the IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board), Bayfield CountyEconomic Development Corporation, the Development Association and the Itasca Economic Development Corporation, surveyed 100 regional manufacturing, mining and aviation-related businesses. A total of 46 businesses responded to the survey pertaining to regional supply and demand for heat treating, plating and powder coating services. A summary of the information collected indicated:

  • • 25 regional companies require either heat treating, plating, or powder
       coating services in their manufacturing process
  • • 11 companies utilize all three treatments in their manufacturing process
  • • Companies were exporting parts to the Twin Cities and throughout Wisconsin
       and Ohio to be heat treated, plated, or powder coated at an average
       round trip distance of 520 miles
In many cases, manufacturers indicated they were losing bids due to the fact that parts within their process required treatment from firms outside of the region, followed by being then shipped back, which added to the cost and logistical timeline for the end-consumer. From these business retention visits, APEX further quantified that $12 million in untapped revenue leaves our region to be heat treated, plated, or powder coated in other markets ($4 million in heat treating, $5.5 million in plating and $2.5 million in powder coating).

To evaluate whether there was an attraction or expansion opportunity, APEX began identifying manufacturing prospects that may be interested in expanding their current operation. "Through Ian’s efforts, and the help of our partners, APEX has identified 16 potential prospects for expansion or attraction and has gained significant traction with several companies over the past nine months," stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. "These are the types of expansion activities that help boost our local businesses and retain the revenue and multiplier effect in our region," continued Hanson. APEX will continue to keep investor-members apprised of activities surrounding this strategy.

A link to Ian Vincent's presentation to APEX investor-members can be found here.

Contact Ian Vincent if you have any questions about the heat treating, plating and powder coating initiative.

UMD's Renaissance and Regional Commitment

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
At the November APEX Board of Directors meeting, University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Chancellor, Dr. Lendley (Lynn) Black, addressed investor-members regarding the institution's commitment to the community and its current renaissance. The University is experiencing a revival after years of challenges, including declining enrollment.

"UMD has been committed to improving the undergraduate experience and graduate programs offered, which has resulted in a reverse in the declining enrollment trend," stated Chancellor Black. He cited many factors as playing a vital role in UMD's transformation, including:

  • • Enhanced academic programming, offerings
       and evaluation
  • • Engagement with business, natural resources and
       cultural activities in the region
  • • Strength of the leadership team and faculty
  • • Private-sector investment near campus
  • • Increased student engagement
  • • Successful athletics programs
  • • National acclaim from entities like the Small Business Administration and
       U.S. News & World Report
UMD has been deliberate and focused on becoming more integral in the business and cultural fabric of the Duluth community and surrounding region. Two ways in which this has manifested are leveraging their research and economic development programs to help add value and capacity in the regional economy and an increased presence in the downtown Duluth business community.

A champion of APEX from the inception of the organization, UMD is a unique and applied driver of economic development that helps derive additional value out of our region through UMD's Natural Resources and Research Institute (NRRI), the Office of Civic Engagement, the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), and the Center for Economic Development (CED).

For example, UMD is helping companies find innovative ways of making use of byproducts in the forest industry, including working with one company to develop and commercialize a process that utilizes a derivative of birch bark. UMD also continues to expand its engagement in the downtown community. Its increased presence includes programs offered by CED at the Technology Village and involvement in the NorShor Theater renovation and revitalization. The University is also evaluating what programs will be housed in the downtown campus once maurices moves into their new location. Potential programs being considered include continuing education, health and human services programming, back office functions and a potential MBA program.

Chancellor Black concluded his remarks to the APEX investor-members by stating, "UMD has been a regional leader for nearly 125 years and is committed to the community and being part of the fabric for many more."

In Case You Missed It: Updates from November’s Board of Directors meeting

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
APEX Chair Mark Emmel and Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO, presented Dan Markham, Immediate Past-Chair, with a token of appreciation for his commitment to APEX. Emmel also congratulated APEX investor-members who have had recent accomplishments in the news, including:

  • • The College of St. Scholastica who recently received a $70,000 Career
       Ready Internship grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation
       for the 2014-2015 academic year which will create 42 paid internship opportunities
       in collaboration with local businesses.
  • UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute for receiving a
       Bronze Excellence in Economic Development Award in the category of
       Sustainable and Green Development for communities with populations of
       200,000 to 500,000 from the International Economic Development Council.
  • LHB for being ranked as one of the top engineering and architectural
       firms in the nation by Architectural Record and as a 2014 Hot Firm by Zweig Group.
  • • Tom Renier, who will be retiring in December as the founding President of
       the Northland Foundation, was recognized for many years of commitment
       to APEX, as well as to the region.
You can find investor-member news and accomplishments in the "Members in the News" section of the APEX website.

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