News and Events


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:

https://webproc.mnscu.edu/registration/search/basic.html?campusid=302

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 Jason.jaros@altec.com  or 218-269-9034. For general information about the Toastmasters club itself, contact Stephen Shaner at tmstephen@awesomeattitude.net.


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.