APEX News - August/September 2018

Welcome New APEX Investor-Members

MPPL Financial

MPPL Financial provides exceptional financial services to both businesses and individuals. By increasing the financial strength of the region’s entrepreneurs and employees, they help build more economically resilient communities that better retain and attract both talent and capital. Entrepreneurs and business leaders benefit from MPPL’s succession planning and executive benefits services, as well as their employee benefits programs that aid in workforce attraction, retention, and overall employee wellness.

North Shore Title

North Shore Title works with commercial and residential clients across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. To ensure excellent client service across the board and an efficient and simple closing process, North Shore Title established a deep bench of experts with decades of title experience. The teams, conveniently located in Grand Marais, Cloquet, Two Harbors, Superior and two locations in Duluth, are ready to effectively handle every transaction from contact to contract.

Barko Hydraulics

Barko Hydraulics has a well-earned reputation for the highest quality forestry equipment in North America. From harvesting to loading and land clearing to biomass, Barko builds every machine with rugged components that deliver exceptional productivity at a lower total cost of ownership.

Since 1963, Barko has consistently led the industry with innovative forestry solutions and continues to enhance offerings with new technology and products to provide clients a complete line of machines to deliver optimal results on demanding jobs.

APEX Board Exclusive Meeting

APEX hosted a Board Exclusive meeting on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, at the Kitchi Gammi Club from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. We discussed regional competitiveness in site location decisions with a focus on shovel-ready sites, community preparedness and the industrial development process. Speakers included our CEO, Brian Hanson, and Jeff Rossate, Executive Director of the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and a former site selection consultant. Several key regional economic development partners were also in attendance.

This was an interactive discussion that explored how APEX Board members could get involved in helping encourage industrial site development in communities across our region.

Members In The News

Please click the button below to read about recent announcements and acknowledgments amongst APEX Investor-Members.
Members In The News

Essentia Health Expansion Project

On Thursday, July 12, 2018, Essentia Health provided APEX investor-members an update on the approximately $675 million Vision Northland project. Dr. Robert Erickson, Chair of Essentia Health East Facilities Committee, and Scot Ramsey, Essentia Health East Facilities Administrator, were the keynote presenters who provided an update on the journey to develop and help Vision Northland become a reality.
Dr. Erickson, the practice conduit to the project, shared how changes in the industry, from a delivery perspective and from the perspective of the patient, are transforming the way providers must provide access to healthcare. Patients expect a higher level of customer service and access to the most innovative treatments available.

While no designs have been adopted, Dr. Erickson shared several potential renderings with APEX investor-members. The Vision Northland project would condense the Essentia Health facilities from a four-block to a two-block footprint and enhance the entire patient and employee experience.

Mass Timber Study Garners National Attention

In the previous edition of the Pinnacle, APEX shared information about the Mass Timber initiative with investor-members. The mass timber study kicked off in May and is funded by the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, along with APEX investor-members Blandin Foundation, Minnesota Power and Great River Energy. Investor-member, University of Minnesota Duluth, is also playing a significant role with the project – the Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Center for Economic Development are assisting in the research and survey aspects of the study.
The study, intended to provide the foundational research needed to attract a mass timber softwood lumber manufacturing facility, was covered recently by APEX investor-member, Duluth News Tribune.
“Mass timber, while a new industry to the U.S., has been thriving in Europe for more than 15 years. This research is the key and will arm us as we strategically move forward in this new and growing industry,” says Tamara Lowney, APEX Senior Business Developer and lead on mass timber.
The study was also picked up by the National Association of State Forests’ weekly update, the Grand Forks Herald, Brainerd Dispatch and the West Central Tribune.
Production capacity results are projected to be available this fall and a final report will be published in early 2019. Additional insight will be shared with investor-members as it becomes available. Please contact Tamara Lowney with any questions on the study.

APEX Kicks Off Regional Talent Forecast

Since 2006, APEX has been committed to assessing, facilitating conversation around and assisting in workforce development initiatives. At every turn, regional and national experts predict a looming, or even active, workforce shortage. To remain competitive, our region must set the foundation with a strong workforce development strategy.

The initiative underway, Talent Forecast, includes several partners: The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, Blandin Foundation, Northland Foundation, Minnesota Power, the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training, and the Workforce Development Boards in Duluth and northwest Wisconsin. Talent Forecast partners recently selected the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) to conduct a comprehensive assessment to better understand and help close the gap between available positions and a qualified workforce.
The regional team distributed a request for proposal late in 2017 to summon interest in helping frame advantages, opportunities and challenges of the regional workforce that spans 10 counties and crosses state borders. The information gathered will help inform future decisions for regional stakeholders – including those in the private sector, education and site consultants surrounding workforce attraction and retention strategies.

APEX received proposals from 7 nationally-recognized groups, including site selection consultants, workforce development think tanks, and university-based research organizations. The Talent Forecast partners reviewed the proposals and conducted several interviews to determine which partner was the best fit. “The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness was the clear front-runner for our project,” stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO. The Arlington, Virginia-based firm, has worked on several similar studies throughout the Midwest, and partners with the University of Iowa’s Institute for Decision Making on the deliverables for the study. “The Center focuses on regional efforts, and is familiar with the nuances of working with large geographies, multiple jurisdictions, and a wide variety of stakeholders,” continued Hanson.
Work on the study began in July. The projected timeline for completion of the study is eight months. “While the study may take longer than we’d like, we understand the value of research and the complexities of gathering insight from many stakeholders. CREC wisely built in the time required for continuous communication and feedback from APEX and our Talent Forecast partners.  We anticipate this study will inform decisions for many years to come,” stated Hanson.
The first phase of onsite research, set to begin in September 2018, includes interviewing key employers and partners to build the foundation for the study. The second phase will take shape in late October and include interviews with employees, service providers and educators. APEX is in the process of developing a communication portal to inform partners and stakeholders of updates throughout the research phase.

APEX will inform investor-members of key milestones achieved over the course of the next eight months and expects there will be several opportunities to engage with the research firm. In the meantime, please contact Brian Hanson or Ian Vincent if you have any questions about Talent Forecast.

Connection Results in Win for Grand Rapids Company

During a business and retention visit early in 2018, APEX Senior Business Developer, Tamara Lowney, learned Rapids Process Equipment, a Grand Rapids-based company, was interested in selling their business. The lead came to APEX through Rob West, former CEO of investor-member GPM, Inc. After meeting with Brent Roering, the business owner, Lowney connected him with Shannon Benolken at the Grand Rapids Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and she assisted with a succession/ownership change. Benolken is part of the Itasca Economic Development Corporation, a key partner for APEX. 

Connecting organizations to the appropriate resource at the right time is critical at every stage of business planning. If your organization, or one you know, is looking for help with a business transition, consider reaching out to the APEX team to learn more about the resources available.

Meet The New APEX Intern

APEX is pleased to announce the addition of Abigail Blonigen as our Business Development Intern. Abigail is currently an honors student at the College of Saint Scholastica (CSS) and expects to graduate in May 2019 with three Bachelor of Arts degrees: Spanish, English and Global Culture and Language Studies.

A highly-involved student, Abigail has leadership experience in multiple CSS organizations, including her roles as Editor-in-Chief of the Script Newspaper, Vice President of the Honors Student Association and Student Orientation Coordinator. Abigail also works as a freelance writer for and Woman Today, writing articles to profile prominent people and projects in the Duluth community. A global citizen, Abigail studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador, where she gained experience with the Spanish language in her role as an intern.  

APEX is happy to have Abigail as part of our team, using her skills to help drive business connections both locally and internationally.

Upcoming Events

REIF (Regional Economic Indicators Forum)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018
DECC Harborside Ballroom
Duluth, MN
7:00-9:30 AM (Program begins at 8:00)
Topic: The Economics of Creative Enterprises
Keynote: Chris Farrell, Economics Commentator at Minnesota Public Radio
For more information and to RSVP click here.

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